Why Do Police Touch Your Car When They Pull You Over? • Road Sumo (2023)

Try to be observant when a police officer pulls you over. More often than not, you will notice that they will touch the end of your car. Why do police touch your car when they pull you over? This article will give you some answers to that question.

Police touch a car when they pull it over for two main reasons: To ensure that nobody can jump out of the trunk to attack them and leave their fingerprints in your car as proof of their interaction with the driver.

If the cops suspect that the vehicle they have stopped is dangerous, they may touch its backend to ensure that the trunk is closed. This may appear strange, but the police use this strategy to ensure no one is hiding inside the trunk who could suddenly pop out and hurt them.

When police officers order a traffic stop, they need to follow certain safety procedures. This is not just for their safety but also for the safety of the violators. They are touching the rear end of the car that they have ordered to stop is one way of proving that they were in the presence of that particular car.

Read on to learn more about why the police touch the back of your car or your taillight when they ask you to pull over.

Why Do Police Touch Your Car When They Pull You Over?

Why Do Police Touch Your Car When They Pull You Over? • Road Sumo (1)

It’s disturbing and frightening to see red and blue lights flashing behind you. Those flashing lights are from police cars ordering you to pull over. Once you stop, you will likely see the cops touching your taillights.

Why Do Police Touch Your Taillight?

They do this if they believe that they are facing a dangerous situation. The cops will touch the rear end of your car on their way to your window. This is their way of ensuring that your trunk is closed and that no one could suddenly pop out and hurt them.

Police Officers Follow Procedures to Ensure Their Safety

When police officers order a traffic stop, they need to follow certain procedures to ensure their safety and the safety of the violators. Touching the vehicle is also a way to prove that they are really with that particular vehicle. This also leaves their fingerprints on that vehicle.

It will appear strange to those who are not familiar with this practice. But it is a standard and a common practice of law enforcement officers.

While approaching the driver’s window, they will touch the taillight or the trunk. If you are not a criminal running away from the crime scene, there’s no reason to be afraid.

Prevalent Before the Invention and Deployment of Dashboard Cams and Personal Cameras

This practice was prevalent before the invention and deployment in police circles of dashboard cams and personal cameras. Awful things can happen after the police order a driver to stop.

Traceable Fingerprints

The interaction with the driver can be traced back to the officer’s fingerprints they left on the vehicle. This will help in case additional crimes are committed after the incident.

Startle the Driver

Touching the vehicle may also have started because of the penchant of police officers to spook drivers as they approached their windows.

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The driver pulled over may have weapons or illegal drugs that they may scramble to hide. Hearing a surprise knock on the taillight may startle the driver and increase their chances of getting caught.

Is There Any Reason Why They Do That?

Based on the admissions of law enforcement officers, there are many reasons why they touch the rear end of the vehicles that they order to pull over.

Here are some of those reasons:

1. To Ensure the Trunk Is Closed

The most common reason police officers touch the taillight or rear end of a vehicle that they pull over is to make sure that the trunk is closed. This practice will seem strange to people unfamiliar with the dangers law enforcement officers face every day, but not to police officers.

They want to ensure that they will be safe and secure every time they flag down a suspected vehicle. So they knock on the trunk or the vehicle’s taillight; they stop to make sure that no one hiding under it will pop out and hurt them.

2. Leave Fingerprints on the Vehicle

Not too many motorists know this. Police officers touch the cars they pull over to leave their fingerprints on those vehicles. They do this to prove that they were with the vehicle. If the driver escapes the scene, the officer’s fingerprint will prove their interaction.

Or, in case something happens to the police officer, it will tie both the officer and the vehicle together. So, those police officers need to be prepared for these things. Things can happen when police officers conduct traffic stops. And this thing happens thousands of times during a typical day.

Police officers were trained in the police academy to touch the bumper, trunk, taillight, and other external parts of the vehicle they stop on the road for various reasons. Leaving their fingerprints on the vehicle is one of the primary reasons.

