We live in a wonderful country where violence is still something relatively rare. If we are stopped by the police we tend not to worry and dig out our driver�s license and vehicle registration wherever it might be in the vehicle. Some people even get out and walk back to the police car to see what is going on. These actions are meant to be polite and save time but today are not the right thing to do.
The police perspective is a difficult one. Officers realize that people mean well, and that almost always these actions are not threatening. On the other hand, police stop people every day in British Columbia that have significant criminal records and may present a very real threat. These circumstances are not known in advance and each vehicle stop must be approached with care to avoid violence, but not upset those who are honest, well-meaning people.
You can play a big part in making every vehicle stop a safe experience. Stop promptly and instruct everyone in your vehicle to sit still and be quiet. Keep your hands in clear view. If it is dark, turn on your interior light. Wait for the officer to approach and explain why you have been stopped, then follow his requests. Stay in your vehicle and continue to be still and quiet until the stop is concluded. In short, don�t do anything that might be mistaken as a possible threat.
If your first reaction is that this column sounds ridiculous, I would like to agree with you, but times are changing. The problem today is that officers cannot immediately determine who is and isn�t a threat, and for their own safety must consider all the potentials and be prepared to deal with them.
Cst. Tim Schewe (Ret.) runs DriveSmartBC, a community web site about traffic safety in British Columbia. For 25 years he was an officer with the Royal Canadian Mounted Police, including five years on general duty, 20 in traffic and 10 as a collision analyst responsible of conducting technical investigations of collisions. He retired from policing in 2006 but continues to be active in traffic safety through the DriveSmartBC web site, teaching seminars and contributing content to newspapers and web sites.