RALEIGH — An effort to use driver’s education as a means to prevent encounters between North Carolina law enforcement officers and motorists from becoming violent or deadly has advanced through one General Assembly chamber.
The House voted unanimously Wednesday for legislation requiring driver’s education materials and school curriculum to include stop procedures and appropriate actions by drivers. The North Carolina Sheriffs’ Association, state Highway Patrol and police groups would be involved in developing the materials.
The bill was introduced by Rep. Ken Goodman, a Democrat whose District 66 includes part of Robson County, who said it “was pleasing” to see his bill make it through.
Goodman is the son of former Richmond County Sheriff R.W. Goodman, who held the post for more than 40 continuous years.
“My goal is to keep somebody from getting in traffic stop that would escalate,” he said when the bill cleared the House Transportation Committee earlier this month. “It could save the life of a (driver) or an officer.”
House Bill 21 requires the state Division of Motor Vehicles to include in the state’s driver’s license handbook a “description of law enforcement procedures during traffic stops and the actions that a motorist should take during a traffic stop, including appropriate interaction with law enforcement officers.”
Several of the instructions include not getting out of the vehicle and keeping hands on the steering wheel — things Goodman said may seem obvious, but young drivers might not know.
“If an officer has to discharge his weapon — even if he’s right — it can have an effect on his career and his life,” Goodman said.
Similar requirements have become law in Virginia and Illinois since last year.
The North Carolina bill cleared the House the day before a deadline set by legislative leaders. Policy bills that don’t change taxes or require spending are likely dead through 2018 unless they clear the House or Senate by Thursday.
With the bill now on its way to the Senate, Goodman remains optimistic about its chances of being made law.
“I don’t know why it wouldn’t pass,” he said. “There’s no opposition to it.”
Another bill filed by Goodman — which aims to allow unaffiliated voters to file for elected office without having to file voter petitions and conduct open non-partisan primaries, where the top two vote-getters proceed to the general election — didn’t make the cut for this session, but the legislator said he’s “not surprised.”
“But sometimes, you have to get these conversations started,” he said.