GREENSBORO, N.C. -- The revised North Carolina Driver's Handbook will be distributed this spring, giving drivers a detailed list of guidelines of how to respond during a traffic stop and what to expect from law enforcement.
Currently, there are 11 printed bullet points of "suggested procedures" for motorists in the existing handbook found in DMVs statewide.
The revised edition gives drivers instruction on how to safely pull over during the day or night, keep hands clearly visible and reach and calmly comply when asked.
The instructions even go as far as to let drivers know what to do if they want to contest a ticket or file a complaint against an officer who acted inappropriately.
Instructor George Matier of George's Driving School in Greensboro said students are currently learning the new guidelines that will be a part of the written test.
"Different situations that you would encounter when you’re involved in a traffic stop and how you would handle that situation," Matier said. "They have been hearing about this information for years now, but to actually to put it to use in the classroom is something new for them."
Matier said he first learned about the changes during an annual conference last April in Clemmons with the North Carolina Driving Traffic Safety Association.
Governor Roy Cooper signed the revisions, then House Bill 21, into effect in July 12th, 2017.
During classroom discussions on the subject, Matier brings in Highway Patrol troopers to speak with students to answer any questions.
Lt. Alston with Greensboro police is pleased with the guidelines and sees it as a way the community and police can get on the same page.
"We want a safe outcome, so we just want cooperation and safety," Alston said.
The advice in the handbook details the use of a cell phone during a stop, stating drivers should not talk on the phone during a stop and ask the officer if he or she can answer.
When asked about video recording during a traffic stop, Lt. Alston said if the officer is with the Greensboro Police Department, "we're recording the stop also so there’s nothing against the law of you recording your interaction with the police."
Below is the full guideline instruction from the North Carolina Department of Transportation, Division of Motor Vehicles:
WHAT MOTORISTS SHOULD DO WHEN STOPPED BY LAW ENFORCEMENT:
Law enforcement officers conduct traffic stops because they observe a traffic violation or are conducting a police investigation. Being stopped by a law enforcement officer can be a stressful experience but knowing what to do during the stop will help ensure your safety, the safety of other motorists, and the safety of the officer.
- When you see emergency lights and/or hear siren behind you, stay calm, activate your turn signal, pull the vehicle to the right, and off the travel portion of the highway at the nearest point where it is safe to do so.
- If there is not an obvious safe place to immediately stop the vehicle, turn on your emergency 4 way flashers and reduce your speed (by about 10 mph) to signal to the officer that you are aware of his or her presence. Continue driving and obey all traffic laws until you reach the nearest safe area to stop your vehicle.
- If an unmarked car is stopping you and you have a legitimate question or concern as to whether or not you are being stopped by an actual law enforcement officer, you may call 9-1-1 to report your name and location in order to verify that an actual law enforcement officer is conducting the traffic stop.
- After the vehicle stops, the driver should place the vehicle in “Park,” roll down the window, turn off the engine, and turn off any electronic devices and/or radio so that the driver can easily communicate with the officer. The driver and all passengers should remain seated in the vehicle. An officer may approach your vehicle on the driver or passenger side for safety reasons. DO NOT remove your seatbelt unless asked to do so by the officer.
- The driver should place both hands on the steering wheel and instruct any passengers to keep their hands in a position that is clearly visible to the officer at all times. Passengers in the back seat should place their hands on the back of the front seat. Keep your hands in plain view.
- If it is nighttime, the officer may direct a spotlight at your vehicle once stopped. To assist with visibility, turn on your interior lights as soon as you stop to help the officer see inside your vehicle
- The officer will usually explain why they stopped you and may ask you questions about your trip. Under State law, you are required to identify yourself and provide your drivers license and registration for the vehicle. After establishing identification, you may choose whether or not to verbally respond to additional questions.
- If the officer is not in uniform they will show you their law enforcement credentials or you may ask to see them.
- If there is a firearm or other weapon in the vehicle, DO NOT attempt to reach for the weapon. Instead, tell the law enforcement officer when he or she approaches the vehicle that there is a weapon in the vehicle. Describe the type of weapon and inform the officer where the weapon is located. If you have a concealed handgun permit, you MUST also inform the officer of that fact.
- DO NOT exit the vehicle or allow any passengers to exit the vehicle unless instructed to do so by the officer.
- If your drivers license and/or vehicle registration is not readily accessible, do not reach under the seats and do not open the glove box or other compartments and begin searching for your license or registration unless you are asked to do so by the officer. Remain calm and refrain from engaging in sudden or unnecessary movements during the traffic stop.
- Do not talk on a cell phone while interacting with the officer during the stop. The officer has to be able to give you and your passengers detailed instructions so you will understand what is expected of you. If you receive a telephone call during the traffic stop, the officer will tell you whether or not to answer the telephone call.
- Listen carefully to the officer and follow his or her instructions. Give the officer your full attention. If you do not understand an instruction, calmly inform the officer that you do not understand the instruction and ask him or her to repeat or explain their instruction.
- When the officer completes their interaction with you they may issue a warning or a traffic ticket which may include a fine. The officer will typically explain whatever action is being taken. If you have questions, respectfully ask the officer to clarify. If you disagree with the officer’s decision to issue a traffic ticket, do not prolong the contact by arguing with the officer. If you wish to contest the ticket, you will have the opportunity to explain your point of view of what happened in court. Your acceptance and signature on a traffic ticket is not an admission of guilt.
- Some traffic stops may result in an arrest. Even if you disagree with the officer, do not argue with the officer. You will have your chance to present your case in court. Resisting, delaying or obstructing a law enforcement officer during a traffic stop is a class 2 misdemeanor. C.G.S. §14-223.
- If you believe the officer acted inappropriately, document the officer’s behavior and report it to the officer’s agency in a timely manner. The name of the officer and law enforcement agency will be on the ticket or you may ask the officer to provide this information.
The Law Enforcement Officer
- The officer will initiate a traffic stop by turning on the blue lights and/or siren. The officer is also gathering information from your vehicle’s license tag and checking the area for a safe place to conduct the traffic stop.
- The officer will approach your vehicle and will identify himself or herself, his or her agency and the reason for the traffic stop. Many times the officer will ask if you have any reason for committing the traffic violation.
- The officer will ask for your drivers license and the vehicle registration. If the information from your drivers license and the vehicle information does not match, you may be asked a series of questions.
It is the goal of law enforcement to protect the public and conduct traffic stops in a manner that protects the safety of everyone involved. Your cooperation with law enforcement is the best way to ensure that your safety, and that of others, is not compromised during the stop.