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Ever Wondered Why Cops Touch Your Tail Light When They Pull You Over?

20. What is the Reasoning?

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Have you ever wondered why cops touch your car’s tail light after they pull you over? It seems to be one of the many things they do that people seem to always ask about and wonder why. Is it part of the protocol? Is there a deeper meaning? Or are they just checking to make sure it works? Turns out, there are a plethora of reasons as to why police offers do this, and many will have you scratching your head. 

19. Calm the Nerves

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Usually, when someone is pulled over by a police officer, it is a very nerve-wracking experience, especially if it’s your first time. But it is always best to calm those nerves so you don’t give the impression you’re scared, but also not to give off any sense that you’re hiding something. Most of the time, police officers get just as nervous pulling someone over as the person they are pulling over, but many refuse to admit it. So it is best to just remain as calm, cool, and collected as possible. 

18. Where did this come from?

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Diving deeper on this topic of tail light tapping and police, we have discovered a long history of this behavior. It seems that the infamous tail light tapping has plenty of history behind it, as officers have been doing it for years. The act of touching a tail light goes back to the humble beginnings when police first started patrolling the streets and highways in the united states. 

17. Catching Someone off Gaurd

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This practice of taillight tapping even predates the times of dash cameras and even before body cameras, which are now part of the everyday police uniform in the United States. Police initially started doing this with the intention of catching a driver or passenger off guard, watching their every reaction. It’s not out of the realm of possibility or uncommon for a person to attempt to stash contraband as they are being pulled over, so this can sometimes help prevent that. 

16. No Hiding Places

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The tail light tap was meant to distract the driver while they try and stash something and while they are distracted, the officer can see what they are trying to hide. Usually, this would prevent the driver from hiding whatever it is they’re trying to stash, long enough for the officer who stopped them to find the contraband and confiscate it. Is that all they’re really doing though?

15. Looking for Evidence

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There’s another interesting reason behind light tapping that will blow your mind, as many would never expect it. This next reason comes from the realm of true crime and murder mysteries, and is a sly way of gathering information. It’s essential for officers to gain as much information as possible, without tipping off the driver, and this trick does just that. 

14. Checking for Fingerprints

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If the officer, while confronting the driver gets attacked or harmed in any way, or if the driver of the car manages to drive away, the police officer who tapped the taillight of that car will have left their fingerprint. If this is the case, when the driver who matches the profile of the criminal who drove off or attacked the officer is pulled over yet again, the next officer will just have to check for fingerprints in order to have the evidence needed to catch the driver. It’s tricky and slick, but it has actually helped protect the police. 

13. A Necessary Step

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The fingerprint reason is an older method that arguably can be replaced with today’s modern technology of dash cameras and body cameras, however still stick by it. Over the years, however, tapping the taillight as a source of fingerprints has become less valuable than other upcoming reasons on this list. 

12. Sensing Danger

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In some cases, tail light tapping can actually put a police officer in great danger, rather than helping them. The noise made while tapping can help criminals identify the exact location of the police officer, especially if it’s at night and they’re shrouded in darkness. In this case, it could give the criminal the element of surprise in attacking the police officer. 

11. Not Required

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Some say there is still no reason for police officers to do this, other than for tradition’s sake. However, some may even argue that this habit is a right of passage or a way of honoring those officers who came before them. Either way, taillight tapping is not actually required by police officers but is something that most still do as common practice for one reason or another. Knowing how and why the police do certain things, may help save your life one day. 

10. Approaching the Driver

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Some people assume it’s a way to let the driver know the police offer is approaching the vehicle, as sometimes when a police officer pulls a driver over, they take some time. Regardless of why you think they do it, there many more reasons behind their decision making. Tensions are high between police and civilians, which is why it’s important to know what’s normal and what you should expect from your next encounter with the police.

9. Checking for Stash Spots

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Another reason why police officers and highway patrol personnel do the notorious tapping is to provide the initial shock. You know you did something wrong, especially if you’re hiding something you shouldn’t have in your car. The tapping surprises the people who are in the vehicle, who often look to wherever they hid something out of panic. Even if it’s not on purpose, they might even do it out of habit. If a police officer can get you to look towards your hiding spot, there is a greater chance of them finding it before you can distract them. Many officers say this practice has proven to be quite efficient in routine stops. In fact, many cops claim that it’s increased the arrest of intoxicated drivers, drug dealers, and drivers possessing unlicensed firearms.

8. Dash Cameras

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Highway patrol and police will still use this old-school method despite the use of traffic cameras and dash cams, as it causes a direct reaction. With the conflicting feelings some people have about law enforcement, some cops feel that it’s necessary to practice this physical safety precaution not only for the driver but for the officer, as well.

7. Checking the Vehicle

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Sometimes it’s not the tail light that officers are really interested in at all. Sure, they might tap the tail light, but they’ll also push the trunk lid down to avoid having something in the trunk be used to harm the officer. They also use this gesture to check to see if there is someone in the trunk, which is actually quite common in the case of kidnappings.

6. Avoiding Ambush

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In cities like New York, NYPD officers often drive with a partner. Although this is pretty common across the country, it’s especially true in most major cities. Traveling with a partner is safer for the officers, as it allows two sets of eyes on the scene, instead of just one.

5. The Pop Up Theory

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Safety measures that prevent an officer from getting ambushed on the job are now apart of “The Pop-Up Theory”. The pop-up theory was much more useful in the 60s and 70s when radical crime groups often ambushed officers, staging emergency situations. Today times have changed and most trunks cannot be popped open from the inside or outside, but rather by using a key or remote. In most cases, police academy instructors teach cadets not to touch the rear of the vehicle. They do, however, suggest that they put their hands on the side of the vehicle, where most tail lights curve into anyway. This will prevent the owner of the vehicle from backing up and running the officer over which has happened in a few instances.

4. Injured on the Job

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Such an accident happened to Officer Jason Shaw, who was a K-9, THI, patrol supervisor, and firearms instructor. Shaw claimed that on two separate occasions, an elderly gentleman failed to put the shift stick all the way in park and it slipped back down into reverse. When the driver hit his gas instead of the brake, it crashed into the patrol car, nearly hurting him in the process. Since then, officers are taught to be more alert to instances like these, especially when they can happen by accident so easily.

3. Staying Out of the Line of Fire

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Sometimes, by tapping the tail light of a car, a police officer is in the best position to see in the back seat in case the driver is hiding something back there as well like alcohol, drugs, or weapons. It’s more difficult to twist around and shoot from behind, as well. This is why tail light tapping is such a tactical advantage because if the driver intends to hurt the officer, it gives them vital seconds to protect themselves.

2. A Proper Inspection

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Tail light tapping also gives an officer a chance to see if the car has been stolen. In most stolen car cases, the trunk lid won’t be secure there will be signs of forced entry into the car or the car’s trunk. So taillight tapping simply gives officers time to do a proper inspection to check for anything out of the ordinary, as well as letting you know where they are when approaching.

1. Putting Assumptions Aside

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With all these reasons of why a police officer or highway patrol personnel may be tapping your car’s taillight this may give you, even more, to think about, but less cause for worry. Next time you get pulled over you can sit back, remain calm, and know that the officer is just checking to that all is in order. Stay safe out there.

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