You never want to see flashing lights in your rearview mirror. But the main thing to remember is this: Don’t panic.
However, there’s more to getting through a traffic stop than staying calm. We’ve put together some tips–but keep in mind that we’re not lawyers. These are best practices but should not be construed as legal advice.
When you see those flashing lights and hear the siren, you need to pull over. It’s not a bad idea to put on your hazard lights to acknowledge that yes, you are pulling over. Move to the right side of the road and pull over as soon as it’s safe to do so. Drive slowly, use your signals if you need to change lanes, and obey all traffic laws until you can come to a stop.
Ensure that you are completely out of the road, either in a parking lot or a wide enough shoulder to allow traffic to pass.
Stay in Your Car
Stay put in your car. Don’t unbuckle. Don’t even attempt to open the door. Don’t make any sudden movements.
Roll down the window on the driver’s side and then turn the engine off. If it’s dark out, turn on the interior lights of your car so that the officer can see you clearly.
While you wait, take a few deep breaths and try not to get anxious. Keep your hands on the steering wheel where they can clearly be seen.
Say as Little as Possible
You need to answer the officer’s questions honestly, but that does not mean you should volunteer extra information. Anything you say now could be part of the record later if you try to fight the traffic ticket in court. Don’t admit guilt, and don’t try to play the guessing game when the officer asks, “Do you know why I pulled you over?”
Be polite and respectful, not aggressive. You won’t win any points by having a bad attitude. Accept the ticket, if one is given to you.
Be ready to hand over your license and registration. It’s smart to narrate your movements and go slowly so that the officer doesn’t think you are reaching for any kind of weapon. Don’t reach for these documents until the officer specifically asks for them.
If the officer instructs you to get out of the vehicle, do so with the same slow, deliberate pace. A traffic stop can be a dangerous encounter for both you and the law enforcement officer. Staying calm, avoiding sudden movements, and maintaining a respectful attitude can help get you through this safely.