Maybe you’ve never noticed this, (or maybe you’ve never been pulled over for speeding or another moving violation – if so, hats off to you) but if you have, you’ve likely wondered why the officer taps on your tail light on his way to chat you up at the driver’s side window.

Photo Credit: Max Pixel

It’s not to see if there’s a kidnap victim hiding in your trunk (my first thought, ha!), and it’s not to annoy you just a bit more before getting at your bank account. In fact, there are a couple of reasons, all of which make total sense once you learn about them.

Photo Credit: Wikimedia Commons

(EDITORS NOTE: Not all police departments practice this method. Some departments utilize technology/cameras in place of this method.)

  • 1) The police officer taps on the tail light to startle the driver a bit. The thinking behind this tactic is that if you’re trying to reach for a weapon or hide contraband, the tap will cause you to pause. This will give the officer time to get around to the window and see what’s up.

Also, if you act all jumpy and weird after the tap, the cop knows to be on their toes.

  • 2) In the olden days (before dash cams), touching the tail lights was a way for police officers to say “I’ve been here” should something happen to them after the stop. Their fingerprints would be on the car, just in case.

Even though this reasoning has gone a bit obsolete now that routine stops are recorded, many cops haven’t been able to break the habit.

Photo Credit: Pixabay

So, there you go – another mystery solved. You’re welcome!

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