Why Do Police Touch the Back of Your Car?

Criminal Justice Journal

Why Do Police Touch the Back of Your Car?

No one likes to see those flashing red and blue lights behind you, it makes everyone uncomfortable. Whether or not you have been pulled over by a police officer, the practice is so common that it makes you curious and makes you wonder why ticketing police touch your car’s tail lights when they approach it. We have seen this in movies and real videos, particularly in the U.S, whenever a cop approaches the car, instead of heading straight to the driver’s window, he will touch the tail light first. Turns out that this is a common practice in U.S law enforcement, but why is this practiced?

The gesture is a part of a protocol practiced in several countries, including the United States.  The act started decades before, first implemented to reduce the risk that police officers are often exposed to when practicing traffic law. When cameras were not installed on the dashboards of most police vehicles, tapping on the taillight of the car was a way for officers to leave behind evidence of the encounter. The fingerprints on the car become the evidence. In this blog post, we will tell you the reasons why police touch your car after pulling you over.

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Here is why police officers touch the back of your car:

In most cases, the police officers touch the back of the car to make sure that nothing out of the ordinary happens. With the increase in violence against the police, there is always a risk of danger. Quickly touching the car before approaching it tells the policeman a lot about the driver.

For instance, this trick gives an overall idea about the mental state of the driver.

Did the tapping scare the driver or were they too distracted by something else?

Are they panicking or approaching for a weapon?

The officer must be very conscious when approaching a car.

Many theories will tell you why police touch your car when you’re being pulled over; these are a few common reasons.

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  • To Scare the Driver

Why-Do-Police-Touch-the-Back-of-Your-CarThe police officer deals with different situations every day, they stop several cars and some of the times the condition gets messy and unsafe. Sometimes the drivers will have illegal substances or prohibited items in their cars like guns, ammunition, or drugs. The driver will try to hide any illegal item before the cop approaches the window. Touching the back/ tapping the taillights is one way to check it. The driver will not be expecting a tap from an officer and this will scare him. The driver will either be too distracted to even notice the tap or will pause. This gives a moment for the officer to analyze the situation.

  • To Leave Evidence

Why-Do-Police-Touch-the-Back-of-Your-CarThe old practice of tapping the vehicle dates back to when there weren’t cameras in the police car, tapping the tail lights was to leave their fingerprints on the vehicle. In situations when the police officer gets in trouble while pulling over, the fingerprints would be evidence that the officer was involved. This is helpful in a situation when the car is examined under forensic testing if there is a car accident or shooting involved. Although this is not the most effective way, as fingerprints can be washed over by rain and easily smudged.

  • To Make Sure the Trunk Is Latched

why-do-police-touch-your-carBeing a police officer means that you are going to face dangerous and violent situations almost every other day. Apart from leaving the evidence behind and caring for the driver, another reason why cops tap on touch the trunk of your car is to make sure that the trunk is latched. It might sound weird but to protect themselves and to check if no one is hiding who could pop out anytime it is important for them to tap on the taillights.

  • Other Reasons

The tactic of tapping on the back of the car has also proven to help solve and reduce other crimes. There is an increase in the arrest of intoxicated drivers. The tapping of the car helps the cops check the mental state consciousness of the driver. If he/she is drunk, the tapping will be ignored. With the increase in the arrest of sellers of prohibited substances, the driver who would be carrying an illegal substance will get startled when there will be a sudden tap on the car. The checking of the truck also helps in catching the items. It also helps in catching people who own unlicensed firearms.

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 Although this tactic is helpful for police officers, it can also put the police officer in risky situations. The practice exposes the police officer’s position making him or her approachable to attack. The police officers are advised to not directly stand behind the vehicle as the driver can hurt them by reversing the car. It is important to put safety first when approaching an unknown car to avoid any mishap.

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