Driver’s Education

Illinois has now become one of several states to pass a law affecting how Driver’s Education classes are taught. A bill has been proposed in North Carolina, and Virginia is waiting for the governor’s signature for its own new law. New Jersey, Rhode Island, and Mississippi are also bringing this bill into question. New mandates are being added to the Illinois Rules of the Road handbook, to be published in 2017.

This law requires Driver’s Ed teachers in public schools and private driver’s licensing facilities to teach a chapter on what drivers should do in the case of being pulled over. There was already a section in the handbook called, “Being Pulled Over by Law Enforcement,” according to the Chicago Tribune. However, while public schools were required to teach this chapter, private institutions were not. Now, Secretary of State Jesse White’s office must update the curriculum to add more information on how one should act during a traffic stop, and all driver’s licensing facilities must teach the information.

There are many positives to this new law. It is important for drivers, especially new, young drivers, to know the proper actions to take when being pulled over. For example, one should slow down and pull to the side of the road wherever is closest and safe when an officer flicks on his or her lights. Also, one should assume that his or her license, insurance, and registration will be asked for, so it is beneficial to have these out and ready when the officer comes to the car window. It is important to always remain calm and respectful towards the officer.

I think that this new law will help to expand on these suggestions that I have listed. It will possibly alleviate some stress from new drivers who are unsure of how to act when pulled over, and will also alleviate stress for the officers. Perhaps it will encourage driver’s education teachers to bring in officers to their classrooms to discuss this chapter like my teacher did in highschool. Having addressed the positives this law brings to the table, I also must voice the problems I have with this law that are echoed by an attorney from Northwestern University.

In the Chicago Tribune, David Shapiro was quoted stating, “I think it’s a frightening bill for anyone who has kids who drive a car because it doesn’t say anything about the kids’ constitutional rights during a traffic stop.” This is so important to acknowledge. Many drivers do not know their constitutional rights during a traffic stop or while in their vehicles. I did not know my rights, or lack thereof, until I took a Constitutional Law class my freshman year of college that focused on the Fourth Amendment.

These rights are vital to us because without them officers have no restraints. We risk being pulled into the criminal justice system by an officer who abuses his or her power by not knowing our own constitutional rights. For the sake of keeping this article brief, I will not go into detail about one’s rights during a traffic stop, but I encourage you all to do your own research on the topic. You will be surprised to find how many rights you have that you did not know about before. You may also be appalled at how many exceptions are included in the Fourth Amendment that infringe upon your rights while you are driving.

It is important for our citizens to be aware of their rights given by the Constitution. If our lawmakers went to all the trouble to draft a bill, why would they not put in information, or even another chapter, about our constitutional rights that we have during a traffic stop? It makes absolutely no sense to me. This is information that the public needs, but yet many do not have it. If we can pass laws that decrease stress for officers and drivers during traffic stops, we can certainly pass laws that educate the public on their rights in a vehicle.

 

Courtney Dalton

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