It's 2 a.m.

No one is on the street and a man driving a car fails to stop for a stop sign at an intersection.

A police officer who sees the violation activates his warning lights and pulls the driver over a short distance away.

Although this seemingly harmless traffic stop could simply result in a traffic citation for the motorist, it could also turn violent and result in either injury or death to the police officer.

"Routine traffic stops do not exist anymore," Pottsville police Chief Joseph Murton V said.

Is the driver of the car wanted on outstanding warrants, was he or she fleeing from the scene of a crime, is there a mobile methamphetamine lab in the vehicle or does the person simply have psychiatric issues?

With these unanswered questions, police officers often receive backup from other officers during these mostly harmless encounters, the chief said.

"It's all about officer safety," Murton said. "These stops can be benign situations or they can turn into a terrible tragedy."

Less than a month ago, a police officer in Montgomery County was shot and killed after chasing a speeding motorist.

The driver of that car, for one reason or another, shot and killed Plymouth Township police Patrolman Bradley Fox on Sept. 13 and also shot his K-9 Officer, Nick.

Fox was investigating a three-vehicle crash when an SUV drove by at a high rate of speed.

Montgomery County prosecutors said Fox pursued the vehicle and after the SUV struck another vehicle, he found it abandoned.

Fox and his dog pursued the driver on foot and called for backup, but responding officers found Fox's body, he had been shot in the head.

The officer's dog was also shot but survived, prosecutors said.

Murton said that in this situation, one would think the driver may have been fleeing because he could be under the influence or driving with a suspended license.

Why the driver shot and killed the officer may never be known because he committed suicide shortly after the murder.

"You have no idea what's in the mind of the person you stop," Murton said.

Since most communities, as well as state police, usually have one police officer or trooper assigned to a car at a time, having another unit at the scene acts as a deterrent for the person to commit an assault on the officer who conducted the stop.

"It's a show of force, we back each other up," Murton said. "A person seeing two officers instead of one may think twice before doing something crazy."

Situations that escalate during traffic stops often do so spontaneously and end with results that usually are not good.

"Spontaneity and violence always end in disaster," the chief said.

Murton said that if a city officer pulls over a vehicle, it is common practice for another officer who is in the vicinity to go to that area for backup, needed it or not.

One such spontaneous and violent incident occurred during the early morning hours of Sept. 8 in Mahanoy City.

Borough police Lt. John Kazmarczyk pulled over a car for running a stop sign about 3 a.m. and found a passenger inside who was wanted as a fugitive from New Jersey.

Kaczmarczyk stopped a vehicle and asked William Perez, Mahanoy City, for identification. Perez presented the lieutenant with a New York identification card that, when run through the computer, determined he was wanted in both Bergen County, N.J., and Montgomery County, Pa.

The officer asked Perez to exit his vehicle and informed him that he was under arrest on the warrants. When instructed to place his hands on the roof of his car, Perez began to pull away and flee while being placed in handcuffs. A struggle ensued and after the man tried to get away, three more times Kaczmarczyk was able to get him to the ground where Perez ignored orders to stop and continued to fight.

Kaczmarczyk said he was unable to get the handcuffs on Perez, forcing him to call for backup that eventually came in the form of an off-duty officer who happened to be driving by.

Perez was taken into custody and both Kaczmarczyk and the other officer escaped injury.

"This is the type of incident that can happen and having another officer there could mean the difference between life and death," Minersville police Chief Michael Combs said.

In Minersville, the chief said when one officer makes a traffic stop, another officer will be there as well, provided that officer is not tied up on another call.

"You always go just for the safety issue," Combs said.

"If something goes bad, you have two officers there," the chief said. "In Minersville, I would expect that whenever possible, there will be another officer coming."

Combs said that national statistics show that in 2011, there were 150 police officers assaulted, resulting in 77 of those killed.

Ten of the officers shot during that same period were shot during traffic stops, he said.

"I'd rather be safe than sorry," Combs said.