I’m reading a book on parenting difficult children (I love Lain, but we have a difficulty problem). I may have some more thoughts on the book to share at a later date, but there was one disconnected tidbit I wanted to share. The author, John Rosemond, was trying to make the case that parents should not ask their children questions that (a) the parent knows the answer to and (b) the child doesn’t want to answer. In the specific context of the book, it was “Do you have chewing gum in your mouth?” and the rationale against this is that the child will lie or evade answering and it creates unnecessary drama. Instead, the parent should simply say “You have chewing gum in your mouth and you need to spit it out.” It’s a fair point, within certain constraints. But I found the example he used to be kind of funny:

If a state trooper pulled you over and asked, “Excuse me, but were you speeding?” would you admit it if you had been? C’mon! Be honest! The closest you’d come to telling the truth would be, “I don’t think so.” That’s why state troopers, when they pull you over, simply say, “I stopped you because you were speeding.” If they ask no questions, speeders are far less likely to tell lies.

I found this funny because, well, isn’t it the case that the cops always ask you a question when they approach you? That question isn’t “Were you speeding?” but rather “Do you know why I pulled you over?”

The rationale, from what I understand, is that if you give the correct reason, you’re going to have a hard time denying it later. Or something like that. Apparently the question has gone out of style, but I think a lot of cops never got the memo if that’s the case.

Category: Courthouse

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5 Responses to The Traffic-Stop Question

  1. mike shupp says:

    Um well . . . been a while but the last time a traffic cop stopped me, hia first words were “Do you know you almost killed me back there, asshole? Don’t you know how to signal?”


  2. Michael Drew says:

    Under the old thinking, was it thought it created some kind of trap? I.e., was there some downside to answering, “No idea, officer”? Or were they just giving you a chance to compromise yourself?

    • trumwill says:

      I think they were just giving you a chance to compromise yourself. I suspect most people bite. Chris would probably be able to cite some studies on related subjects.

  3. Brandon Berg says:

    In an odd coincidence, I came here immediately after reading a highlights email from Quora that started with a question about why police do this. The answers were all over the place, so I don’t have much to add. Here’s the link, though:


    • Brandon Berg says:

      Oh. Never mind. I didn’t get it in my email, you linked to it. How I got there without having read your post, I don’t know. Errant finger tap while loading the page, I guess.

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