Their fingerprints establish their physical connection to the vehicle. Police officers do this in case a critical incident like a traffic crash, shooting, and so forth takes place while the officer is in contact with the vehicle, which causes injury or death.

The cops are instructed to put their hands on the vehicle’s side near its rear. This gives the officer a way out if the driver decides to back out of their vehicle. The officer can be run over as a result. So, they are instructed to approach the vehicle on its side and not on its rear.

There are cases where police officers were hurt because the vehicle driver accidentally backed up and ran over the poor cops. So, the cops learned that the best way to approach stopped vehicles is from the side, not from the rear.

3. Startle the Driver

Police officers do not conduct traffic stops without any reason. They do such things because they notice that there is something amiss. So, they know they are facing a potentially dangerous situation.

Perhaps, the vehicle driver is running away from a crime scene. Or maybe the driver is carrying or transporting illegal goods like prohibited drugs or guns and ammunition. The driver may try to hide it as the police approach their vehicle.


So, the law enforcers knock on the vehicle’s rear end to startle the driver. This action may frighten the driver. So, it will disrupt their efforts to conceal their illegal goods and lead to them being caught by the cops.

4. Induce the Driver to React

Cops are trained so that they can accurately read body language. So, they will touch the rear end of your car to see how you will react. This gives them the ability to assess the situation rightly. If you are guilty of a crime, you will be stressed out, and the cops will see it.

5. To Jar an Intoxicated Driver

A theory says the sudden knock on the vehicle will jar the intoxicated driver. So, the police officer who stops the car may do this if they suspect that the driver is drunk.

However, this theory is unfounded, says Joe Hoelscher, a DWI/DUI lawyer, and criminal defense attorney. He reasoned out why you should not let cops touch your tail lights.

On the contrary, police officers should only touch the vehicle slightly, so the driver won’t realize that cop’s fingerprints are already imprinted on the vehicle. Otherwise, the offending driver could wipe off the fingerprint.

Again, why do police touch your car when they pull you over? Officers touch your car when they pull you over to ensure that they are safe from a surprise attack. Also, they do this to leave their fingerprints in your car as proof of their interaction with the driver.

Standing Police Procedure When an Officer Flags Down a Vehicle

Why Do Police Touch Your Car When They Pull You Over? • Road Sumo (2)

So that you can have a better understanding of what usually happens when a police officer flags down a vehicle, here is the typical procedure that law enforcement officers follow in the conduct of this particular police matter:

Touch the Vehicle’s Back

Before a police officer speaks to the driver, they would touch the back of the vehicle they ask to stop. They do this to leave their fingerprint on the vehicle. If something wrong happens to the law enforcer, the car owner or the driver will be suspected and questioned.

Many suspected drivers have said that they haven’t seen the police officer who stopped them and was hurt. But the fingerprint of the officer on the vehicle proves that the officer was in contact with the car, proving that the driver is lying.

Ask the Driver for a Driver’s License and Vehicle Registration

The police officer will then ask for the driver’s license and vehicle registration. This is always done for routine traffic stops.

If you do not yet know it, touching the vehicle is a routine practice of law enforcers in the United States and probably worldwide.

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This practice can help protect and safeguard the lives of not only the police officers but also the drivers of the vehicles that they stop.

Why Touching the Car’s Back Is Not Encouraged

Distraction for Police Officers

There are certain risks involved in this practice. And some people believe that these risks far outweigh the benefits. Touching the back end of the vehicle poses a distraction for police officers. It will also give away their position, which exposes them to higher risks.

Not as Necessary as Before

Thankfully, with the use of dashcams in squad cars, the dangers to police officers have been minimized considerably.Fingerprints are not as necessary as before in documenting every incident.

Discouraged in Police Agencies

That is why this practice is now being discouraged in police agencies. However, this practice will persist in some. So, don’t be surprised if a police officer that stops you taps his fingers on the backend of your vehicle. They’re not suspecting you. The habit is just hard to break.

