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Cop Pulls Over Model 3 for Giant Screen: Here’s the Do’s and Don’ts

OPINION: As the Tesla Model 3 becomes less of an exotic out in the American wilderness to soon become a common domesticated pet, its oddness will continue to stick out while its familiarity will acquaint the many verses the few. Until then getting stopped by police for a giant screen on your dash should not shock everyone. Here’s what the do’s and don’ts are of getting stopped by police while we give the cops time and patience, please, thank you, to wrap their heads around it.
Posted: October 2, 2018 - 4:10PM
Author: Al Castro


Tesla Model 3 Owner Jon Hall was stopped recently by police for having “a large computer screen on top of his dash.” Now between you and me being either car, gadget, electronics, cell phone, or computer geeks we both are in some variation, we would laugh as Jon did until he saw the cop was serious. But with me once being a police officer it is not a laughing matter, and frankly Jon handled this as if his experience was text book on the way it should be handled. Nice job Jon!! You could tell the cop wasn’t car or tech savvy and that doesn’t make him dumb neither ignorant, as ignorance is lacking knowledge about something you should know, and a Model 3 isn’t a matter of cop national security in Copland. Actually the incumbency is upon you as a now trailblazer once early adopter to take control of the situation in the car stop and help the officer along as Jon did, to show him something the officer obviously hasn’t seen before, and ironically has a good chance of buying one for starting with his wife or partner, the domestic one, in the coming decade.

  • Model 3 owner Jon Hall is stopped for large computer screen on the dash.
  • He should be awarded for the way he handled it.
  • The car stop was video recorded.
  • There are dos and don’ts with police in this situation.
  • Part of those dos and don’ts is:
  • Make sure you conduct yourself with appropriate behavior when being stopped.
  • Make sure that screen is, and always will be nothing, and I mean nothing, but OEM I explain below.
  • If the officer is so inclined, make it a teachable moment like Jon did: show him what the car is capable of.
  • At best you may make a police officer a friend or a possible new Model 3 owner. Two things that aren’t the worse things to have or be in the world.

EDIT NOTE: an earlier version of this story included a recommendation not to customize the screen. I updated this version with the section “Customizing the Screen” below. The Tesla Model 3 screen is designed to be used for car functions only. It cannot be used for anything else. I was aware of this. However, I should have predicated my comment on the possibility that one day someone will find a way to hack the screen like you can root an Android or jailbreak an iPhone as that screen is so large that using it for other purposes is tempting. I wouldn’t put it past someone to find a way to do that. You may not think this is plausible, but if a Tesla can be hacked and stolen, I’m sure someone will find a way to get around the screen. Should that happen that would be asking for trouble. This is the context I made the recommendation. I regret the confusion.

Humility and Calmness: Character Traits We Need to See More Of

We all don’t lead lives of utopian driving records. If you think you never speed or always come to complete stop at a stop sign every single time, then you need to be one of the first people to be confined to a Level 5 robot car because you’re fooling yourself. And you have no business driving. So mindful of having humility, at first we need to do some self inflection when those lights and sirens go on and off respectively, and the impending car stop is not about someone else, it’s about you or me.

Above all else, remain calm. Trust me. It’s not the end of the world. The calmer you are like Jon was, the calmer the officer will get. Note the wording. Remember that. If the officer isn’t going take control of his car stop then you have to. And there are ways of doing that without you usurping his authority. Don’t make a situation needlessly worse. Actually how you walk away from these kinds of situations is more of reflection of your character than his.

And before we get to my list of dos and don’ts remember this. Motorists never talk the police officer out of a ticket okay? You’re fooling yourself if you believe that. If you are a let-go it’s because in this case the equipment turned out of be OEM, that’s all, not because he was wrong and you were right. If you believe that, you will surely get a ticket for this anyway and I’ll explain below why, for something or something else next time, you can be sure of that.

