Of course it’s normal to be nervous when you see those blue strobe lights in your rear-view mirror.
You may be concerned about:
Why me? What did I do? Why are they picking on me?
Well, guess what? The police officer is also very concerned.
The So-called “routine” traffic stop is one of the most dangerous functions a law enforcement officer conducts. It’s an unfortunate fact that police officers are killed, or seriously injured, every year while conducting traffic stops.
What steps can you take, as a law-abiding person, to help reduce the stress and danger involved with law enforcement traffic stops?
Here are some general ideas suggested to reduce the stress and danger involved:
1. It is important to understand why a police officer may be stopping you in the first place. Law enforcement may not only stop your vehicle if they observe a traffic or equipment violation, but also because your vehicle may match one used in a crime, or they may want to warn you about a potentially dangerous situation, or the officer thinks you may need help, or you may have witnessed a crime.
2. When you see the blue overhead flashing lights (and/or hear a siren), remain calm, slow down and pull over in a safe location off the roadway.
Quick Security Tip: Some states may use only red, or only blue, or a combination of both colors for police emergency lighting so be sure to check with the jurisdiction in which you are traveling for this important information.
3. Please do not exit your vehicle unless you are asked to do so. This is both for your safety and for the safety of the law enforcement officer. Anyone exiting their car during a traffic stop could make an officer very nervous. Remember, the police may not know what condition you are in, who you are, or what may happen next. Don’t exacerbate the situation.
5. If you are stopped at night, please turn on your interior lights, i.e., dome light.
6. Make sure to inform the officer if you have any weapons in the vehicle and their location. DO NOT reach or POINT to the weapon’s location.
7. Avoid any sudden movements, especially toward the floorboard, rear seat, or passenger side of the vehicle.
8. Please comply with the law enforcement officer’s request to see your driver’s license, vehicle registration, and insurance information.
Quick Security Tip: If any of these documents are out of reach, please tell the officer where they are located before you get them.
9. It is best to answer all questions honestly, and to avoid becoming argumentative with the officer.
10. If the police officer does issue you a citation, and if you don’t understand the reason, please cordially ask the officer for details of your violation.
Quick Security Tip: Remember, in general, if you disagree with the violation, you will have the chance to address the issue in court.
11. If the law enforcement officer asks you to sign the citation, please do so.
12. In general, you have the right to politely refuse a request by a law enforcement officer to search your vehicle unless probable cause exists. Then the officer has the right to search your vehicle without your consent.
13. Please show up for court on your assigned court date. Failure to do so will result in additional fines (i.e. contempt of court) and a warrant for your arrest will be issued.
14. Almost always, a police officer will provide you with his or her name and the reason you are being stopped, upon request.