JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. — Missouri lawmakers are considering measures that would use drivers' exams or driver education classes to educate prospective motorists about how to act during a traffic stop.
Illinois and Virginia lawmakers recently passed similar laws, and Mississippi, New Jersey, North Carolina and Rhode Island are considering them. The laws are aimed at improving interactions between law enforcement and motorists, particularly those who might feel targeted because of their race, The St. Louis Post-Dispatch reported (http://bit.ly/2lWSkCl ).
Missouri state Rep. Gretchen Bangert, D-Florissant, introduced a bill that would require guidelines to be offered during drivers exams. She said she's also talked to the Missouri State Highway Patrol about creating a video that prospective drivers would have to watch to receive a license.
Preparing drivers for what could be their first encounter with a police officer might make them more comfortable in other situations, Bangert said. Her bill has yet to receive a hearing.
In the Missouri Senate, Jeanie Riddle, R-Callaway County, has proposed a bill that would require all driver training programs to include instruction on how to respond during traffic stops. The Department of Revenue, which oversees drivers licenses, the Missouri Highway Patrol and attorney general would determine how such regulations would be implemented. It, too, hasn't received a hearing.
Patrol Capt. John Hotz said the highway patrol doesn't comment on pending legislation, "but we do support, in general, anything that makes Missouri safer." The patrol already offers a brochure on its website that outlines how to best respond to traffic stops.
Allen Robinson, chief executive of the American Driver and Traffic Safety Education Association, which creates curricula in 35 states, said the proposed measures wouldn't prevent all problems, but they could help teenagers avoid bad decisions.
"Anything that keeps the rancor and stupidness from going on inside of a car when there is a minor traffic violation, we're all for," Robinson said.
Mike Right, a spokesman for AAA Missouri, said educating drivers about how to act during a traffic stop makes sense, especially after highly publicized confrontations between police and motorists in recent years. But he noted that the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration already offers guidelines and AAA is adding information on the subject to its "How To Drive" book.
"Does it rise to the level of creating a state statute? That I'm not sure of," he said.