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Editorial: Police-stop training for young drivers a good idea

The Herald-Dispatch editorial

The national discussion about relations between law enforcement and minority communities has not been easy.

As polls show, people – from law officers and government leaders to various elements of the public – come at these questions from very different perspectives and experiences. That is sometimes polarizing, but raising awareness about the tensions also had sparked some good ideas.

Many police departments, including several in the Tri-State, have opened new dialogs with residents and community groups. Officers in many cities also are being trained in techniques to de-escalate potentially violent situations and to handle offenders who might be mentally unstable.

Virginia state legislator Jeion Ward has offered another proactive suggestion – teach young drivers about how to behave and what to expect when they are stopped by the police.

Ward said that as an African American, she had heard her husband and three sons describe the special tension that can arise in those situations. But as her grandson reached driving age, she really began to think about the need for greater discussion and awareness.

Her bill to require driver’s education classes to teach students how to handle themselves during a traffic stop was signed into law recently by Gov. Terry McAuliffe. The state is still working on what will be taught and how, but any information would be helpful for all students black and white.

“This should at least make all of us mindful of what we should do,” Ward told The Washington Post. “I don’t believe most of us know.”

Virginia DMV Commissioner Richard Holcomb acknowledged that the state’s driver’s manual is vague on the topic, although it does suggest motorists should stay calm. A few states, such as Illinois, already make police stops part of driver training, but some state driver’s manuals do not mention the subject at all. What most of us know, we probably picked up anecdotally from parents or friends.

Training should also answer young motorists questions about their rights, the ticketing process, when arrests are appropriate and what drivers and passengers can expect.

Adding police-stop situations to driver’s education training is something every state should consider.

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