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Illinois is Combating Deadly Traffic Stop Encounters––Through Driver’s Ed


When Philando Castile was stopped by police on July 6 in a suburb outside St. Paul, Minnesota, the encounter quickly went from routine to violent. After informing the officers he had a permit to carry a gun and had one in his car, Castile was shot, an incident captured on video by his girlfriend as she sat in the passenger seat. The tragic event was the last of at least 49 traffic stops Castile had experienced in the past 13 years, for an average of about one stop every three months. Of all the stops, only six were for things a police officer could see from outside the car, things like speeding or having a broken taillight.

Philando Castile. (Credit: Source.)

Castile’s death is only one in a string of deadly incidents involving police officers and young black men, prompting police departments around the country to reevaluate the impact of racial bias on law enforcement. But for the state of Illinois, another institution has been targeted for intervention: driver’s ed.

On August 5, Illinois Gov. Bruce Rauner signed a new measure into law that will require students enrolled in driver’s education courses to learn how to respond if they’re pulled over by police. The addition to the curriculum will be put in place for the 2017-2018 school year at private and public schools that offer the driving courses. The secretary of the state’s office will develop specific guidelines.

“My hope is that if we uniformly require that driver’s education include the protocol and what is expected when you interact with a police officer that things will not escalate,” said state senator Julie Morrison, who sponsored the bill.

This isn’t the first time teenagers on the brink of getting their licenses in the state of Illinois are being exposed to safely navigating a traffic stop. Former Chicago Police Department officer Eddie Chapman initiated his own program with a poster book in 2003 called Drive Safe, Stop Safe. The books, which fold out into posters, feature illustrations of sports stars

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  • Lorraine Boissoneault is a writer in Chicago who covers science, history, foreign affairs, and adventure. She's written for Weather.com, Salon, Forbes, JSTOR Daily and many others. Her first book, The Last Voyageurs, was published by Pegasus in April 2016.

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