Mo. lawmaker wants driver’s education courses to include traffic stop lessons as part of curriculum

LIBERTY, Mo. -- They're only doing their jobs.

A lawmaker from the Show Me State says she believes young drivers don't know how to conduct themselves when they're pulled over by police. Rep. Gretchen Bangert (D. - St. Louis) wants new drivers to learn.

Public schools in Missouri are no longer required to teach drivers' education as part of their daily lesson plans. Rep. Bangert is the force behind HB 785, which would require privately-hired driving educators to include instruction on police traffic stops, and how to conduct roadside transactions with police officers.

Dan Backhaus, owner of Liberty Driving School, has taught thousands of drivers to operate cars over 22 years. That new piece of legislation would require driving teachers to educate their students on the dos and don'ts of being pulled over by the police.

"Any kind of education we can give, not just to students and teenagers, but to adults, to be better, safer drivers, is a good thing," Backhaus told FOX 4 News.

For now, the Missouri State Driver's Guide doesn't include tips on interacting with police during routine stops, but Backhaus says he teaches it anyway. He encourages students to follow these guidelines:

  • Always park on the right shoulder of the road when pulled over
  • Wait for the police officer to approach their window
  • Don't make any sudden movements
  • Be courteous when speaking to the officer

"We tell our students to pull over to the side of the road on the right. Try to get to a safe place for them to stop," Backhaus said on Wednesday.

Backhaus and other instructors told FOX 4 News he advises students police aren't there to pick on drivers. The Missouri American Civil Liberties Union might disagree. That agency frequently releases statistics showing black drivers are more likely to be pulled over and searched. Rep. Bangert told FOX 4 News she's hopeful her bill will educate everyone, and lead to smoother relations between police and the public.

"We know that when we stop people, there's a certain level of nervousness," Sgt. Collin Stosberg, a spokesperson for Missouri Highway Patrol Troop A, said.

Sgt. Stosberg, who has worked in law enforcement for 20 years, says he loves the idea of educating young drivers.

"Our goal, a lot of times, is just for people to cooperate," Sgt. Stosberg said.

"We're out here to educate them. Through enforcement, we want compliance. We understand the people we serve. We understand what causes traffic crashes."

Rep. Bangert told FOX 4 News her bill will be re-introduced when the Missouri Legislature meets again in January. The original bill was read before committee, but didn't develop further at that time. On Wednesday, she said it didn't pass into law the first time around because it was introduced too late in the most recent session.