No one appreciates the feeling of dread that rushes through them when they glance in their car mirror and see a police vehicle.
No matter how innocent you are of any offence, the immediate reaction for most people is to panic. What’s going on? Have you done something wrong? Are you in trouble? The thoughts rush through your mind as you try to calmly pull over, furiously examining your every move on the road since you left your home.
The experience of being pulled over can be extremely challenging and stressful– but it’s one that every motorist will experience at least once in their driving career. To try and help you navigate this difficult moment, read through the “dos” and “don’ts” of being pulled over and commit them to memory; they will come in handy if you ever find yourself going through the same scenario.
DO: Pull over as soon as it is convenient
If a police vehicle is signalling for you to pull over, then do so. The police officer(s) will not be concerned about making you late or missing an important meeting, so just pull over as soon as it is safe and convenient for you to do so. If you are running late, then you can always calmly ask the officer if you can make a quick phone call so that you can speak to them without distraction– there’s no guarantee they will say yes, but it’s far more likely if you showed willing and pulled over when requested.
DON’T: Get out of the vehicle
The only time you should step out of a vehicle during a traffic stop is when instructed to do so by the officer you are speaking with. Roll down your window as the officer approaches, then turn off the ignition, and place your hands on the steering wheel so they are both visible.
DO: Inform the officer of anything you are doing
If you are going to reach for your cellphone, your seatbelt, or your licence and registration, then tell the officer beforehand. This is imperative. Traffic stops are a time when police and patrol officers are on high alert, and often for good reason. You should therefore endeavor to communicate effectively, so they are able to understand what you are doing when you move– the less room for confusion, the better.
DO: Be polite
If you’re in a rush or just don’t have the patience to deal with being pulled over, then it’s absolutely essential that you don’t let your irritation show to the officer. The worst thing you can do is vent your frustration onto someone who is just trying to do their job, so as tempting as it might be, it’s always best to bite your tongue.
Furthermore, if you can find it within yourself to be outright polite and offer a smile, then that’s even better. Try and address the officer as “Sir/Madam” or “officer” from the moment you begin speaking with them, making it clear that you respect their authority at all times. Sometimes, being polite is the difference between being let off with a warning and being issued with a ticket.
DON’T: Admit fault
If you know that you have done something wrong while driving, it’s tempting to try and put your hands up and admit fault. You may even find yourself confessing to something that you’re not even sure you did, just because it seems like the right thing to do, and you don’t want to escalate the situation by disagreeing.
Whether you committed the offence you have been pulled over for or not, do not admit fault. You can still be polite — “I didn’t realize, officer!” — but you don’t have to outright accept that you were doing something wrong. There is always a chance that the officer is incorrect in what they have witnessed or is not applying a law quite as it should be; in these instances, admitting fault means that it’s very difficult to then retract that at a later date.
DO: Remember that tickets can be fought
If a ticket is issued, you will likely feel frustrated– and the temptation to vent that frustration at the issuing officer can be overwhelming. That’s why it’s important that you sit back, accept the ticket, and nod along with further instructions if they are issued; the last thing you need is to escalate the situation with the officer.
If you find yourself being issued with a ticket, stay calm by reminding yourself that all tickets can be fought, and you are not necessarily going to be issued with a fine or points on your licence. This is just the first step, it’s not a conclusion; you still have options like appeal and contacting the law office of James Medows and similar legal experts to help you rectify the situation. Stay polite, remember that you have options, and that the ticket is not final– this should help you keep your cool even when you’re feeling hard-done by!
DON’T: Make unnecessary promises
If you are pulled over for an infraction such as a broken tail-light, don’t say you will get it fixed “right now” unless you can truly go and get it fixed right now. If, by some unfortunate stroke of luck, you are then pulled over for a second time with the same issue, the fact you did not rectify the problem as stated does not help your case.
DO: Tell the officer if you’re struggling with panic
Finally, there’s no doubt that staying calm when you have been pulled over is easier said than done. However, do what you can to keep yourself as relaxed as possible– if necessary, inform the officer that you are struggling with anxiety, as they will likely give you a few moments to take a few deep breaths so you can calm down as much as possible.
By memorizing the above and acting accordingly, you can be sure to handle the stress of having been pulled over by the police with aplomb– good luck!