Do cops typically approach a stopped vehicle from the passenger side?

OK, I’ve been pulled over a couple of times recently. It had been quite a while since the last time, so I’m kinda out of the loop on police procedure. The main thing that struck me odd was that in both cases, the cop approached my car from the passenger side. Is this a)normal, and b) fairly (past 20 years or so) recent? (Or maybe it’s just a local thing.) And if it makes any difference, both times were at night.

Not as of two months ago here in PA when I was last ticketed. I wouldn’t have even blamed him, either, because there wasn’t much shoulder on that road and the easily-disregarded speed limit was 45, so I probably wouldn’t have been standing out on the road like he did.

Hubby and I were on the Natchez Trace sometime last year when a Ranger pulled us over. He approached from the passenger side. I rolled down the window and when he arrived I said something to the effect of “wow I’ve never seen an officer approach from this side” and he asked (with a mischevious grin) “Didn’t expect it, didja?”.

It seems a bit safer as far as road traffic also. Don’t know if it’s a trend or not. I’ll ask my son, he used to get stopped a lot (young male in a fast car syndrome).

My sister is a cop and she always approaches cars from the passenger side because it’s much safer. I think too many cops were getting knicked by passing cars so many departments have now instituted a rule for approaching on the passenger side.

On some police reality show years ago, I saw a film (taken by the officer’s patrol car video camera) of some poor cop getting smacked by a passing car when he approached from the driver’s side. It was pretty nightmarish and haunted me for awhile. I’m glad to see that they now approach from the passenger side.

This article discusses the pros and cons of driver vs. passenger side approaches: http://www.motorcops.com/police_training/officer_safety.asp

And here’s another article recommending the passenger side: http://www.policeone.com/writers/columnists/scott-buhrmaster/articles/118169/

and another: http://www.bluesheepdog.com/2007/11/14/traffic-stop-survival-tips-for-police-officers-on-staying-safe/

ETA one more: http://policechiefmagazine.org/magazine/index.cfm?article_id=644&fuseaction=display&issue_id=72005

I am an instructor at a police academy and the passenger side approach has been encouraged for many years. It is taught as the primary method to new recruits. I think what you are seeing is the old guard slowly moving on and taking their old ways with them. It is much safer for a variety of reasons and it still gives the officer the element of suprise.

Here in California, the CHP approach from the passenger side. There are still quite a few municipal police departments that approach from the driver side though.

I was a cop 30+ years ago. When I went through the academy, we were taught to approach from either side, based on the traffic flow and whether we could position our vehicles correctly to block for us.

It probably also gives the officer a better view of what the driver is doing.