Touching the Taillight

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Have you ever noticed that when you are pulled over by a cop they take a long time to write you a ticket and touch your car’s taillight before approaching your window? There’s a very important reason why cops do this, read on to find out what it is.

The Beginning of Patrolling

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There is actually a very old reason as to why cops touch the taillight of a pulled over car. The reason actually goes back to the days when cops first began patrolling the highways and streets.

No Technology

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Touching the taillight dates back to before technology was invented, like the dash cam. Cops would touch the taillight so they could surprise the driver before they could throw any illegal items or drugs out the window.

Getting Sneaky

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Cops would hope that they would startle the driver in the car by tapping on the light. By catching a criminal off guard, it would be easier to make an arrest.

Leaving Evidence

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There’s another reason why cops will touch your taillight. It’s to leave evidence that they were there and were the ones to pull you over. This is for the officer’s safety because they never know who they are pulling over. The driver can be dangerous and out of their mind.


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The evidence that the cop leaves is his fingerprint. If something happens to the officer, forensics can match his fingerprints on the taillight to their identity.

No Longer Needed

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Cops don’t necessarily need to touch your taillight anymore since dash cams are used in every cop car. However, some officers will still do it out of habit and precaution.

Can Be Dangerous

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While this practice was used to startle the driver, it could be dangerous for some officers. When they tap the light, the driver knows exactly where the cop is and could potentially injure him.

Requesting to Stop the Habit

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In recent years, the violence against police officers has risen. As a result, the police departments are requesting that officers stop the practice of tapping taillights when they pull cars over.

Hard Habit to Break

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Some officers have trouble kicking this habit. Not only is the habit hard to break, but they will keep doing it to honor the officers who have served before them.

Benefits of the Tap

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There are some cops who think tapping the taillight is beneficial. These officers claim that the tap leads to more arrests of drunk drivers and drivers carrying illegal guns and drugs.

Avoiding a Ticket

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Some people decide it’s a good idea to drive away as the cop is writing them a ticket and avoid getting fined altogether. However, when the cop chases after the car, they can easily identify it because they tapped the light.

Pushing Down the Trunk

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Along with touching the taillight, some officers will push down on the trunk to make sure that nobody is in there waiting to ambush him.

Partners in Law

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Usually police officers travel with their partner for safety. When pulling someone over, one cop will usually touch the light and tap the trunk while their partner will check to see if the driver has something in their lap.

Dating Back to 1960

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The idea of tapping the taillight and pushing on the trunk was created in the 1960’s. In this time period there were many ambush attacks on police officers and crime groups roaming the streets.

Training at the Academy

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Training at the Police Academy has changed over the years. Now, they are taught not only to stop touching the back of cars, but also to avoid being behind the car altogether in case the driver decides to back up and hit them.

Check the Backseat

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Officers may act like they are touching the taillight of your car when in reality they are checking to see if anyone or anything is hiding in the backseat.

Keeping Uniforms Clean

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Another reason cops stopped touching taillights was to keep their uniforms clean. Cars can get pretty dirty and when their side touches the car, they can risk getting dirt on their uniforms.

Common Misconception

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Many people thought cops would touch the taillight to make sure it was working. The driver probably thought they were pulled over because the bulb had gone out.

Stay Calm

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Now that you know it’s simply routine procedure, don’t worry if a copy touches your taillight. If you aren’t hiding anything illegal in your car, you have nothing to worry about.

Safety Strategies

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Tapping taillights isn’t the only procedure cops use when pulling someone over. These procedures are used to keep them safe and help make an easy arrest.

One Stop Ahead

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When cops pull someone over, they leave their car’s door open when approaching the window. This is so they can hop back in the car quickly and use their radio if the driver decides to speed away.

Team Work

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If you go through a traffic stop point, you’ll usually notice there are two officers working the checkpoint. One will shine their flashlight in all windows of your car. This isn’t to be annoying or rude, but to make sure there isn’t anything dangerous or illegal in your car.

Don’t Stop Short

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Many people’s first instinct when they are speeding and see a cop is to hit their breaks hard. This will just make you look even more suspicious. Instead, just let your speed decrease gradually down to the speed limit.

Rolling with the Squad

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Statistically, cops are more likely to pull over cars carrying groups of young men because they are more likely to commit a crime than a group of females. If you do find yourself in a car with a bunch of friends, just make sure you aren’t carrying anything illegal.

Be Kind

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There is no reason to be rude to a cop when he pulls you over. If you want to get off with a warning, the best thing to do is be nice. It turns out cops are more likely to write you a ticket if you’re rude to them.

Looking for a Crime

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Ex-cop Dale Carson of the Miami Dade County police department says, “The ranks of cops are young and competitive, they’re in competition with one another and intra-departmentally. It becomes a game. Policing isn’t about keeping streets safe, it’s about statistical success. The question for them is, who can put the most people in jail?” So, when a cop is being aggressive they may be looking to make you angry and violent so they can arrest you.

Blend In

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To have a lesser chance of getting pulled over, blend in with the rest of the cars on the street. Don’t drive a flashy sports car with tinted windows or large wheels. This will just draw their attention to you.

Psychological Dominance

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Cops will try to dominate the situation when pulling you over. “Being questioned by police is insulting. It is, however, less insulting than being arrested. What I’m advising you to do when questioned by police is pocket the insult. This is difficult and emotionally painful,” Dale says.

Honest is the Best Policy

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Cops are trained to tell when someone is lying. So, whenever a cop questions you, always tell the truth. This will help your case infinitely.