Traffic Stop Do's and Don'ts

Traffic Stop Do's and Don'ts

There are several things that are good to do and many things are NOT so good to do if you are stopped by an officer.
One of the most frequent topics that I have been asked about concerns being pulled over in your car. As a traffic officer for the past several years, I can tell you that there are several things that are good to do and many things are NOT so good to do if you are stopped by an officer.

Your attitude with the officer. I was taught many years ago that an officer should decide whether or not he/she is going to issue a citation BEFORE approaching the violator. YEAH RIGHT! The violator's attitude has a lot to do with whether or not a ticket is issued. There were many times that I stopped people and intended initially to just warn them, but they had to lip off and I just could not seem to keep my pen from scooting across the ol' ticket book. Remember, the officer generally has the last word on traffic stops and you will do yourself no favors by irritating him/her. That does not mean you have to suck up to them or anything, just be as courteous and respectful as you can be and let it go at that.

Sudden or suspicious movements. I realize that the term suspicious as used here is pretty relative, but put yourself in the officer's shoes. How would you react if you saw a violator reaching under the seat or grab suddenly for the glove compartment? The vast majority of these actions are innocent enough, but they are also responsible for far too many officer deaths each year. Granted, there are times when you must access these areas to obtain information requested by the officer, just use some common sense when doing so and remember the officer's situation. Keep in mind, the officer has no idea who or what you are or may have just done. I have stopped violators for mere speeding and found out during the stop that they just committed an armed robbery. THEY knew what they had done, but I just thought they were in a hurry (I guess I would have been too).

"Driver's license, registration, & proof of insurance, please." These words should come as no surprise to you if you are pulled over, yet I saw so many people with a blank look on their face when asked, and it took them forever to find them. Try not to get stopped in the first place, but if you do, have these documents ready when the officer approaches your window. It saves you and the officer time (which you probably have less of or else you wouldn't have been speeding).

Do I stay in or get out of my car? Most officers prefer (or they should prefer) that you stay in your car when you are stopped. If they want you to get out, they will ask you to. From an officer's standpoint, many criminals will exit their car to try to prevent the officer from seeing what they have in there with them. Staying in the car also allows the officer to focus his/her attention on the passenger compartment alone and not it plus you if you get out. If you do get out and the officers tells you to get back in, do not be offended...he/she is just trying to their job safely.

Where do I pull over? The majority of the time, you should simply pull to right edge of the roadway and stop. If it is a two lane road or if there happens to be a convenient (public) driveway you can pull into, do so IF it does not interfere with the business' traffic flow. Many times people trying to be helpful really mess things up by blocking a driveway or another street trying to "get out of the way". Officers are trained to scope out the optimum location for the stop before turning on their emergency equipment so if they hit their lights, just pull right over. This is one reason why there are times when officers may follow a violator for a long distance before initiating the stop.

Special Considerations For Nighttime Car Stops

After you pull over, turn on your interior dome light. This helps to illuminate the inside of your car and lets the officer know that you have nothing to hide and are willing to cooperate. Remember, the only light source the officer usually has is a flashlight. When he/she shines it in and around your car, it is not to irritate or offend you, it is just so they can see what's going on and evaluate the situation.

Prepare to be blinded. Nighttime car stops are not the favorite thing for an officer to do. There is something about walking up on a car full of who-knows-what and not being able to see inside that can make an officer's liver quiver. Therefore, to allow for a little better vision inside the violator's vehicle, the officer will likely utilize every light source available on the front of the patrol car. This can be a bit overwhelming for the violator, especially if they are not expecting it. Today's light bars are equipped with very bright "takedown" lights and modern halogen headlights, so your mirrors can become a sea of brilliant white light in a split second. Just be prepared for this and remember, the officer is at a significant disadvantage as it is, the lights are just for his/her safety, not to offend you. Be polite, adjust your mirrors if you need to, and let the officer do what they have to do.

Do not be offended by the flashlight. A flashlight is an officer's eyes at night, therefore the beam will move around quite a bit as he/she looks around in the dark, to include the interior of cars. If, while an officer is scanning the interior of your car for anything unusual, the beam of the flashlight happens to blast your retinas, do not automatically assume that the officer did it intentionally. Also, remember that the officer WILL look around inside your vehicle for safety reasons, so do not be offended. Again, put yourself in the officer's shoes (or boots).

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Comments

I went through a routine traffic stop (road check) at night there were three officers surrounding each car that they stoped. one checking ID and the other two swarming around the car flashlights blazing all around the inside of cars.. this offends me a great deal. they are treating people (of whom they are disturbing on their daily drive) as instant criminals. it is a breach of rights to be searched on spot without being asked.

lonestranger you should pay attention to your actual rights, anything that can be seen by any person walling by is not considered to be with in your privacy. with out probable cause or consent the officers can not search closed containers with in the vehicle.

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