So you got stopped by an officer…

One foot on the brake and one on the gas, hey
Well, there’s too much traffic, I can’t pass, no
So I tried my best illegal move
A big black and white come and crushed my groove again

(Sammy Hagar, “I Can’t Drive 55”)

One of the questions I get often from people is what do I do when and officer stops me.  In light of what has been happening in the last couple of years, this is a very good question.

None of us like getting pulled over. Our immediate response is to be angry, but you need to keep cool and be smart.

First, remain calm and put both hands at the 12:00 position on your steering wheel. Don’t be rummaging around to find your insurance and registration or light up a cigarette, wait until the officer is at the window and you can tell him/her what you are doing.

As an officer approaches, he/she is looking at what is happening in the car to determine what his level of alert needs to be. If you are fumbling around in the car while the officer approaches, the officer may think you are trying to hide something illegal (drugs, paraphernalia) or attempting to find a weapon. This is called “furtive movements” which officers are trained to spot as an indicator of illegal activity. When an officer observes furtive movements, they are trained to be on alert and possibly investigate further.  It is no longer a simple traffic stop.

By leaving your hands on the wheel, the officer knows you are not trying to do anything to cause a problem. Then, when the officer asks for ID, you can say, “O.k., I’m getting my wallet to get my license” or “My insurance is in the glove compartment”. This way the officer knows exactly what you are doing. This can de-escalate the situation and make sure there are no adverse problems.

Be honest with the officer. The last time I was stopped when the officer asked me if I knew why I was being stopped I said, “Yah, I was doing 45 in a 35 mph zone. There was a good song on the radio…” The officer laughed and said, just for that, I am just going to warn you.

So, stay cool and it will be alright.