Perhaps it’s because I’m from a small town or maybe it’s clear that I’m just that old, but we used to get out of our car to meet the police officer half-way when we got pulled over. It was common courtesy for traffic stops. Boy has that changed. For their safety and for yours, you never want to exit your vehicle unless asked to. And, yes, it is mandatory that you do so if requested to. Since traffic stops are becoming more dangerous and police are concerned about weapons, there is a proper checklist that you should be required to know before getting pulled over. In fact, some states are now adding traffic stop etiquette to their driver exam. Illinois, Missouri, Kentucky, Arizona, Georgia, New Jersey, Virginia, North Carolina, Texas, Nebraska and Rhode Island are now requiring that drivers know how to behave when being pulled over and this is being incorporated into driver education in those states as well.
What to know:
• Remain calm. Obviously, the sirens and lights are upsetting. But the police officer will be more at ease if you are calm.
• Roll all of your windows down so the officer can see inside the car. Turn on the interior lights at night. Put your hands on the steering wheel, open, so they can see that you’re not concealing a weapon.
• Don’t reach for anything until the officer approaches the car and asks for your driver license, proof of insurance and perhaps even your registration. No sudden moves.
• They will likely ask you if you know why they stopped you.
• They may ask you to step out of the car. If so, you are required to comply.
• They may ask to search your car. You may say no. It is your right. A warrant will then need to be obtained.
• They may touch your car to leave fingerprints and proof that they came in contact with your car.
Pulling over is not an admission of guilt, since you are required to pull to the right and stop when an emergency vehicle (including police) is approaching from behind. They may be attempting to stop someone else ahead of you or in another lane. If it’s you that they’re after, bummer. Some people are recording traffic stops on their phone. This is not against the law, but since they want you hands on the wheel, and most states have hands-free laws regarding cell phones, you may wind up with another ticket that you can’t afford. The police officer may be recording you as well with a body cam, or dash cam. Perhaps investing in a dash cam of your own is a better idea than attempting to record the traffic stop on your phone.
And, it is of utmost importance to be polite. If you extend that simple courtesy, you should get it in return.
Until next week…
Writer / Comedienne / Artist
Traffic Stops – Comedy Defensive Driving School