Ever Wondered Why Cops Touch Your Tail Light When They Pull You Over?

Ever Wondered Why Cops Touch Your Tail Light When They Pull You Over?
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Tapping the Tail Light

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If you’ve been unlucky enough to be pulled over by a cop, you may have noticed them do something strange…tapping your tail light. Now, you may get nervous when a police officer begins to touch your vehicle, they also seem to take their time when it comes to writing you a ticket.

However, there’s a reason behind it all we promise.

A Reason Behind It

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When it comes to the infamous tail light tapping, there’s a very extensive history behind it. The act actually goes back to the early days when police officers first began patrolling the streets and highways.

Before the Dash Cam

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Tail light tapping was used more prior to the age of dash cams. Cops began doing this because they wanted to catch the driver or passenger off guard. Many times when people are pulled over, they try to hide illegal contraband or drugs before the cop reaches the window.

Startling the Criminals

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When the officer tapped on the tail light, the hope was it would startle the passengers in the vehicle and they would be caught red handed. Pretty sneaky right? With the driver startled, it was easier for the cop to make an arrest and confiscate anything that was illegal.

A Shocking Fact

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Are you ready to have your mind blown? Another reason the police tap your tail light is to leave evidence that they were there. You never know if a driver is completely twisted and out of their mind and might try to get away with murder.

Leaving Evidence Behind

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Let’s just say the officer approaches the vehicle and is shot or even worse…killed…their fingerprints are now on the car. Crazy, right? We had no idea this was something that officers did, but it allows an investigation to find whoever was responsible for the incident.

An Old Practice

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Thankfully, with the installation of dash cams on officer vehicles, there really is no need for tail tapping anymore. Of course, some police officers still do it, but it’s completely unnecessary. We’re guessing some old habits are just too tough to shake.

A Dangerous Practice

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Sometimes tail tapping can actually be dangerous for the police officer. Why? Well, it alerts the driver to the officer’s exact location. If they happened to be a criminal, the cop’s life could be on the line, especially if it’s dark.

Please, No More

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With the violence against police officers at an all-time high, many police departments are asking their officers to stop tail light tapping completely. There is absolutely no need to give the driver (especially a crooked one) an advantage over the officer as they approach them. However, some officers just can’t let it go.

Cops and Their Rituals

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As we’ve mentioned before, there really is no need for tail light tapping anymore, but some police officers consider it a rite of passage. They feel it’s a way to honor the officers that came before them. So, they continue to do it.

Benefits of Tapping

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Some police officers still believe that the tail light tapping is efficient during routine stops. They claim it has increased their arrest numbers of intoxicated drivers, drug dealers, and those with unlicensed firearms. Interesting, right?

Fleeing the Scene

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Some drivers think they’re pretty crafty and will speed off before the officer can write them a ticket. A stupid move that’s for sure. However, if the officer has tapped their tail light, they can easily identify the car that sped away if they happen to come across two cars that look identical.

Beyond Tail Light Tapping

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Some officers not only tap the tail light, but they push down on the trunk lid as well. No, they aren’t trying to create new dents in your car, they are just checking to make sure no one pops out of the trunk in an ambush.

Yes, this actually happens.

Working Together

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Some police officers patrol with partners and utilize trunk tapping and tail light tapping to check what the driver may or may not have in their lap. While one officer taps on the trunk, the other officer will check out the driver while they are momentarily distracted.

Invented in the 1960s

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The practice of tail light and trunk tapping was originally implemented back in the 1960s and 70s. During this time, radical crime groups patrolled the streets and would ambush officers when pulled over. Thankfully, trunks are designed a bit differently today and popping out of them isn’t so easy.

New Training in the Academy

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Today, police academy instructors do not promote the practice of trunk tapping or tail light tapping. They suggest officers not only not touch the rear of the vehicle, but they should remain away from it is as well. This is just in case the driver decides to back up and run over the police officer.

Checking the Backseat

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Some police officers tap tail lights to give them some time to check the backseat. You never know who might be hiding back there or what illegal items may be stashed away. By tapping the tail light, they can act like they’re performing a routine procedure, rather than snooping around the driver’s car.

Dirty Uniform Problems

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While not as serious as being shot at, tail light tapping can run the risk of making the officer’s uniform dirty. Since they are required to hug the vehicle with the side of their body as they tap the tail light, it can allow whatever is on the car to rub off on them.

A Common Misconception

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Most people have thought that tapping the tail light was the cop trying to see if it was working. Heck, we’ve been pulled over at times only to be alerted we had a tail light out and never even knew it. It seems this practice really should go away because it’s not only confusing but apparently super dangerous.

Don’t Worry About It

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So, the next time you’re pulled over and a police officer taps your tail light…don’t freak out! It’s just a simple and standard procedure. Also, please don’t keep illegal stuff in your vehicle, you will have a lot more to worry about than some simple tail light tapping.

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