Why Is It Unnecessary for Police Officers to Touch Your Car

Dashcams and Body Cameras Ensure Their Safety While on Duty

With the invention and deployment of dashcams and body cameras, touching a vehicle to leave your fingerprints is no longer necessary.

Police officers are now issued various technological tools to ensure their safety.

Record All the Traffic Stops They Conduct on Their Rounds

Every car on a police squad is equipped with a dashcam. It can record all the traffic stops they conduct in their rounds. Police officers are also now wearing body cams that record everything they do while on their daily patrol.

These dashcams and body cams are more effective in proving their presence with the car and driver in question. They even record videos of every incident, with every detail of each incident seen.

Pursuing the Law Offenders Is Easier

No more will erring drivers be able to persuade the courts that they are innocent. They won’t be able to lie that they don’t know the police officer that stopped them. With clear videos of the incident, pursuing the law offenders has become easier.

However, you may still see some law enforcers touching the vehicles they stop on the road. It’s no longer part of the procedure, but it’s just a bad habit that is very difficult to break.

What Is the Safest Speed to Drive?

Frequently Asked Questions

Why Do Police Touch Your Car When They Pull You Over? • Road Sumo (3)

Here are some touching questions about our subject and their respective answers to enlighten you more about this topic:

Why Do Cops Touch My Car When They Stop Me?

They do it for a variety of reasons. They want to leave their fingerprints on your vehicle, so you won’t be able to say that you have not seen them yet.

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Cops also touch your vehicle to startle you and make you more pliant. But one important reason why they do it is to make sure that nobody is hiding in your trunk to jump on them suddenly.

Are Cops Allowed to Touch Your Car?

If the cops do their rounds, touching your car is well within their rights. This is part of their standard procedure. While that is true, they still can’t search your vehicle without your consent and probable cause. Note that touching your car and conducting a search are not the same.

Do Body Cams Make Car Touching Obsolete?

Yes, they do. Body cams and dash cams are now being used because they are more effective in gathering evidence than leaving fingerprints on your car. However, this touching practice persists because, in some police officers, the habit is just tough to break.

Why Do Police Officers Sneak Up Along the Car’s Side?

For safety reasons, cops approach you from the car’s side instead of from the rear or the front. Some cops were hurt because the drivers suddenly backed up their cars. Cops learned their lesson, so they approach you alongside your car.

Conclusion: Why Do Cops Touch Your Car?

Cops will touch the back of a car when they pull it over for two main reasons: To ensure that nobody can jump out of the trunk to attack them and leave their fingerprints in your car as proof of their interaction with the driver.

If the police officers suspect that your car is dangerous, they may touch the backend of your car when they pull you over to ensure that your trunk is closed.

This practice may seem strange to you, but they do this to ensure that no one is hiding in your trunk, which could suddenly pop out and hurt them.

When they order you to stop, they need to follow certain procedures. They do this not only for their safety but also for your safety. Touching the rear end of your car leaves their fingerprints on it—one way of proving that they were present when you were ordered to stop your car.

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Why do cops touch your car when pulled over? ›

To Leave a Fingerprint

Another reason police touch the back of a vehicle during a traffic stop is to leave their fingerprint. Leaving a fingerprint provides evidence if the car flees the scene or the officer becomes incapacitated. So, if there's a criminal investigation, there's evidence on the vehicle.

Why do cops touch your bumper when they pull you over? ›

“Touching the rear of the vehicle puts the officer's fingerprints on that car, showing that he or she was there with it,” Trooper Steve said. “In case the driver decided to flee the scene, or if something happened to that officer, it ties both the vehicle and the officer together.

Why do cops flash their lights but not pull you over? ›

Think of it as a warning. We may do this if your issue is not over the top, or perhaps we are on the way to another call and cannot stop you, but want to warn you. It also could be just saying hi, if we think we know you.

What does 3 cop cars mean at a house? ›

Sometimes the nature of the stop suggests that extra officers are needed for safety. There might be a lookout on a vehicle from a robbery. Sometimes it's the number of people inside. Sometimes it's the actions of the occupants that make an officer call for backup.

