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Educating young drivers on traffic stops

Since a camcorder made Rodney King a household name, encounters between motorists and police officers continue to be placed under a blinding spotlight. Today, nearly everyone is walking around with a video camera at their disposal. Many are using the technology to document interactions between drivers and law enforcement.

Clashes have turned violent and deadly.

Many believe that getting to drivers before they get their licenses may be the answer. Lawmakers throughout the country believe that driver's education should require students to be taught what to do in a traffic stop. Illinois and Virginia (awaiting the governor's signature) have recently passed similar laws.

Proposed legislation may see North Carolina join other states in requiring driver's education instructors to detail "appropriate interactions with law enforcement officers." The bill has bipartisan support with 35 house sponsors. Lawmakers will leave state law enforcement/education entities and driver's license agencies to work out the details.

No one is claiming that laws can prevent all problems or change how young drivers react. However, early education can help teenagers conduct themselves properly and avoid bad decisions.

Illinois "Rules of the Road" has been cited as a good resource to teach common sense driver behavior and reduce tense and potentially confrontational situations. The guide focuses on driver responsibilities, starting with them keeping both hands clearly in sight on the steering wheel "until the officer instructs them otherwise."

The North Carolina Sheriff's Association, the state Highway Patrol, and a state group representing police chiefs will help to develop the proposed curriculum.

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