Potential NJ law teaches you how to treat cops during traffic stop
When he began patrolling New Jersey's roads in 2005 as a state trooper, Wayne Blanchard would deal with a confrontational driver or passenger on approximately 20% of the traffic stops he'd make.
By 2017, when he left his post, every six or seven stops were "becoming adversarial" on the side of the road, Blanchard said.
That's why Blanchard, now the president of the New Jersey State Troopers Fraternal Association, hopes Gov. Phil Murphy gives the green light to a proposed law that helps educate new drivers on their rights and responsibilities when stopped by a law enforcement officer.
The legislation, which was approved by both houses of the state Legislature and needs the governor's ink in order to become law, would require a potential driver to watch a video on the topic before they take a written exam for a permit. A question related to a driver's role during a traffic stop would also have to be added to the written exam.
"This bill underscores the importance of educating new and young drivers on the importance of knowing their rights on a motor vehicle stop but more importantly their safe and respectful interaction with police officers during the course of the motor vehicle stop," Blanchard said. "Unfortunately, new and young drivers are susceptible to extreme misguidance by the media and other outlets with incorrect information as to what they are entitled to during an encounter with police officers, which ultimately results in a breakdown in police and community relations."
Blanchard said there's a misconception among some New Jersey drivers that they don't need to hand over their documentation to a police officer until the cop declares the reason for the traffic stop. Many young drivers, he added, feel the need to debate the facts of the motor vehicle stop, right on the scene — and that will get them nowhere.
"The side of the road is not the appropriate venue to dispute and have a trial on a traffic matter. That's why we have courts of law," he said.
The measure was approved by both the Assembly and Senate on Jan. 13. Because passage occurred so close to the end of the legislative session, Gov. Murphy has until noon Tuesday to act on the bill.
"Surprisingly, the New Jersey Driver's Manual currently does not include any language referencing what to do if stopped for a traffic violation," said Assemblyman Robert Karabinchak, D-Middlesex, a sponsor of the measure.
The Governor's Office does not comment on pending legislation.
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