You ran a red light.
You were driving over the speed limit.
You were quickly checking your phone while driving.
You knew it was wrong, but you didn’t think you’d get caught – until you saw the flashing lights in your rearview mirror! You’ve been pulled over by the cops. Here’s what you should do next.
Pull over when it’s safe
First things first, signal your intention to pull over to the right side of the road, and look for a well-lit spot with enough room for you and the police car to safely park. Once you’ve come to a complete stop, turn off your engine and wait inside your car for further instructions from the officer. It may take a few minutes for them to approach your vehicle, as they may need to run your license plate number.
Know your rights
It helps to know your rights in a traffic stop. Keep in mind that police officers can pull you over for any reason when driving. If asked, you are required to provide your driver’s licence, ownership information and proof of insurance. Otherwise, you are not required to answer an officer’s questions unless you’ve been involved in an accident.
If an officer suspects you’ve been drinking, they are allowed to administer a roadside breath test. Police officers are allowed to look in the windows of your car, and use a flashlight to do so if it’s nighttime. However, cops are not allowed to search your vehicle without a warrant, unless they have reasonable and probable grounds to believe that they will find illegal drugs, alcohol or evidence related to a crime.
Look for credentials
You have the right to ask for a police officer’s credentials, and you might want to consider it if you’ve been pulled over by an unmarked vehicle. There have been several cases of fraudsters posing as police officers to steal cars or solicit money for fake tickets. You can also call 911 to confirm that the vehicle belongs to the police.
Keep your documents accessible
As mentioned above, you are required to provide your license, ownership papers and proof of insurance if asked. To make the traffic stop as painless of possible, make sure you have those items in an easily accessible location at all times. Wait to be asked by the officer before you collect your documents. Once they have asked, let them know you’ll be opening your glove compartment or your purse to retrieve the items.
Maintain your composure
You might be annoyed at the inconvenience of a stop, or angry that you were the one pulled over when other drivers were also breaking the law. Whatever the case, you can vent to friends and family later. When interacting with the officer, listen politely and respond respectfully. If you don’t feel like you’re being treated fairly by the officer, don’t pick a fight or respond defensively. You can note their name and badge number and file a complaint at another time.
Fight it later
While you shouldn’t argue over the merits of the ticket during your traffic stop, you can consider fighting it later. Not only can your ticket come with a fine and demerit points, but it can also raise your car insurance rates the next time you’re renewing your policy or looking for a quote. With all those potential consequences, it can be worth contesting your ticket in court, since you’ll avoid the fine, demerit points and insurance increases if you win.
You can do your best to prevent a traffic stop by obeying the rules of the road, but if you do see those flashing lights in your rearview mirror, remember these tips to make the best of a bad situation.