We all get pulled over at some point. Maybe we’re speeding, maybe a taillight is broken, maybe something else is wrong. But the point is, you’re on the side of the road, and you’re about to be approached by a police officer and possibly have a really bad day.
Or maybe not. Tickets are largely at the discretion of police officers, after all, and the officer may be inclined to give you a break, depending on the situation. So, load the deck in your favor, and make the situation as easy for him as possible.
A Few Things to Remember
The key thing to remember, first of all, is patience. Even if you’re in a hurry, you need to take a deep breath and wait. Don’t try to rush him; at best, you’ll annoy him. Like it or not, you’re officially on his time, and the more patient and cooperative you are, the quicker you’ll be able to leave.
Secondly, remember to see the traffic stop from the officer’s point of view. It’s boring, but it’s dangerous. They don’t know if you’re a law-abiding citizen or a lunatic with a missile launcher. You want to err towards the boring.
When You’re Pulled Over
Stay in your car when pulled to the side of the road. If you get out of your car, generally for the police, that’s the start of somebody running away on foot or taking potshots at them. Since you’re going to do neither, just stay in your seat and shut off the engine.
If it’s dark, turn on your dome light. Police officers are constantly worried about their safety, so being able to see in your car will relax them. Also, keep your hands on the steering wheel, easily visible. If you have passengers, ask them to keep their hands in their laps. The officer won’t get out of the car immediately: he’ll be radioing in your license plate and the location he pulled you over so if something goes wrong, he can easily be found. Expect the officer to check that your trunk is latched once he gets out of the car.
Addressing the Officer
Once the officer comes to the vehicle, address them politely. Remember, police often deal with people screaming at them over speeding tickets. We’re not telling you to have a big fake smile ready, but simply referring to them respectfully and using good manners will go a long way towards earning you a way out of the ticket.
Do NOT to try to flirt with the officer, fake an emotional breakdown, try to be a tough guy with them, argue your way out of the ticket, and — most importantly — do not try to bribe them. They’ve seen this all before, they don’t care, and in many cases they’ll find it insulting. How would you feel if somebody tried something like that on you while you were just trying to do your job?
The officer will ask you why you think you’re being pulled over; honesty is the best policy, so you might as well be honest. He or she will explain the law in question.
Before he writes the ticket, ask the officer politely if there’s any way you can get a warning. Be honest about your reasons.
If the officer says no, thank them for considering it and accept the ticket. Don’t think being polite and asking was for nothing: officers can note on a ticket that it can’t be contested, and usually do this with people who scoff at the law and yell at them for getting caught doing it. So, if nothing else, you’ve at least left the door open to keeping the ticket off your auto insurance…and made sure you haven’t made an annoying situation worse.