Police officer explains why they always touch your car when they …

People online[1] have been in a frenzy trying to work out why police officers in the States all tend to do this very common action when pulling over cars to speak to the driver. It is commonplace for cars to be pulled over across the pond which is when police officers will ask a driver to stop a car[2] at the side of the road. This is often done when a driver is to be charged with a motoring or traffic offence such as speeding.

If you have ever been pulled over by the police in the USA, you might have noticed that they touched the back of your car near your rear (tail) lights. A TikTok[3] user posted a compilation video of officers doing this and the comments all speculated whether this was a coincidence or common practice and according to the Law Dictionary, it is the latter.

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The Law Dictionary[5] states: "(One) reason why cops touch taillights was to leave their fingerprints on the vehicle in case the officer found himself in a dangerous situation while pulling over the subject vehicle. Fingerprint evidence would prove that he or she was present at the scene."

This theory was backed up by Trooper Steve Montiero in 2020 when he told a US news outlet[6] that touching the back of a car was a routine part of a traffic stop. He said: "When law enforcement officers conduct a traffic stop, there are plenty of procedures that need to be done, not only for the safety of the violator but for the safety of that officer. One of those things is proving that the officer was with that car. So when officers approach a vehicle, they touch the rear of it."

However, the Law Dictionary also explained that the practice was especially common before bodycams were fitted on most police officers in the US and their cars were equipped with surveillance cameras. Now, with cameras and other technology, it is much easier to prove that an officer was present on a scene without the need to deliberately leave fingerprint evidence.

Whilst some American police departments still teach officers this practice, others do it out of routine. They wrote: "If you get pulled over and the officer still touches your taillight, it's likely out of habit rather than necessity."

Over on TikTok, users argued that the action was done for other safety reasons. One said: "I am a law enforcement student in Arizona, and we were taught to do that not only for the fingerprint but to make sure the back is closed," and another wrote, "Usually they ask you to switch your vehicle off. They touch your car to feel if it's still running so they can act accordingly."

Trooper Steve Montiero also backed this idea in his interview, as he explained: "The first reason is to make sure that the trunk is closed. It may sound a little crazy, but you want to make sure that no one is about to jump out of the trunk and that it's properly secured."

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  1. ^ online (www.mirror.co.uk)
  2. ^ car (www.mirror.co.uk)
  3. ^ TikTok (www.mirror.co.uk)
  4. ^ Car experts claim fridge staple item can remove rust from your vehicle in seconds (www.mirror.co.uk)
  5. ^ Law Dictionary (thelawdictionary.org)
  6. ^ a US news outlet (www.clickorlando.com)
  7. ^ [email protected] (www.mirror.co.uk)
  8. ^ I found the best smart plugs to monitor energy use in my home and now I'm a bit obsessed (www.mirror.co.uk)