Archive for April 14th, 2021

April 14, 2021

Driving While Black

by Rod Smith

For my sons and your sons and daughters……… required more in some locations than in others.

Driving While Black

Coaching my son about being stopped by a police officer has been among the saddest and hardest conversations we’ve had to have. Share, correct, help….. I’m always (I hope) open to learning:

It has been my observation that people drive as they live.

Fundamental 1:

As the driver you are in charge of the vehicle. This is very important. When I am your passenger I am a passenger. Even though I am your dad and even though I’ve been driving for over 40 years YOU are in charge of the car. The car and all that happens in it is your responsibility when you are the driver. Let your friends who may be riding with you know this if it is necessary. Usually it is not.

Fundamental 2:

If you are calm and you take care of yourself and you have a good attitude about life in general, your driving will not appear erratic or rushed or aggressive and you won’t attract undue attention. If you are ducking and diving in life you will be rushing, weaving in and out of traffic, showing off behind the wheel.

People drive as they live.

If you are erratic in life you will be erratic as a driver and you will attract the kind of attention that will get you stopped.

Drive to get places. That is all. Do not drive to express anger, get even, or to show off. This kind of driving is dangerous and it is this kind of driving that attracts attention. It’s the kind of driving that will get you pulled over.

Fundamental 3:

As an African American young man your chances of being pulled over for little or no reason by the police are higher than they are if you were Caucasian and if you were Caucasian and older.

This is a sad reality in the Midwest and this is the reason we have had so many discussions about it.

Keep this in mind – it will be worse in some areas of the city and the state and you already have had some experience of this sad reality at your young ages. Remember when you went driving with a close friend of ours and when we went shopping for skateboard wheels.

Let’s move on….

If you see flashing lights, hear sirens, or see any emergency vehicle (police, fire truck, or ambulance) traveling in any direction, do everything within your power to pull over to the right as safely and as efficiently as possible.

Join the traffic once the vehicles have passed and are closer to their emergency.

If indeed the siren and the lights were coming after you, just as soon as you are aware that it is you who is being stopped, do everything possible to stop as quickly and as safely as possible.

No exceptions. No exceptions.

From the very second you are aware it is you who is being stopped, you are to do nothing but implement a safe stop as efficiently and as safely as possible.

Stop the car.


Take a deep breath.



Do not open the car door or make any sudden movements.

Open the driver-side car window. Put any music off. Place your hands at “10 and 2” on the steering wheel.

If you have passengers they are to be still and quiet. No jokes, no banter.

Remember, you are in charge of the vehicle.

Greet the officer with a polite and calm voice, making eye contact if it is possible. It is usually not.

Try to establish the mood or the attitude of the officer and do not match it if it is in any manner brusque or aggressive. Things will escalate very quickly if you are terse in return with a terse officer.

Here is a good opportunity to exercise the “opposite spirit” – ONLY if the officer is being unkind or yelling or brusque in any manner.

It is your job to be quiet and polite and kind NO MATTER WHAT.

Every action has an equal and opposite reaction and so DO NOT be combative in any manner, even if the officer is.

You both know several local officers very well and they know you well. In every case and without exception, they are very decent and wonderful men. I am sure the women are too, we just don’t know any personally.

The officer who may pull you over is just as likely to be a very good person. He or she is probably a parent and a loving partner and also wants to get home safely.

Once you have been pulled over it is likely the officer will ask you for three things: your driver’s license, your proof of insurance, and proof of the car’s registration – and you will routinely know exactly where all three are in your car and you will request permission to retrieve them.

Tell the officer where they are in the vehicle and that you’d be happy to get them from the glove compartment.


Once you have handed over your papers it is likely that the officer will go back to his or her vehicle and “run” your information through the on-board computer and return with your documents.

He or she will probably tell you at this point why you have been pulled over and will either give you a ticket or let you go.

Be very polite either way. No banter, no arguing.

It is very important that you remain respectful and kind and obedient and that you follow all instructions without question.

When the encounter terminates and you are permitted to go, thank the officer if things have gone in your favor or not.

Drive away safely from the scene and come home.