RALEIGH — State Rep. Ken Goodman says a news story he read last summer about a law enforcement traffic stop that escalated into violence is the engine that drove him to file legislation intended to educate motorists on how to act when pulled over by a law enforcement officer.
“People don’t know how to interact with law enforcement during a traffic stop,” said Goodman, the son of former Richmond County Sheriff R.W. Goodman. “There is no place in the book (driver’s license handbook) that tells people what to do during a traffic stop and there should be. I would hope this would save lives and at the same time not ruin an officer who might discharge his firearm.”
Goodman, a Democrat from Rockingham whose district includes part of Robeson County, introduced bipartisan House Bill 21 on Jan. 25. Other primary sponsors of the legislation are Rep. Beverly M. Earle, a Democrat from Mecklenburg County; John Faircloth, a Republican from Guilford County; and Allen McNeill, a Republican who represents Moore and Randolph counties.
The bill was approved on first reading in the House and referred to the House Transportation Committee. Goodman is a member of that committee.
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.” The description should be developed in consultation with the North Carolina Highway Patrol, the N.C. Sheriffs Association and the N.C. Association of Chiefs of Police, according to the proposed law.
The proposed addition to the handbook would be for informational purposes only and would be beneficial to young and new drivers, Goodman said. The handbook serves as the basis for public school drivers’ education curricula.
Goodman said he doesn’t think there will be much, if any, opposition, and the legislation will get through the House. The legislation must then get Senate approval before being sent the governor and signed into law.
“There are already a lot of sponsors from both parties. I don’t know how anyone can object to this, but you never know,” Goodman said. “This is just education for people … I don’t know why this has never been done before.”
The implementation would be inexpensive, Goodman said. There would be some printing costs for new handbooks, but driver’s license handbooks are being updated all the time to reflect new state and federal regulations.
“This would be very inexpensive compared to other budget items,” he said.
Lumberton Police Chief Mike McNeill said he fully supports the bill. Educating all drivers in what to do when stopped by law enforcement is important.
“I love it,” he said. “Anything we can do to educate, especially at a young age, I’m for it.”
He teaches people that when they see blue lights behind them to pull over safely to the right and then don’t do anything until the officer walks up to the car and gives instructions, McNeill said.
“Don’t even move to get your registration from the glove compartment or wallet out of your pocket,” he said.
Robeson County Sheriff Ken Sealey said that on the surface what Goodman has proposed would be beneficial.
“It sounds good, but I would like to read the whole bill first before commenting,” he said. “I want to check with our association and see what position it’s taking.”
Bob Shiles can be reached at 910-416-5165.