Police Stops: Tips for When You Get Pulled Over

Almost everyone will be pulled over by the police at some point in their lives. Whether it’s for something as common as speeding, or as serious as a DUI, there are several things you can do to make the experience easier for the officer—and therefore, easier on yourself.

  1. As soon as you notice the police car following you with the lights on, pull over to the right-hand side of the road. Do so as soon as possible, but do not compromise safety for speed—make sure to use your turn signal to signify lane changes, and to let the officer know you’ve seen them and are in the process of pulling over. Be sure to pull over as far as possible, so that the officer does not need to worry about being hit by oncoming traffic as they approach your vehicle.
  2. Once you have stopped, roll down your window all the way. Turn off the engine, and place your hands on the steering wheel. If you’ve been pulled over at night, turn on your overhead light. These are all ways to put the officer at ease about his or her own safety.
  3. It may seem obvious, but remember to be respectful. Even if you don’t know why you were pulled over, or disagree about the reason, you are much more likely to get a favorable outcome if you show the officer some respect. Addressing them as “Officer,” “Sir” or “Ma’am” is a good way to start. Do not raise your voice, even if you are feeling upset or frustrated. Remember—this is just their job.
  4. Don’t unbuckle your seatbelt until or unless the officer instructs you to do so. Do not open your door or leave your vehicle unless instructed. And don’t go rummaging for your license or insurance card until the officer has approached and asks for them. Again, this is a safety issue—for all they know, you could be reaching for a weapon.

Remember, traffic stops may be frustrating, embarrassing, or inconvenient—but being respectful and mindful of an officer’s concerns can make the experience go much smoother for everyone involved, and increases the chance that an officer may be willing to issue a warning rather than a ticket. Keep in mind that their job is to keep the roads safe — and that benefits you, as well.