You’ve Just Been Pulled Over by the Police – Now What?

Looking in your rear view mirror and seeing those dreaded flashing blue lights is an experience that most drivers will have to deal with at one time or another. Even after a 32-year career in law enforcement, I still get apprehensive every time I see a police car up ahead of me parked along side the road monitoring traffic. My eyes immediately focus on the speedometer, my right foot instinctively eases off the gas pedal and I quietly breathe a small sigh of relief once I pass by the police car, knowing the officer inside is not interested in me – at least not on this day. For those of you who aren’t that fortunate and actually get pulled over by a police squad for a routine traffic violation, here are a few hints that if followed, might allow you to drive away with nothing worse than a warning:

1. When you see the flashing police lights behind you, immediately (but safely) pull over to the right side of the road.

2. NEVER exit your vehicle and approach the officer, especially if the officer is still seated in the squad car. The officer will view this as an aggressive move on your part and will react accordingly.

3. As the officer approaches your car, make sure your window is already rolled down and your hands are on the steering wheel. NEVER initiate the conversation with phrases such as “what did I do?”, “why did you stop me”, etc. Give the officer the opportunity to explain why he/she stopped you.

4. It’s a good idea to always have your drivers license readily available as this will be the first thing the officer asks you for (in some states you also will need your vehicle registration and proof of insurance). If your paperwork is elsewhere in the car, such as the glove box or under the seat, NEVER make a furtive move to retrieve them. Advise the officer were the items are and ask him/her if it is OK for you to get them.

4. 99% of all drivers usually know why they are being pulled over. If the officer asks you if you know why he pulled you over, don’t feign ignorance. Be honest and contrite about the situation. You don’t have to grovel but a statement like “you’re right sir, I was probably over the limit and I am really sorry” will go a long way for you. Most officers have a hard time giving a traffic citation to a driver that is being honest and polite towards them.

5. And last but not least, NEVER argue with the officer, even if you honestly feel you did nothing wrong. You CANNOT win a street debate with a police officer and it is the one surefire way you will guarantee yourself a citation. I made thousands of traffic stops during the course of my career. Drivers that owned-up to their mistakes usually got a pass; drivers that argued with me ALWAYS got a ticket.

There are no guarantees in life, but If you follow the steps I’ve listed here, you have an excellent chance at coming away from a routine traffic stop with nothing worse than a written warning. By keeping your cool and displaying honesty to the officer, you will earn the officer’s respect and more importantly, the officer’s forgiveness.

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