Rosenblum Schwartz & Fry
314-862-4332

Police/citizen roadway interactions: increasingly stressful affairs

What do you do if, following the sudden and flatly dismal moment that you see police lights flashing from a closely tailing squad car at night, you have dutifully come to a stop on a roadway shoulder?

That is, how should you now behave?

Do you just sit quietly and passively, doing nothing while waiting for the police officer to approach your vehicle from behind?

Alternatively, do you think about turning on your car's inner lights, maybe reaching over to get insurance information out of your glove compartment or twisting around to get to your wallet for the license you know you will need to produce?

Should you just keep your hands in plain view until the officer is peering in at you from your window?

Many people who are stopped in the St. Louis area or elsewhere nationally simply do not know what to do. Understandably, they are stressed and disconcerted, given that interaction with police on any account can reasonably induce tension.

Correspondingly, it may be a bit of the same thing on the other side, with increasingly more police officers these days citing heightened tensions when they approach strangers in vehicles.

Sadly, a legion of adverse outcomes have featured in recent years to support the validity in concerns voiced by both motorists and enforcement officers in traffic stops.

As noted in a recent media focus on fatal police/citizen encounters in traffic stops, officials from many states are now addressing that subject matter with legislative proposals centered on educating drivers -- and police officers, as well -- on how to optimally behave during roadway interactions.

A special concern points to especially young drivers, who lack experience and might reasonably seem as a group to be more prone to acting out in ways that police officers deem as uncertain or threatening. A call is growing to address that concern through education administered in drivers' education programs.

Obviously, there can never be a totally canned and rote approach to govern how citizens and law enforcers should relate to each other during traffic encounters.

The growing list of states responding to that scenario with clarifying legislation, though, clearly reveals that lawmakers across the country are clearly fixated on the need to do something proactive that fosters greater consistency in how parties behave during such encounters.

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Rosenblum Schwartz & Fry

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