Restrictions on Traffic Stops are Dangerous by Ryan Heuchert 

Ryan Heuchert, Staff Writer

For the past decade, policing in America has been a highly contentious topic. Several controversial incidents involving police officers have led police departments and politicians to reexamine and change policies, procedures, and laws that affect how law enforcement carry out their duties. Examples in Washington state include House Bill 1054 (passed in 2021) and House Bill 1513 (proposed earlier this year). House Bill 1054 only allows officers to pursue a suspect if they have probable cause (having the evidence and circumstances to prove someone committed a crime) to make an arrest. Center Square says, “House Bill 1054 that, among other things, limits police to engaging in a pursuit if there is ‘probable cause’ to arrest a person in the vehicle for committing a specific violent crime or sex offense.” If passed, House Bill 1513 would prevent officers from making traffic stops for nonmoving violations. King 5 News states that “the bill says a police officer may not stop a driver for a nonmoving violation such as expired tabs, a misdemeanor warrant, or equipment failure… police officers would also have to inform dispatch of the reason for the stop, inform the driver upon first contact, and report certain information any time they stop or detain a driver.” 

One of the downsides of these bills is that public roads become more dangerous. Axios says, “Law enforcement representatives say… traffic fatalities were at their highest since 1990 in 2022 with 745 deaths.” One of the biggest dangers on roads is people driving under the influence (DUI). King 5 News adds that “Captain Neil Weaver from Washington State Patrol says that…between 2018 and 2022, 8% of driving under the influence arrests started as a nonmoving violation traffic stop.” In other words, if Bill 1513 were to pass, there could be DUI drivers on the road that could go undetected and end up killing someone else. On top of that, Bill 1054 prevents officers from initiating a traffic stop if they suspect someone of DUI, which only increases the number of drunk drivers on the road. 

Secondly, the bills are unnecessary. For one, all police officers are required to write reports when they make arrests or conduct a traffic stop. There are also laws already in place for when a police officer can or cannot pursue someone. According to Washington R.C.W 10.116.060, “…The officer in consultation with the supervising officer must consider alternatives to the vehicular pursuit. The supervisor must consider the justification for the vehicular pursuit and other safety considerations, including but not limited to speed, weather, traffic, road conditions, and the known presence of minors in the vehicle, and the vehicular pursuit must be terminated if any of the requirements of this subsection are not met.” In other words, police officers need to receive authorization to pursue a suspect. If the chase is considered too risky, supervisors are legally obligated to call off a pursuit. Because these laws and procedures are already in place, all these bills would do is hinder officers from doing their job. 

The final negative of these bills is they give people the impression that they can flee from a traffic stop and get away with it. Center Square reports, “Washington State Patrol says that between January 1 and May 17, 934 people on the state’s highways kept going when troopers tried to pull them over for a traffic stop.” This in a way ties back to the first point; if people keep driving when law enforcement tries to stop them from doing something dangerous, the driver is endangering other lives on the road.  

In conclusion, these bills do not protect people. They put them in more danger and allow more criminals to roam freely through Washington state, so restrictions on traffic stops is dangerous to the public.