Police Etiquette: What to do when they come for you
Let’s be honest: We’ve all pushed the limit.
When the posted speed has been 65 mph, we’ve gone 75 mph. And when we’ve spotted police flashers in the distance, we’ve taken our foot off the accelerator and thanked heaven that we weren’t the ones rummaging for a driver’s license or vehicle registration.
But what do you do when those flashers appear in your rearview mirror? Are there ways to avoid that seemingly inevitable ticket?
Obviously, the best way to avoid getting a speeding ticket is to not speed. However, if you find yourself going too fast for the law, here are some tips to reduce your chances of getting a traffic ticket:
Did you know?
- Motorists receive more than 41 million speeding tickets a year in the United States, according to Traffic Ticket Secrets.
- With the average ticket costing about $150, motorists pay more than $6 billion in fines a year.
- The average increase in insurance after a single speeding ticket is $900 over a three-year period.
- The most tickets go to drivers between 17 and 24 years old, with a higher proportion going to men.
- The top five states for speeding tickets are 1) Ohio, 2) Pennsylvania, 3) New York, 4) California and 5) Texas.
How to avoid a ticket:
When flashing lights appear behind your vehicle, here are some steps you can take to make the police encounter as pleasant as possible. If the police officer is happy, then you may be end up with a happier outcome, too.
STEP 1: Make a good first impression.
This is your chance to make an impression, even before you meet the officer face to face. Use your turn signal before making lane changes. Slow down quickly. Pull off the road far enough that the officer doesn’t feel threatened by traffic. The point is to put an angry or annoyed traffic officer at ease.
STEP 2: Show some good will.
Once you have pulled over, show the officer some good will. Roll down your window all the way. Turn off your engine. Place your hands on the steering wheel. Turn on the dome light if its dark. Make sure to not rummage through your glove box for your driver license or vehicle registration before police ask for it. For all the officer knows, you could be going for a gun.
STEP 3: Be polite.
Whatever you do, don’t be combative. Try to answer the officer’s questions politely, even if you are noncommittal about questions such as “Do you know why I stopped you?” that might affect your ability to challenge a ticket in court. Good manners will score you points with an officer who may have had an otherwise unpleasant day.
STEP 4: Avoid escalating the situation.
After giving the officer your license and registration, avoid any suspicious behavior. Reaching under your seat or tossing something out your window may give an officer reasonable suspicion that you are hiding something. This will not improve your chances of getting out of a traffic ticket. In fact, it may result in a pat down or search of your vehicle. And remember to stay inside the vehicle. Officers may consider you a flight risk or a threat if you step outside.
STEP 5: Cross your fingers.
That’s all you can do as you sit in your car and wait. Remember, the only sure way to avoid a ticket is to abide by the rules of the road.
Although good manners are always important when working with police, remember that you also have rights. Here are some things to keep in mind if an officer pulls you over.
- If you have any doubts about the police officer’s identity, you have the right to request identification. You may ask to see his photo identification and badge. If questions still persist, you have the right to ask for his supervisor to come to the scene.
- Normally, police are not allowed to search your vehicle. This would change only if the officer has a “reasonable suspicion” that you are involved in criminal activity. That said, police may seize any illegal objects in your care that are in “plain view.”
- You don’t have to admit guilt. If an officer asks if you broke the speed limit or violated some other traffic law, you don’t have to answer. You have a right not to incriminate yourself.