A “Safe Stop” bill designed to educate drivers on both their rights and responsibilities when pulled over by police was signed into law by Gov. Phil Murphy.
The bill, sponsored by Assemblywoman Aura Dunn (R-25) along with her Democratic colleagues Robert Karabinchak (D-18) and Jamel Holley (D-20), was crafted in response and encouraged by a national dialogue on incidents occurring during routine law enforcement stops.
“Teaching drivers their rights as wells as how to safely interact with police during a stop must be a part of the driver curriculum,” said Assemblyman Karabinchak. “Surprisingly, the New Jersey Driver’s Manual currently does not include any language referencing what to do if stopped for a traffic violation.”
Assemblywoman Dunn noted drivers are given certain rights—including the right to be free from unreasonable or illegal search and seizure, and the right to remain silent when under question by the police.
“We want to establish a foundation for safer, less stressful police interactions and in order to do that, we must educate people on what actions are permissible under the law,” said Dunn.
Assemblyman Holley noted the legislation in part responded to national events where people of color were the victims of police-involved shootings during routine traffic stops.
Preventing Fatal Interactions
Holley argued drivers needed to be better prepared for these routine interactions with police, saying a way to prevent these fatal interactions was “to help drivers understand their rights and what to expect as the driver of the vehicle if they are ever pulled over.”
“Unfortunately, new and young drivers are susceptible to extreme misguidance by the media and other outlets with incorrect information as to what they are entitled to during an encounter with police officers which ultimately results in a breakdown in police and community relations,” he said.
The bill garnered key backing from those in uniform, with the New Jersey State Troopers Fraternal Association (STFA) applauding the bill’s sponsors.
“The new law underscores and the importance of educating new and young drivers on the importance of knowing their rights on a motor vehicle stop but more importantly their safe and respectful interaction with police officers during the course of the motor vehicle stop,” said Wayne Blanchard, president of the STFA.
The changes will affect testing for new drivers in the state. The new law requires the New Jersey Motor Vehicle Commission to expand the written examination to include a question on the topic.
Additionally, drivers will be required to watch a video regarding rights and responsibilities before taking the written exam.