Arizona driver’s manual offers tips on how to avoid getting shot by police

Arizona unveiled a new driver’s manual that includes tips on how armed drivers could avoid deadly encounters with police.

The Grand Canyon state, which allows residents to carry weapons without permits, changed its driving rule book after the fatal police shooting Philando Castile. The Minnesota man, who had a gun permit, was fatally shot during a 2016 traffic stop after telling an officer he was armed and then reaching for his wallet.

Arizona is one of the few states that has a manual letting drivers know what to expect during a traffic stop.

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State Rep. Reginald Bolding, D-Laveen, said Castile’s death inspired him to make changes to the state’s driver’s manual. The lawmaker, who is black, said revisions were necessary because Arizona does not require gun permits and some owners have not been trained to handle firearms.

“When you look at what’s taken place across the country, you have seen a majority of individuals who are people of color that have had higher incidence of interactions with law-enforcement officers, particularly in shootings,” Bolding told Tucson.com. “Hopefully, we can get to a place where that’s not the reality.”

The new driver’s manual, which was released last month, advises drivers with guns to keep their hands on the steering wheel during traffic stops and tell officers right away that there’s a firearm in the car.

It also advises drivers not to reach for anything inside the vehicle without the officer’s permission. And officers can take possession of guns, for safety reasons, until the stop is completed. The firearms would be returned if no crime has been committed.

Lawmakers in Tennessee, Virginia and Illinois have enacted laws over the last year that require driver education courses to teach people how to react when they are pulled over. Unlike the guidelines published in Arizona, none of the laws explicitly mention what to do when motorists are stopped.

Arizona’s revised manual would mostly be seen by those who are getting a driver’s license for the first time. Most people who move to Arizona and have a license from another state do not have to take a written test. That’s also true for Arizonans renewing their license.

The changes to the manual occurred without a law being passed. The Department of Public Safety worked with Bolding to produce the new guidelines.

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“It all comes down to safety,” said Quentin Mehr, a spokesman for the Arizona Department of Public Safety.

But not everyone is pleased with the new manual.

Will Gaona, policy director for the Arizona chapter of the American Civil Liberties Union, said the booklet fails to mention the driver’s rights.

“You also need to tell them what their rights are – not just what you think they should do, but also what they are allowed to do,” Gaona said.

The material from the new section of the Arizona manual could appear on driver's license tests, said Doug Nick, a spokesman for the Department of Transportation's Motor Vehicle Division, which produces the rule book. 

The Associated Press contributed to this report.