Troopers' safety key to vehicle approach

Why don't Oregon State Police troopers go to the passenger side of stopped cars along the interstate? Troopers with the California Highway Patrol that I've seen go on the passenger side for safety reasons, as it takes them away from oncoming cars driving 65 mph or faster on the interstate.

— Kate B., Medford

You're correct, Kate. It is often safer for OSP troopers to approach a car from the passenger side, but it's not always the safest way to conduct a car stop, according to OSP Sgt. Steve Mitchell.

"We don't have a written policy concerning how to approach stopped cars," Mitchell said. "Our troopers approach a car in the way they determine is the safest at the time."

Mitchell said OSP troopers often will approach a car from the passenger side for the reasons you listed.

"It can shield you from cars, especially late at night in low visibility," Mitchell said.

However, troopers sometimes feel it necessary to address a driver from the left side of a vehicle.

"Sometimes you want to see into a car from different angles and the driver's side might give you the best view," Mitchell said. "Again, it depends on the situation. Not all car stops follow the same pattern."

Mitchell said troopers often are encouraged to approach vehicles on the passenger side along Interstate 5 because of the speeding cars whipping by their cruisers.

"We haven't had a trooper struck by a car during a stop for a long time, knock on wood," Mitchell said.

Send questions to "Since You Asked," Mail Tribune Newsroom, P.O. Box 1108, Medford, OR 97501; by fax to 541-776-4376; or by e-mail to We're sorry, but the volume of questions received prevents us from answering all of them.

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