A bill being considered by New York lawmakers would require people applying for a driver’s license in the state to complete an online course that covers how to behave during traffic stops. Senate Bill S6438 stalled after being referred to the State Transportation Committee in April 2021. The measure was resubmitted to the committee on Jan. 5. The state senator who sponsored the proposed legislation says that its passage would make the roads safer for both motorists and police officers.
Traffic stops can be dangerous situations for police officers, and they sometimes turn deadly because of fear and misunderstandings. The online course Senate Bill S6438 would mandate could help to prevent tragedies by instructing motorists to switch off their radios and engines, turn on their interior lights, keep both of their hands in plain sight and avoid sudden or furtive movements. If the legislation is passed and signed into law, motorists will also be required to take the traffic stop course every time they renew their driver’s licenses.
Learning how not to get shot
Some civil rights advocates are less than happy with the bill. They say individuals pulled over for traffic violations should not have to be taught what to do to avoid being shot by police officers. Supporters of the measure point out that New York already requires people who apply for driver’s licenses to take courses dealing with road rage, the dangers of driving under the influence of drugs or alcohol, and school bus, motorcycle and work zone safety.
An online course that takes just minutes to complete is worthwhile even if it only saves a single life, but much more should be done to prevent traffic stop deaths. Police officers should learn about subconscious bias and the ways it affects behavior, and motorists should appreciate just how unpredictable and dangerous these situations can be.