By: Paul Foreman
There has been a lot in the news lately about the police “mistreating” people at traffic stops. Maybe I’m preaching to the choir here. Readers of Athens Now are most likely already well informed about how to behave around police officers. I hope the readers might pass this article on to their teens before they get behind the wheel for the first time.
Imagine if you were a police officer, and you spotted a car load of teenagers driving in heavy traffic on a Friday evening. The car was speeding up and slowing down, then it would get real close to the car in front, then all of a sudden swerve over and pass, only to do the same thing again to the next car it came up behind. You, as a police officer could see at least six occupants, they all seemed to be laughing and having a great time. Before you activate the blue lights, your mind flashes back to the two mangled bodies of teens that were thrown out of their Mercedes Benz as it left the road at over 100mph. You remember the look on the faces of the mom and dad when they came to the scene of the wreck. That was just last night. This is tonight, and maybe you can prevent such a terrible tragedy from being repeated.
When you “light them up” with the blues and hit the yelper and few times, the driver decides to pretend it’s not him you’re pulling over. He keeps on going but his driving behavior improves dramatically. You flip on the loud speaker and call out to him, “You in the red Mustang: pull over to the right, pull into that parking lot.” The driver looks over his left shoulder with a look on his face, “You don’t mean me, do you?” You want to shout over the loud speaker, “Yes you, pimple face,” but you maintain your professional demeanor, and instead repeat the first command, “Pull over to your right, pull into the parking lot.”
The driver complies and you call in on the radio, giving the dispatcher your location and description of the car as well as its tag number. You also inform the dispatcher that the vehicle is occupied six times. You have parked your patrol car about a car length behind the red Mustang, at about a 45 degree angle. This provides you cover behind your car’s fender, if needed. The driver is expecting you to come to his driver’s side. Instead you approach from the passenger side. All the kids are looking to their left. You are on their right, observing what they are doing. The teens all jump with surprise as you say, “Driver, I need to see your license, registration and proof of insurance”.
These teens look to be ok, they just came from a football game and they were all excited to have their school win. You don’t see any alcohol containers, you don’t smell any weed. Then it starts. One of the girls in the back seat, the one with the “Big Hair” starts in. “Hey officer, can I wear that cute hat?” Another girl chimes in with, “Have you ever shot anybody? You’re not going to shoot us, are you?” The driver is trying to find his license while the teen closest to you suddenly opens the door right into your legs. He jumps back into the car, saying he is sorry and then states, “This is my dad’s car, he is a lawyer; as a matter of fact, my dad is a judge in this county.” The judge’s kid pops open the glove box and starts sifting through a pile of papers and receipts. The driver still has not found his license.
OK, back to reality. Can you see all the times that you would have been in danger? From the beginning, they did not pull over right away. The overcrowded car where you couldn’t see what everybody was doing with their hands. The girls were acting silly with their questions, distracting you. The driver is still trying to find his license. The passenger suddenly opening the car door into your legs, then popping open the glove box. Could there be a gun in the glove box? Could this be a stolen car? Could these teens have acted differently?
When you see the blue lights come on, pull over when it’s safe to do so. Get out of traffic if possible, but do not keep driving! Even if you are sure you did nothing wrong, pull over!
Driver and passengers, stay in the car unless the officer tells you to get out. Everybody keep your hands in your lap and keep your mouth shut unless you are directly spoken to. Driver, if you need to get your papers out of the glove box or console, tell the officer what you are doing. If you are wrong, admit it! Just say something like, “Gee, we’re all taking and laughing, I should have been paying attention to my driving.” Now, I am sure a lawyer might tell you not to say anything, but that kind of honesty will more than likely get you off with a warning, as long as everything else is in order.
By: Paul Foreman