Giant Screen Car Stop Dos and Don’ts:

So when you do get stopped by the police this is what you should do:

  • Again, remain calm, everyone in the car.
  • Slow down to a crawl.
  • Cut all the interior lights on, roll all the windows down. If you’re that much of a wimp then cut the a/c or heat on higher.
  • Follow instructions from the officer on his public address system.
  • Pull over to the RIGHT where possible ASAP.
  • Leave him and his partner room to walk up either side of the car.
  • Passengers are like children. THEY SHOULD BE SEEN AND NOT HEARD AT ALL TIMES. You should be doing all the talking. Passengers talk only when spoken to.
  • Have all your documents ready at hand. I often tell people your driving papers should be like homework in grammar school. It should be readily available, correct, and quick for collection.
  • You’re driving a new car so I shouldn’t have to write this but here it goes: the interior should be clean, neat and debris free. Please put shopping goods in the trunk where they belong, not on the back seat or floor where they don’t, where and when possible, please. This also avoids projectiles in an accident and the officer can see better if they’re any weapon’s or contraband in the car. If you are prone to car stops you should be doing this all the time
  • Don’t show the officer any of the entertainment functions of the screen unless he asks. That’ll only make things worse. That’s for when you know he understands the screen is part of the car and you’re not getting a ticket.
  • If I were you I’d start with settings. Show him how you can configure the car.
  • Finish the quick lesson by dazzling him. Talk about summons mode and camper mode. This is where you finish your teachable moment and convince him you’re not the enemy.
  • Get out of the car only when instructed. Offer to get out to let him in to show him. It’s doubtful he’ll let you do that but offer it anyway. If he does that, he’s comfortable with you to know you won’t kill him. This is how you’ll definitely know the coast
  • is clear. He’s taking his eyes off you to look at the screen. Don’t take advantage of that on the other hand.
  • Rinse, wash, repeat. Be prepared. This might happen again. See below why.
  • Why This Can Happen Again:

    For the next year or so, well, this may happen again, and ironically in the two extremes:

    1. The urban city cop who takes a bus to work and Zipcars on weekends. Most likely he works in a ghetto where electric cars are something abstract on TV or the movies.
    2. The country bumpkin cop, my favorite kind, that have never seen an electric car, and the nearest home charger, never mind supercharging station, is hundreds of miles away.

    Please don’t laugh at either. Be respectful. It’s cultural. This is why this country (and Canada as you’ll find this phenomena up there too with the country cop) is great. We actually have citizens who live lives like that. This how we learn from each other to respect one another’s differences. Out of many, WE ARE ONE. Canada too.

    Customizing the Screen: EDIT UPDATE 10/4/2018

    Wow I caught a lot of flak across social media for this so I had to come back and make a clarification I thought was understood. Yes the Tesla Model 3 screen is designed to be used only for car functions, and I was keenly aware of this. However, the premise of my comments about keeping the screen OEM were directed at the not so distant future. If an Android phone is rootable, if an iPhone is jailbreakable, if a Tesla vehicle can be easily hacked and stolen, if the dash can be easily removed to stain the wood, then the progression of logic is that soon someone will find other uses for the screen as it‘s too big to pass up for other functions. You cannot deny that. So if that’s ever the case, the point I was trying to make is to keep the screen OEM if that ever were to happen.

    If someone finds a way to hack the screen to customize it for it to stick out on the road, one sure way to get a ticket for distracted driving AND an equipment violation (two tickets) is for you to be behind the wheel and that large screen that can be seen from the rear several hundreds of yards and probably a mile or two from behind at the right angle and pitch to see moving images on it like a video or a screen saver.

    Don’t do that.

    When we get to the junction when your car is ready and capable of Level 4 driving, and this is important, either Congress (via presidential signature) or the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) makes a ruling allowing you complete hands off and you can watch videos, which it hasn’t yet, then you can do that.

    You Can Beat the Ticket But You Can’t Beat the Trouble to Dismiss It

    You can blow up my comments section, but the bottom line is that in some states this large screen is a blatant violation of state vehicular equipment laws when it comes to required parts a car must/mustn’t have. Complain to them not me. And the bottom line is that the law is the law, Washington has theirs, and to some states, they have their’s too.

