The Curious Reason Police Officers Tap Taillights

driver in silver car talks to cop

Getting pulled over by a police officer is definitely on the top of most people’s “Things I Don’t Want to Deal With” list, behind getting a root canal and paying taxes. Yet, when it happens, it’s usually not that scary. In fact, most cops have the routine down pat!

But, there’s one curious action that some officers do that may have you scratching your head, and it all has to do with your taillights…

If you’ve ever gotten stopped for speeding or running a red light, you may have noticed that before sidling up to your driver’s side window, the cop made a quick tapping noise on your taillight.

We have to admit, it’s a bit of an odd ritual. I remember back when I was a young driver, and I failed to break completely – everyone hates those tickets, right?! – at a stop sign, the first thing that the policewoman did was examine the back of my car.

It wasn’t until many years later that I actually did some research and asked someone in law enforcement about this confusing action. Amazingly, there are three very good reasons officers do this:

  1. It’s for their own safety

    Unfortunately, we live in a world where police officers have to worry about their own safety while on the job. Tapping taillights is actually an old law enforcement technique and was more widely-used before the appearance of dash cams.

    The thought was that it would be safer for the cop to leave some sort of mark of themselves behind—here, in the form of a fingerprint—just in case the driver decided to do something dangerous. Pretty smart, huh?

  2. It can help reveal further criminal activity

    Believe it or not, taillights act as perfect places to hide illicit materials like drugs, weapons, or other contraband. (And, no, that wasn’t a “tip”! You didn’t hear that from us!)

    So, if a cop has a reason to suspect that the car may be harboring something hazardous, they will tap the taillight. If something behind the glass coating shakes, then they know that the driver may be trying to hide something.

  3. It can get a driver’s attention

    Tapping the taillight of a parked car is sometimes the first step that officers use to get the attention of a car’s inhabitants. It’s a sounder way to help them assess whether or not they may be walking into a dangerous situation.

    Though this particular method is controversial because it may startle someone who is armed, it’s not uncommon to see some cops favor the technique. We’re guessing that this has scared more than a few teenaged love birds over the years!

To learn more about this fascinating law enforcement technique, be sure to read Life Aspire’s article here. Now you know!

What do you think of this tactic? Have you ever noticed a cop tapping your taillight? What’s the silliest reason that you have ever been pulled over? Tell us all about your thoughts and experiences in the comments section below!