You’re driving along, maybe singing along to your favorite road tunes, when all of a sudden you see lights in your mirror and your favorite song is replaced with the sound of a police siren. You’ve heard the horror stories about innocent people getting killed at a traffic stop and you heart skips a beat. Is it your turn?
It doesn’t have to be. Keep things simple and you may even drive away with a warning.
Don’t Make Assumptions
Maybe you were speeding, crossed the line or did nothing at all. If you are aware of why you got pulled over, that’s even better. You know you broke the law and should be prepared to be compliant. But what if you didn’t do anything wrong that you’re aware of?
There are numerous reasons you might have caught the attention of the police. You might be driving a car that fits the description of another suspect, have a light out without knowing it or even be in an area that has suddenly become dangerous because of a natural disaster. The only thing you DO know for a fact is that you don’t want to cause yourself any more trouble than necessary.
Even when you get pulled over because of something other than your own actions, it’s important to stay calm. Starting off defensive in any situation normally causes people to be on guard or suspicious. That’s the last thing you want to happen between you and an officer.
The impression you want to give is that you are completely transparent, open and honest. And first impressions are always the most important. So, put your hands on the wheel so the officer can see them, and try to be patient with their questions.
You might be tempted to get out your wallet or registration. Don’t. Wait until the officer asks you to do something before reaching for anything. When the officer does ask, let him or her now exactly what you’re doing. Don’t just reach into the glovebox, but let the officer know the papers they requested are in there and you are about to reach for them.
One thing that seems to irritate anyone you speak to is when they are treated as if they are stupid. Officers who are power hungry and dangerous might get the most media attention, but they are the exception rather than the rule. The most likely scenario is that this officer is just doing their job and like anyone else, would like to get it done as quickly and accurately as possible. So, be honest when you’re asked a question, and don’t try to distract them with your behavior.
Even if you were speeding and knew you were, that’s not a guarantee that you’re getting a ticket. But if you try to pretend you didn’t realize you were doing 85 in a 45 MPH zone, you can assume you’re getting a ticket at the very least.
Remember that police are people, too. If you have a good reason for getting pulled over (speeding to a medical emergency, for example), they may escort you to the hospital if you tell them. They might even be understanding if you’re running late for work. What they won’t be understanding of is someone who is unnecessarily wasting their time in an effort to fool them.
Bottom line? Keep your hands on the wheel until asked to do otherwise. Avoid taking out your fear or frustrations on the police. And keep in mind that you both just really want to go home at the end of the night and the police often have to deal with people seeking to do them harm. Your job is to let them know you have no desire to hurt anyone.