What does it mean when a police touches your car? ›

A cop most likely touches the back of a car to leave proof that they've been near the vehicle. Some officers may tap the top of a trunk to check if it's closed. In rare cases, a police officer might try to startle a driver or passenger by touching the car.

Why do cops put their hands in their vests? ›

Either as a sign of support, or to let the lead officer know they have someone on their back, so they can follow each other in the dark or low light environment.

Why are cops called the 12? ›

One common explanation is that the phrase originated from the police radio code system 10-12, which indicates that civilians are present in the area where police officers are patrolling. This system was developed in the 1930s and was designed to help standardize radio communications between police officers.

Why do cops go to the passenger side? ›

Approaching from the passenger side provides you the ability to have a more clear view of the operator and the passenger's hands. This is imperative because "hands kill." You are at a better tactical position to return fire, and you can retreat much faster to cover.

What does it mean when 2 cops pull someone over? ›

It's usually just a second officer being there for backup. It doesn't necessarily mean they've been called as backup. It's police officers looking out for one another, especially in the current climate in which officers are being repeatedly attacked and ambushed.

What to say when a cop asks how fast you were going? ›

Even if you were not speeding the officer will believe that you were, and you'll probably get a ticket. If the officer tells you your speed, say “I see”, or say nothing at all. Silence is not an admission of guilt.

What does it mean if someone flashes their headlights at you 2 times? ›

In all seriousness, if all drivers and riders knew right of way rules, only time you'll have to flash is to tell people to go ahead. One meaning, zero variations. Flashing of headlight twice (short flashes only) means you're yielding. 1 flash means you're asserting your way.

What does it mean if a cop flashes his high beams at you? ›

If a cop pulls up behind you and continuously flashes his lights at you, he or she is pulling you over, whether or not the siren is on. If a cop pulls up behind you or drives past you and quickly flashes his lights and turns them off, it is probably a courtesy or warning.

What is a pink police car? ›

The purpose behind wrapping this vehicle in pink is to draw attention and encourage regular screenings for the early detection of breast cancer. Wrapix Imaging is a family-owned company specializing in a wide variety of custom-printed graphics. It is also an authorized training and testing center for 3M.

What do yellow cop lights mean? ›

Yellow lights mean to use caution. Some police light bars have yellow lights installed along with the usual red and/or blue lights. The yellow lights might be activated at the scene of an accident investigation, warning people to slow down as they go by.

What does 4 cop car mean? ›

Answer: If you observe four police cars out on one vehicle, it only makes sense to believe someone has done something really bad, but that's not always the case. Police officers routinely stop and check on the safety of fellow officers during traffic stops.

Why do cops ask where are you coming from? ›

When a police officer asks where you are coming from, they are looking for evidence to support the possibility that you have or are committing a crime or whether or not you are a threat to public safety. This creates a baseline that they will later write down in a police report.

Why do cops wear sunglasses? ›

Sun Glasses, while not the same as shooting glasses, especially shatterproof, can provide protection in a Gun Battle, as well as deflect aforementioned glare. They can also deflect caustic substances thrown in Officer's Face.

Why do cops hold their collars? ›

The vest hang: A natural transition from the pit tuck, the vest hang is clasping the top of the vest near their collarbones to keep arms from hitting the equipment on the duty belt. The crossed arms: This can look intimidating, but cops use this stance solely for comfort.

Why do cops follow you before pulling you over? ›

They can follow you for a reasonable amount of time to ascertain whether you are driving carefully. It's at the officer's discretion. If you swerved while in front of him, he may follow awhile to determine if it was a one time thing or you are driving impaired.

Do cops always cuff you? ›

Outside of an arrest, the main reasons police will place someone in handcuffs are if they are worried about their safety or believe the suspect may try to run away. Common signs police look for to determine if there's a risk of violence include: Not cooperating with an officer's commands. Hiding your hands.

