Even if you’ve been pulled over a dozen times before, you may never feel calm or relaxed when you see red and blue flashing lights in your rear-view mirror.
Believe it or not, not everyone knows what to do when they get pulled over. While most interactions with the police that occur on a daily basis are peaceful, you can protect yourself against unnecessary scrutiny by taking a few simple actions.
Whether you’re a new or experienced driver and fall into this category, we hope you’ll find some of the tips below useful.
Always Pull Over
No matter which lane you’re in, as soon as you see the police vehicle’s lights or siren, be sure to make your way to the right side of the road. Sometimes law enforcement may direct you over the loudspeaker to continue driving to a spot where it will be safe to stop, so make sure your ears are ready to receive these instructions.
If there are no safe places to stop and you aren’t getting any instructions, turn on your hazards to let the officer know you’re trying to comply. Once you have stopped, roll down your window, turn off your ignition, place your keys on the dashboard, then keep your hands at the 10-and-2 position on your steering wheel.
It may be easier said than done, but don’t let yourself panic or get angry. This can put the officer on guard and perceive you to be a threat. Keep your seatbelt on and only search for your license and registration when the officer requests it. Slowly and calmly complete the request for your information.
If you’ve stored your documents in your glove box or somewhere else, tell the officer before reaching over and only do so when told it’s OK.
Stay Inside Your Car
A police officer will perceive it as a threat if you leave your car without being ordered to do so. You may think of this as a friendly gesture, but the officer is trained to see it as a sign that you have something illegal in your car or are a threat to the officer’s safety.
Speak Politely to the Police
As angry as you may be that you were pulled over, always be polite with the officer. Don’t offer to shine his boots, but don’t give him a reason to not let you off with a warning or a more serious ticket. Although politeness doesn’t guarantee getting out of a ticket, being rude can only hurt your chances.
Don’t Respond to Incriminating Questions
You are only required to provide your license, registration, and proof of insurance. Any other information you volunteer during a traffic stop can be used against you.
Here are a few things you may hear during a traffic stop:
- Do you know why I pulled you over?
- Do you know how fast you were going?
- Did you decide to slow down because you saw me?
- Did you see the light turn red?
These are not conversation starters – they are traps. When the officer asks you anything related to the traffic stop or your reason for being out, keep your answers brief and never admit to doing anything wrong. Because of the Fifth Amendment, you can’t be compelled to incriminate yourself by admitting to a traffic violation or a more serious crime.