Why Do Police Officers Touch The Back Of My Car When Stopped?

Whether or not a police officer has ever stopped you in your car, you have surely pondered why they use this traditional tactic of touching your tail lights or generally the back of your car. This happens when a police officer approaches your car after getting out of their own, but instead of going right up to your window, the officer will first touch your car’s back.

A police officer likely touches the back of a car to leave a fingerprint or other trace of their presence. A few cops have been known to tap on the roof of a trunk to make sure it’s locked. They also might try to startle the driver or passenger by doing this.

Getting Pulled Over by the Police

Officers will evaluate the circumstances surrounding a traffic stop before proceeding with an investigation. They need a good reason to pull someone over in their car. The justification must be fair, logical, and detailed.

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A broken brake light, a breach of traffic legislation, or suspicion of drunk or drugged driving are the most common triggers for a traffic stop. The driver may be suspected of criminal activity, may have outstanding warrants, or may have observed criminal activity. The cops cannot simply stop a car for no reason.

When stopping a car, the officer will switch on their emergency lights and pursue the vehicle until it stops in a safe area, such as the side of the road or a parking lot. After making sure it’s okay to exit the patrol car, the officer walks up to the automobile they stopped. When doing so, the officer will put one hand on the back of the vehicle or the tail light.

Reasons Why Police Officers Touch the Back of a Car

You can rest assured knowing that this is a widespread and legal practice that goes back decades and was originally instituted to reduce the danger police face when enforcing traffic laws. Why, then, do police officers touch the back of the car? There are three reasons why police touch the back of a car during a traffic stop:

To Leave Fingerprint Evidence

After stopping a vehicle, police officers often leave fingerprints on the taillight or another component of the back of the vehicle. This evidence confirms their presence there. Fingerprints could prove useful in a criminal case involving a motorist and a law enforcement official. Accident or shooting scene inquiries are two such examples.

“By touching the back of the automobile, the officer leaves fingerprints that identify him or her as the person who was present. It connects the vehicle and the police in the event that the driver decides to flee the scene or the officer is injured. This is one of many measures used at traffic stops to ensure the well-being of everyone involved”, shared by Trooper Steve Montiero.

To Startle Drivers in Possession of Illegal Items

Another reason why police officers may touch the back of a vehicle during traffic stops is to surprise the driver. There is a potential hazard for police officers during a traffic stop. Items like firearms, ammunition, and illegal narcotics fall under this category. It’s conceivable that a driver would try to conceal illegal things from view before a police officer approaches the car window.

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To alleviate this issue, one solution is to touch the trunk of a vehicle. The driver can be caught off guard. As a result, the police officer will likely startle them when it occurs. The driver will then take a little break. The officer has time to assess whether or not the driver is attempting to conceal anything during the brief gap.

To Check if the Trunk is Latched

The cops may also check your automobile to see if you secured the trunk. This is done to ensure no one is trapped or hidden in the trunk. A police officer is at risk of being attacked by anyone inside. By checking the trunk is securely locked, the officer can feel confident approaching the car farther after touching the trunk. The cops may notice unusual sounds or sensations if someone is trying to escape.

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“This is to make sure that the trunk is closed,” Trooper Steve Montiero said in Clickorlando. “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.”

If a Cop Does this, Should You be Concerned?

No, you shouldn’t be concerned if a police officer touches the back of your automobile. A police officer never intends to hurt you when they touch your trunk or taillight, whether you are being pulled over or witnessing a traffic encounter. They are merely abiding by routine, making sure that everyone is secure, or maintaining a habit.

Can a Cop Safely Touch a Car’s Back?

Although touching a car’s back when a police officer pulls you over sounds like a good idea, is it actually endangering their safety?

For example, some police agencies will advise their officers never to touch the taillights or back of a vehicle, while others will advise them to touch the side of the car and not the rear. By touching the tail light, the officer might be directly behind the automobile and at risk of injury if the driver shifts into reverse. Even if it sounds morbid, these things do occur. Therefore, officers must always be on the lookout for the worst while approaching any car.

Do Police Officers Still Touch the Back of Cars?

Due to the high number of crimes that happen on the road, police are in more danger than they used to be. Instead of doing this, our law enforcers now use new technology to make sure road rules are followed.

Now, there are security cameras on almost every corner of the road, and it’s standard for all police officers to have dash cams or body cams that record live video of the car and every interaction between the driver and the officer. This means that the original reason why tailgating was done is no longer a problem.

Some police departments still tell their officers to leave some fingerprint proof on the car, but it doesn’t have to be a tail light. If you get pulled over, and the cop still touches your tail light, it’s probably more out of habit than necessity.

How Should You Act When the Police Stop You?

It is very important to know what to do if the cops stop your car. Here are the four most important things you should do in this case. 

Stop your car where it’s safe and turn it off

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When you see the flashing lights of a police car, slow down and pull your car to a safe place. Make sure that you and the cop who needs to walk up to your car will be safe there. Once you’ve stopped completely, turn off your car’s engine and stay inside.

Keep your hands on the wheel and stay in the car

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Stay in your car with your hands on the driving wheel when you’re completely stopped, and your engine is off. When your hands are on the steering wheel, the police officer can see them. This keeps the cop safe. For example, they won’t think you have a gun in your hand.

Show the officer your license, registration, and insurance

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Even if the cops touch your car, stay calm and polite when you talk to them. When asked, you must give the officer your driver’s license, registration, and proof of insurance. Police can also ask for your name, location, and age without breaking the law.

Stay calm and answer the officer’s questions

The police can ask you anything, including if they can search your car, but you don’t have to say anything besides your name. They can also pat you down if they want to. But they can’t do anything else unless they put you in jail. But if you are on a public road and they have a good reason to, they can search your car. If they can see something illegal through the windows, that gives them a good reason to search the car.

Final Words

You’ve probably seen this happen in movies, TV shows, or even in real life: a police officer reaching around the rear of a car to touch it. You now have all the information you need to understand why police officers touch the back of a car. If this ever happens to you, all you have to do is follow the steps outlined in the post, and you’ll be fine.

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