Why are cops called 5 0? ›

“5-0” (pronounced five-oh) became a popular nickname after the television show Hawaii Five-O which aired from 1968 to 1980. “Five-o” referred to the Hawaiian police force in the show, based on Hawaii being the fiftieth state to join the union.

Why are police called five o? ›

There is another theory on this that, in the 80s unmarked ford police cars in the United States where identifiable by being equipped with the 5.0 badge on the front quarter panel due to the police pack used as unmarked cars having a 5 litre v8. Lookouts for street drug dealers would call out 5 O! To say possible cop!

Why are cops called fuzz? ›

What is the origin of "the fuzz" (meaning police)? It's just a jocular mispronunciation of "the force" - as in the police force, rather than "the force be with you".

What does 126 mean for cops? ›

126Intercept suspects
127Proceed with caution
128No siren, no flashing
129Request back up
29 more rows

What is the thing in front of police cars called? ›

A bullbar or push bumper (also (kanga)roo bar, winch bar or nudge bar in Australia, livestock stop (initially a term used to refer to locomotive pilots) or kangaroo device in Russia, and push bar, ram bar, brush guard, grille guard, cactus pusher, rammer, PIT bar, PIT bumper, or cattle pusher in the United States and ...

Why do cops always pull over trucks? ›

Unlike private cars, the police are authorised to pull trucks over for routine inspections even if they haven't committed a moving traffic offence. Trucks have to comply with all kinds of regulations, taxes, permits and other bureaucracy, so they are an easy target for the police.

Why do cops tap your tail light? ›

To Disrupt a Driver's Concentration

Regardless, when a police officer is approaching a car to make a stop, they want to avoid the possibility that the driver will try to speed away or attempt to hide evidence. One way to help prevent this is to touch the taillight of the car before approaching the window.

Why do multiple cop cars show up? ›

Conducting traffic stops is one of the most dangerous, yet necessary tasks a patrol officer does. Although intimidating, a second cruiser will usually stop by to ensure the safety of the officer that initiated the stop.

Can a cop clock two cars at the same time? ›

Yes. The sneakiest police radar I've ever seen was a Utah State patrol tucked in behind a semi as they traveled down the highway. He has instant-on radar and would key it if he passed a car he thought might be speeding. I know this because I was running an Escort radar detector.

Can you tell the police you don't answer questions? ›

You can simply say to the officer, “I would prefer to exercise my right to remain silent,” and then say no more. If you have been placed under arrest, you can tell the police the same or “I would prefer not to answer any of your questions until my attorney can be present.”

How do you warn someone there's a cop ahead? ›

"Hey! There's a cop ahead!" What's the best signal to use to get this...
  1. Open hand, palm down tap on top of helmet.
  2. Closed fist, thumb down tap on top of helmet.
  3. Hand on top of helmet, opening and closing palm (similar to "your turn signal is on")
  4. Spinning your hand in a circle (mimicking the old lights I guess?)

What tells you how fast you are driving? ›

Make sure to use your vehicles's speedometer to confirm your actual driving speed.

What does it mean when someone flicks their headlights at you? ›

The signal can be intended to convey a variety of messages, including a warning to other drivers of road hazards or of speed traps, and it can also be a form of aggressive driving.

What does it mean if someone flashes their headlights at you 3 times behind you? ›

1 flash means your brights are on or headlights are off. 3 flashes means caution there is something ahead to watch out for (cops, deer on road, down tree, etc.) at an intersection flashing your lights it means that your giving the other motorist the right of way or letting them cut in front of you.

What to do if someone high beams you? ›

Slow down, make a right turn, or consider pulling over so the other driver can safely pass. If you're on a highway, make sure you are in the right lane so you aren't blocking their way.

What does it mean when a police car has lights on but no siren? ›

If the lights are on but there is no siren, it could be that there is an ongoing crime and officers do not yet wish to alert the perpetrator of their presence. Another possibility is that, though an officer is headed to an emergency, there is no traffic on the road that needs to move out of the way.

