Blue lights behind you can be very intimidating, or even scary. Even the best of us will not pay attention every now and then and someone else will notice. And I’ll admit, that was me this morning in Vandalia. 47 in a 35. I know better, and most times I won’t speed like that (because I know what speed does, but another story for another time). I’ve been in a police cruiser 11 times now, but was quite shaken this morning. I was given a verbal warning and sent on my way. So that inspired me to do a “public service” message.
Being stopped is nerve wracking. But it doesn’t have to ruin your day…or theirs. Here’s a couple tips I’ve found that may help you.
1. Pull over in a safe place – for you AND the officer.
The most important rule to follow is to pull over in a SAFE area, as soon as it is reasonable and safe to do so. Avoid narrow left shoulders. If you are in a left lane , signal to get over. Use your hazard lights. Make sure you are NOT in a lane of traffic. That will risk your safety as well as theirs.
2. Don’t coast.
“If you just keep coasting, the cop is going to think, ‘What is this guy doing?’ He may think you’re stalling because you’re trying to stash something,” warns a police officer. “If you pass a few safe places to pull over, the officer is definitely going to think you’re up to something, and that raises suspicion.”
3. Keep your engine running
Officers generally didn’t like the citizen to turn off their engines, because if if it doesn’t start again then you’re in a situation where you have to wait for a buddy or a wrecker, and in most situations they wait too. Then you’re mad because they stopped you, and it’s just a bad scenario.
4. Keep your hands on the wheel.
Here is one place I slipped up, and realized it later. Once stopped. I’m reaching in my wallet to get my license and insurance. If they think you might be reaching for something, they HAVE to assume it may be a weapon. It’s best to wait the few seconds. And NEVER reach into a glove box or under a seat unless you specifically get an OK from the officer. If you have a “Concealed Carry” permit, it shows up on screen if you are the registered owner. If not, KEEP YOUR HANDS VISABLE and let them know if you have a weapon.
5. Do NOT get out of the car
Sometimes this is common sense (why get out if you’re on I-75???), but sometimes in a safe place it may seem like a good idea. It’s NOT. Only get out of the car if/when the officer asks you to do so. Anything else could be seen as threatening, and that will go very bad, very fast. For everyone’s safety (and sanity) stay in the car.
6. Watch your mouth
That’s advice our parents gave us, and it’s good advice for a traffic stop. Keep in mind, the officer is DOING HIS JOB. He has not circled the streets looking for you. Really. When he approaches the car, don’t get angry because you assume you are getting a ticket, or you’re late, etc. You committed the traffic offence. Whether it was out of ignorance, carelessness, or even intentional, you were caught. Own up to it. Stay calm and do not get over emotional. Speak in a calm and normal tone. No yelling, cursing, or accusations. If you don’t think it’s valid, that’s why there is court. And BE HONEST. Don’t make up an excuse. Don’t lie or give wrong information. They will find out, and that will be ALL BAD.
7. Don’t be in a hurry
Don’t hurry the officer. And when you leave, don’t see how fast you can get from 0 to 60. Turn your signal on, and safely get into traffic.
Now as a bonus, here are some of the things the officer is thinking about. Some of you will not care. Pity.
1. Am I safe?
Is the location where you stopped at safe for them to attempt to talk to you?
2. Are THEY is a safe place?
Are you in any kind of danger because of where you stopped? In traffic, on a narrow shoulder, etc
3. Who are they?
An officer will “run your plates”, but this only turns up CAR INFORMATION and the REGISTERED OWNER. If you are driving someone else’s car, they do not know until they have your license. So, if you are driving your wife’s car, that may be OK. If you borrowed a buddy’s truck who has warrants or expired tags, it may start out interesting. It is unavoidable, but the officer needs to make sure they can go home to their family tonight. Here’s a key: Officers are TRAINED to assume that a traffic stop could be fatal. You could have weapons, could be drunk or high, could have just robbed a bank. And YOU have to prove otherwise. Be civil.Be calm. Be truthful.
Cops are human, just like you. They get dressed like you. They go to work like you. They want to see their families again, just like you. Just like you don’t want to get yelled at or harassed at work, neither do they. Keep these tips in mind. You may still get a ticket, but it was likely deserved. But it doesn’t have to end up with you in jail or disorderly charges.