Many people panic when they see flashing lights and sirens behind them – it’s a fact of life that, at least most of the time, they do not mean that something good will happen. However, taking a deep breath and remembering a few common-sense items, even as a police officer is approaching the car, will make the interaction both speedy and somewhat pleasant for both sides.
Pull Over Immediately
First of all, when seeing the flashing lights and sirens, pull over immediately to the side of the road, or as soon as it is safe to do so. Examples of when not to pull over include being on a road with no shoulder on that side of the road, a guardrail to the immediate right, and/or when crossing railroad tracks. Put the vehicle in park, place both hands on the steering wheel in plain view, and wait for the officer to approach. Under no circumstances should you roll down the window until prompted by the police officer.
Also remember the following:
- Be polite and courteous. Look the officer in the eye, and greet politely. It could be something very simple that the officer needs to ask about for clarification, such as a brake light being out or a license plate tag that has expired.
- Do not make any sudden moves and keep hands in plain sight at all times. It is a good idea to tell the officer what is going on before it happens (e.g. bending over to reach registration and insurance).
- Do not keep talking on a cell phone, and turn the radio volume down to be able to hear the officer clearly. Police officers do not like having to repeat themselves. Texting is also something to stop at this point in time.
- Have all passengers put away cell phones or at least put them down, and have everyone put their hands in plain view. A police officer will shine a flashlight in the car to get an idea of how many people are inside, and will want to see everyone’s (empty) hands clearly.
- Have all passengers be quiet. This is extremely important to be able to hear the officer clearly.
- Give the officer any information he or she wishes. This can include your driver’s license, registration, and proof of insurance. These documents must be carried with you at all times when operating a vehicle.
- If there is a weapon or a firearm in the car, tell the officer before it falls out of the glove compartment or some other hidden area. If licensed to carry a firearm concealed with a Concealed Carry Weapons permit, make sure the paperwork is accessible.
- If the car is not yours, make sure that you tell the officer that and where you got it from. Doing so avoids a nasty arrest for stealing a car.
- Do not, under any circumstances, exit the vehicle unless prompted to do so. This is potentially unsafe for everyone, and can make the officer react adversely, as they can feel threatened by this action.
- Do not argue with the police officer, or allow anyone in the car to argue. Do not have any problems telling the passengers in the car to keep still and be silent. Arguments are likely to end in arrests.
- If a police officer asks to search the car, remember that they must have a warrant to do so in most cases.
Pull Away Quietly After The Traffic Stop Is Over
Do not speed away, flinging gravel and acting as though the traffic stop was not deserving, after the traffic stop is over. Do not make any rude or obscene gestures towards the officer, either during or after the traffic stop. Check all mirrors, put on the turn signal, and quietly pull away from the scene. Remember that there are options if given a ticket, for whatever reason. Keep a cool head, and take deep breaths – getting angry or being rude can only end badly (e.g. with handcuffs and arrests.) Remember that the police officers have a job to do, and like it or not, they were doing that job when they instigated the traffic stop.