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Why Do Police Officers Tap Your Tail Lights When You Get Pulled Over?

Has this ever happened to you? You get pulled over for a traffic violation. The police officer walks up to your window, but as he does, he touches your tail light? It’s one of those things that annoys the heck out of people after being pulled over. Usually, when police officers perform a common gesture like touching the tail light, it makes us civilians feel nervous and might even cause us to freak out, even though we know that we’ve done nothing wrong or have nothing to worry about. However, just like everything, there is a reason why they do what they do.

There are many reasons why the police tap the tail lights of our cars, and they’ve been doing it for a long time.

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The act of touching a tail light of a vehicle has a long and modest history. It goes back to when police started patrolling the streets and highways.

The ritual was essentially a “super sneaky” tactic used before dashboard cameras were implemented.

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Police officers were tapping tail lights with the hopes to catch a driver or a passenger off guard. It’s not uncommon for criminals to hide guns, drugs and other contraband as soon as police stop them.

Tail tapping started out with the intent to capture and surprise criminals.

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Tapping tail lights would stop criminals from hiding their ill-gotten stash of contraband for enough time for the police officer to find the stash and confiscate it.

Here’s a reason for tapping tail lights that will probably blow your mind.

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One of the reasons that police officers touch your car’s tail lights is to leave evidence behind. It is just in case the perpetrator tries to murder the police and get away with murder.

They try and leave their fingerprints on the vehicle.

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When the vehicle involved in a murder or assault on a police officer is eventually found, the forensics department will be able to match the fingerprint and use it as evidence.

Old habits are hard to get rid of.

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Tail tapping is a very old practice, and many police vehicles are equipped with state of the art cameras. The tapping is unnecessary but has become a force of habit.

Tail light tapping can be dangerous for the police officer.

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Tail light tapping can be a dangerous thing for the police officer. The noise caused by the tapping can alert criminals figure out where exactly the police officer is, especially if it’s dark at night.

It may even be a ritualistic habit for the police.

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Some police officers look at tail light tapping as a rite of passage, or as a way of honoring officers who came before them. No matter what the reason, it’s something that police officers don’t have to do.

The sounds produced by tapping the tail lights can act as the beacon for criminals.

 insaneftw.com

Unfortunately, tapping the tail light makes it easier for the criminal to know where the police officer is standing at that very moment. This is why many police departments recommend that police officers stop tail light tapping.

Tapping the tail lights serves as an “initial shock” for the criminals.

 insaneftw.com

You know you did something wrong, especially if you’re hiding something you shouldn’t have in your car. The tapping creates a bit of surprise inside the people who are in the vehicle.Even though this practice might seem “old school”, it has been proven to be efficient on routine stops.

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Many police officers state that tail tapping has increased the number of arrests of intoxicated drivers, drug dealers, and other criminals.

Police officers keep practicing tail light tapping, even though their vehicles are equipped with dash cams.

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Even though there are mixed feelings about the police with civilians, some police officers believe that tail light tapping is a necessary practice to stay safe.

Police officers use the tail light tapping to identify cars that have fled the scene of a routine stop or crime scene.

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Many criminals do not even try to cause harm to the police officer. Instead, they drive off and try to escape the law (sometimes reaching speeds of 90 miles per hour). With the risk of confusing the car with another one of the same make and models, tail light tapping allows police officers to verify the vehicles.

Sometimes, the police officers are not even interested in the tail light at all!

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Sometimes the police officer will tap the tail light and push the trunk down as well. This is to make sure that the trunk is closed and that no one will pop out and ambush them.It gives the police officers to get a better vantage point of the driver in the vehicle.

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In major cities such as New York and Detroit, police officers usually have their partners to knock on the fender or trunk. This causes the driver to turn their head in the direction of the noise, allowing the officer to take a quick look at the suspect’s hands, lap and floor to make sure that there is nothing there that could cause them harm.

The practice of tapping tail lights started ages ago and was called the “Pop-Up Theory.”

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The “Pop Up Theory” was used practically in the 60’s and 70’s when major crime syndicates ambushed officers randomly, by popping out of the trunks and other places of the vehicle. The trunks of modern vehicles are lightweight, so they don’t stay down if they were unlatched while driving.

In a lot of places, the police academy teaches cadets that they must NOT touch the rear of the vehicle.

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However, the academy does recommend that the officer in question puts their hand on the side of the vehicle. This is to avoid the vehicle in case the owner decides to back up and run the officer over.

Sometimes, the dangers of tapping the tail light could be completely accidental.

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Sometimes the suspect might not even know they’re doing something they shouldn’t. Officer Jason Shaw, K-9, THI, patrol supervisor, and firearms instructor had an elderly driver forgot to put the vehicle in park, and it went into reverse. When the driver accidentally hit the accelerator instead of the brakes, it rammed into the patrol car and injured him!
There are other reasons that an officer would tap the tail lights of your vehicle.

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Tapping the rear tail light of a vehicle puts an officer in the optimal position to give them a clear view of the back seat. This allows them to be able to see if the driver is hiding contraband like alcohol, drugs or weapons in the back.

Shooting back at the officer becomes harder for the perpetrator.

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Tail tapping (Pop Up Theory) is a major tactical advantage for the officer because there is a possibility that the driver might shoot at you and stand near the tail light allows the officer those precious seconds to take cover, and give them the chance to respond accordingly.

Sadly, tail light tapping can ruin an officer’s uniform.

It is recommended that police officers “hug” the side of the vehicle as they tap the tail lights. Officers in Guam ruin their uniforms due to the ocean and light showers mixing with the grounded sea shells, leaving a fine coat of salt and dirt on the right side of their pants.

Tail light tapping is a way for the officer to check whether the car has been stolen or not.

 defensivedriving.com

Usually, when a vehicle has been stolen, the trunk is not secure, and the key lock will be tampered with. Tail light tapping gives the officers time to do a quick inspection to check for anything unusual.

People are still confused about the reasons why officers practice tail light tapping.

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Many people are under the impression that tail light tapping was practiced to see whether the light was in one piece and functioning correctly because most states have laws for drivers and faulty tail lights.

It’s rational to assume that the back tail light is a good place to hide things from the police.

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Criminals are getting more and more creative when it comes to hiding contraband in their vehicles. Tail tapping allows police to check whether or not the criminals are hiding something there.

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