While driving home alone on a dark road, Dibor Roberts saw familiar red and blue lights in her rearview mirror. But instead of pulling over on a dark, isolated Verde Valley road, Roberts decided to drive to a lighted area.
She claims to have pulled alongside and yelled to the Yavapai County Sheriff’s Department Sergeant what she was doing. The sergeant then sped to pass her, forced her to halt and arrested her.
Roberts claims her actions were motivated by recent news reports about people pretending to be police pulling over and assaulting women.
Roberts was convicted of fleeing a law officer, a felony, misdemeanor resisting arrest, and received six months of unsupervised probation. In July 2007, Roberts planned to appeal.
As a result of Roberts’ experience, she and a support group referring to themselves as “A Women’s Right to Light” started a petition calling for a new law.
“The question is: How do we protect women, and honestly men too, when they see the lights behind them?’ said Arizona State Representative Lucy Mason.
Mason introduced a bill referred as HB 2343 “The Right To Light Bill” as a direct link to Roberts’ appeal.
House Bill 2343 states if a peace officer is pursuing a driver for a minor traffic violation on a rural, unlighted road, the officer must communicate that the driver may proceed, at a reduced speed, to a lighted area before stopping. The officer must inform the driver that he or she may request that a second officer be present.
The requirements don’t apply, however, if an officer believes they will endanger the officer or the motorist in a particular situation.
“In my perspective, it’s a good idea that the right to light bill become a law because there have been many police impersonations,” said Amanda Attaway, a Texas driver. “If you’re not comfortable with the situation or feel threatened, you should be able to at least drive to a lit area. And if it turns out to be an impostor, you can identify him later or be within ear shot of others.”
Although the bill seems to be logical, some feel it isn’t practical.
“From a police department standpoint, each scenario should be done on good judgment. If the offender is pulled over on the interstate, it could be 20 to 30 miles before you are able to find agas station or even a streetlight,” said Don Martin, Tyler Police Department public information officer. “If you feel unsafe, lock your doors and roll down your window just enough so that the officer can hear you. Any officer will respect the fact that you’re on a dimly lit road and may even let you drive to a lit area within reason.”
This bill has yet to be passed in Arizona, but Martin mentioned that many times other states follow suit to eventually pass the law.
“Any person that doesn’t feel comfortable stopping should at least be able to call 911 and contact their local dispatcher to make sure they are being pulled over by a legitimate cop,” said Jennifer Blaylock, transfer student from UT-Tyler, education major.
Blaylock also said that fleeing or driving from a cop at a reduced speed shouldn’t be considered as evading the police. A time range should be considered as well.