VIRGINIA BEACH, Va. (WVEC) -- For the first time, driver's education classes in Virginia’s public schools are instructing students on how to handle a traffic stop.
The lessons are the result of a new law passed last year in the General Assembly that was sponsored by Hampton Delegate Democrat, Jeion Ward. She was concerned about her grandson who was getting ready to learn how to drive.
During the nine weeks of driver’s ed instruction in the classroom, instructors are now mandated by law to include a power point presentation entitled, 'Safe Interaction with Law Enforcement.'
It details 14 do’s and don’ts for a driver who is pulled over by police. Tips include remaining calm, turning on your flashers, and keeping your hands in plain view.
“They see so many things on the news and on social media about police officers getting really rough with people and they are afraid,” says Newport News’ Denbigh High School instructor, Faye Jackson who feels the lessons are long overdue.
She reminds her students that the officers are also concerned about their safety. That’s a message that resonates differently for sophomore, Ainsley Piercy, who comes from a family of police officers than it does for fellow students Ruben Bellamy and Jakobi Alston, who are African American and rattled by images they see in the news.
"I get nervous if I were to get pulled over about what a cop might actually do," said Bellamy
“From my standpoint, just because of the color of my skin, I actually get nervous a little bit more---what the officer might think I’m doing,” said Alston.
“I know the police officers aren’t trying to harm me in any way,” said Piercy.
In class, they role play and again on the street with a real Newport News police officer.
Students are asked to produce a license and registration. The officer checks for fastened seatbelts. And students are asked to sign the citation with the understanding that it’s not an admission of guilt but acknowledging that they were stopped.
“I’d say it’s pretty helpful. I taught more things that I didn’t know. I guess it will make me a better driver,” said Bellamy.