Getting pulled over for any reason can be a harrowing experience. Knowing proper roadside etiquette will greatly reduce stress for both you and the officer who has pulled you over. Be cool and follow these simple rules and you’ll be cruising away smoothly in no time.
Basic Etiquette of Traffic Stops
Even more than table manners, traffic stop etiquette serves a very serious purpose. Your primary goal is to keep the officer, and yourself, calm and relaxed.
- When you see you are being pulled over, turn on your hazards. This signals to the police officer you have seen their lights, and to other drivers that you are being pulled over and will be slowly moving to the side of the road.
- Be sure you’re in a safe spot for both you and the officer. This could mean exiting a highway, but essentially just means finding a place to pull over where both you and the officer have space to park.
- Turn off your car. By parking and turning your car off, you signal to the officer that you will not be trying to drive away when the officer leaves their vehicle.
- Be patient. It might take the officer a little while to approach you, as they might be contacting other officers or dispatch to let them know they are conducting a traffic stop.
- Roll down your window for marked police cars. If the car is unmarked, you may leave your window up until you see identification from the officer.
- If it is dark out, turn on the dome light so the officer can easily see inside your vehicle.
- Leave your hands on the steering wheel until you are asked to supply documents such as insurance and registration.
Know Your Rights
You do, in fact, have the right to remain silent. Even though it sounds like it’s out of an episode of Law and Order, you can choose not to make small talk with an officer.
You are required to provide identification information, such as your license and registration. Beyond this, you can tell the officer you are choosing to not answer questions.
While a glance into your back seat is common, you do not have to consent to a search of your vehicle. Even if the officer breezily asks if they can take a look in your car, you have the right to say no. If you are arrested or give the officer probable cause, however, they can do this without your go-ahead.
If you are arrested, you have the right to an attorney. You should exercise this right immediately after being arrested.
Stay Calm and Polite
If you are given a ticket, but do not agree with the officer, still be polite and apologize. Begging won’t get you anywhere and arguing will only make the situation worse.
Even if you believe the officer has violated your rights or proceeded incorrectly, these are issues that can be addressed by you and your lawyer at a later date. If you are given a warning, thank the officer.
You can always contact the Thiessen Law Firm if your rights have been violated during a traffic stop. Call 713-864-9000 or schedule a free consultation online.