Getting pulled over by a police officer can be intimidating, frustrating and even dangerous for the motorist and the police officer. However, remembering some simple steps will help make your traffic stop as safe and as pleasant as possible.
Respond to the red and blue lights, and signal your intentions. The safest thing to do is to pull as far to the right as possible – using turn indicators to let the officer and other motorists know what you plan to do. If the roadway is clear and the officer does not pass you, assume that your vehicle is the one being pulled over. Drive slowly on the right until you find a suitable and safe place to stop. Drive defensively. Choose a safe location to pull off the road where you will not impede the normal flow of traffic. You can also pull off the roadway onto the shoulder if the ground is firm. The officer will understand if you drive slowly looking for a suitable location.
Be aware that the violation may have occurred 1 or 2 miles before the traffic stop. This delay is due to the fact that most departments have developed strict procedures for officers to follow to ensure your safety and theirs. They are required to give the location, vehicle and occupant description, and license plate to the dispatcher. The officer is also trying to locate the safest place to initiate the stop.
Remain in the vehicle unless the officer instructs otherwise. Distracted motorists have been known to leave the roadway and strike vehicles or individuals at a traffic stop, causing injury or even death.
Listen to the officer and comply with instructions. Drivers often assume they are being stopped for a routine traffic matter, but the officer may be stopping you because your vehicle is similar to one just seen leaving the scene of a crime. Additionally, many people have warrants out for their arrest, are mentally unbalanced or simply do not like police officers. Many officers have experienced verbal and physical confrontations as a result of traffic stops. Consequently, the officer may initially be acting under the assumption that you are a safety threat. Control over the situation can be accomplished by keeping yourself and your passengers in the vehicle with your hands visible.
If it is a case of mistaken identity, you will be on your way as soon as it is cleared up. If it is a traffic stop, the officer will request your driver's license, registration and insurance card. The officer may allow you to explain your actions; if so, you should speak calmly. If the officer saw you commit the violation, your statement is not necessary.
If your complaint is about the validity of the citation, then it must be handled through the courts. If the contact was unprofessional, complain to the Police Department. Police departments have procedures for lodging complaints against officers. The Police Department wants to know if there is a problem with an officer.
If you comply with the rationale behind an officer's actions by following these steps, a traffic stop can be a pleasant experience.