    So until Congress and these legislatures update their laws you have to play nicely. Look, you wanted to be an early adopter when you ordered this thing a year or two back, well here you are. While we’re getting out of the early adoption phase, you are still a trailblazer, and trailblazers are leaders of the pack. You can’t get everything you want. And well, here you are again. Step up leader. Grin and bear it to write to your legislator.

    And this is the part I get to about beating the rap but not the ride: My dad was also a cop and I remember him telling me in reference to Rodney King at the time after the trials and the cries for reform that never really came, because while cops now will be mindful not to beat you up after you led them on a car chase, that you really deserve to be beaten to be so selfish after endangering everyone’s lives, if you still choose to resist arrest after a high speed interlope, you’re still going down the hard way: “son, regardless of this bullsh*t, the police always wins. You hear me? They have to. How else can we keep things in order?” He’s right whether you think he is or not. Mind you I’m Latino, and my father is a 100% Black man. If you’re going to throw down the race card then you trap yourself into my procedure above to follow it as it’s written to avoid trouble with the cops.

    The police have to win whether they mess up. That’s their job. We are a country of laws not just people. That’s the irony. Even if you think they should know about a Model 3 screen and even though police work is not always ideally executed, that’s the difference between us and a dictatorship. Otherwise you grab a gunbelt and you try doing that job yourself. Good luck with that.

    Mindful of this sans a beating of course, if you choose to get mouthy with the officer over your screen as much as the USDOT may have given its blessing over that large screen, and even then, I’m not really sure if the USDOT has, you’re asking for trouble and you have no one to blame but yourself. The officer will give you a ticket anyway to make a point, he’ll be 100% correct in his reasons and assessments for giving it, and you can file complaints that’ll get you no where, complaint bureaus were meant for Rodney King scenarios, not yours, and you’ll have to straighten it out to get it dismissed, not the officer. He still gets paid to go to court while you take the day off.

    The way Elon works he just puts a large laptop screen on a dash and says here, this is the new speedometer. I wouldn’t be surprised if that’s how that feature worked it way into Model 3. Otherwise it would have required consensus which is bureaucracy. I know I ironically would’ve done it Elon’s way.

    But the bottom line is that it’s still a state violation in some states and mouthiness will only get you waiting on some court and DMV line to get a ticket dismissal. Hopefully. Please. Don’t let that be you.

    Final Thought

    I was one of the first ones to carry a cell phone back in 1990 you should’ve seen the looks I got walking down the street off duty when my big fat Motorola was on my face or when I was in a waiting room and the ringer would go off. “HELLO?” On the highway when I handled an accident it was handy to make notifications to relatives and cop headquarters.

    “Al where the hell are you?” The dispatcher would ask. “I’m at the scene on the highway on my cell,” I’d reply. “Oh, that’s cool.” I was the first one to have a Palm, man I miss Palm. The Palm Treo, my favorite, and Pre still lives in my iPhone Plus as I took the ringers and notifications and converted them to iOS. It wasn’t easy. How about Treo, Treo Techno, or Treo Classic rings? Once in a while my iPhone does a Palm jingle it’s so funny. I appreciate when people recognize it.

    And I had to have one of the nicest cars at work. From younger age to older: a Trans Am, Eldorado, Seville (the first generation, a ‘77 in pristine), Mercury Marquis, and BMW in variations as I’m a BMW man now. This is all when I was a cop then. But that was me. It was a different job back then. Now the cops don’t know what a Model 3 screen is. Forgive them.

    Keep the screen OEM and please, be patient with the officer. They’ve got better things to do than sit here online reading stuff like you’re now about a car screen and me writing stuff here like this for you to read. I never imagined years ago I would eventually be writing for a car magazine.

    Thanks on behalf of law enforcement. Don’t forget to thank them too.

    I thank Jon Hall’s YouTube channel for his video and his screenshot images of his perplexed face when stopped. The Model 3 dash is a Tesla stock photo.

    How do you feel about the police stopping Model 3s for large screens? Please be nice and let us know below!