What does blue lights on police car mean? ›

Most police vehicles primarily use red and blue lights – the red part here signifies that an immediate emergency is taking place, while blue police lights signal that police, and not other first responders, are present. In many cases, squad cars also use white lights.

Why do cops shine spotlight in your mirror? ›

It is legal. Officers are allowed to do this because they are checking to see if there is anything that is dangerous to them in your car. Anything that is easily visible with a bright light is not an unauthorized search, no. That falls under what is called plain view.

What color cars do undercover cops drive? ›

Their all (pretty much) just grey, white, silver, or black. Every undercover cop car has a following trend when it comes to color. And like in the earlier post, their very clean. They don't have any graphics, they don't even have any badges.

What is the laptop in police cars called? ›

An MDT, also known as a mobile data terminal, is one type of computing equipment traditionally found in patrol cars. MDTs have served for years as the display and data capture device needed for eCitation. More recently, many MDTs have now been replaced by MDCs (mobile data computers).

What cop car has green lights? ›

Green. These are used to denote a stationary ambulance, fire or police command motor vehicle.

What do purple police lights mean? ›

Unlike red or blue lights—which are heavily restricted, but widely used by emergency vehicles—purple warning lights are most commonly used for one application: funeral processions. Funeral processions can be complicated to maneuver, especially in heavy traffic.

Why do police sit outside houses? ›

Police officers sit outside houses for various reasons, including surveillance, investigation, traffic enforcement, welfare checks, and maintaining a presence in the community.

What is a cop bait car? ›

The use of "bait vehicles" to increase the arrest of motor-vehicle thieves involves placing a tempting vehicle in a location where potential thieves are likely to notice it.

What does 2 4 mean in police code? ›

Code 1 Do so at your convenience. Code 2 Urgent. Code 3 Emergency/lights and siren. Code 4 No further assistance is needed.

What does it mean when a cop says 10 4? ›

10-4. Message received; OK; acknowledged. 10-47. Lost/Missing person.

Why do police push your head down? ›

Officers hold the head of the arrested person so that they don't hit their head on the top of the door when they enter, because the person is in handcuffs and can't use their hands.

Why do cops look at your eyes? ›

The early onset of nystagmus during the horizontal gaze nystagmus test can be used as evidence that the driver is under the influence of alcohol and may provide probable cause for a DUI arrest.

Why do police make you cross your legs? ›

“This is done as a measure of control to insure that if someone is going to flee or offer physical resistance, they will have to move their legs under them to do so. Non-compliance is often a precursor to someone that is preparing to flee or fight with Officers.”

Can a cop put his hands on you? ›

Would a cop be breaking the law if he came up to you and, for no reason whatsoever, put his hands on you and put you under arrest? Yes, he would be breaking the law. As we learned previously, the Fourth Amendment prohibits unreasonable “seizures.” So, a cop cannot arrest, or “seize,” you without having a reason.

How do you know cops are watching you? ›

5 Signs an Undercover Cop is Watching You
  1. Strange Phone Interference. Wiretaps are commonly used as a means of listening in on a target's phone conversations. ...
  2. Subtle Changes Around Your Home. ...
  3. Unexplained Service Workers Near Your Home. ...
  4. Receiving Strange Gifts. ...
  5. You Feel Like You're Being Followed. ...
  6. What Should You Do Next?
Sep 23, 2021

How do you know if the cops are looking for you? ›

You are visited or contacted by the police – The most common way to tell if the police are investigating you is if they confront you personally. You may find police showing up at your home, place of work, or reaching out to you by phone to ask questions about a criminal case.

Why do cops ask for name? ›

A peace officer may stop any person in a public place when he has a reasonable suspicion to believe he has committed or is in the act of committing or is attempting to commit a public offense and may demand his name, address and an explanation of his actions.”

Can two cops have a relationship? ›

They may date with another profession person also according to their requirements. But in most departments, couples may not work together. Two police officers dating may not work in some situations and some departments.

What does 10 four mean? ›

What does 10-4 mean? Roger that! 10-4 is a way of saying “message received” in radio communications. It's also used as a way to “you got it.”


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