You're driving along on the interstate listening to your favorite tunes. As you approach the overpass, you notice the State Trooper's vehicle and the officer has his radar gun trained on you. Panicked, you tap your brake, hoping you can get within the officer's "margin of error." You look down at your speedometer and your heart sinks, "Oh no," you say to yourself, "I'm going 20 miles per hour over the speed limit! I'm toast." Sure enough, as you zoom past the patrol car, he pulls out, lights flashing and you're getting pulled over for speeding. But you're feeling picked on because the car in the lane next to you actually passed you going even faster and he didn't get pulled over.
We've all been there. You're mad at yourself. Mad at the cop. Jealous of the driver who got away. Wondering what you're car insurance rates are going to look like after this. When the officer approaches your vehicle, here is your first rule:
1. Never Have Your Hands Anywhere the Officer Cannot See Them
Sounds like common sense, but the great French philosopher, Voltaire once said, "Common sense is not so common." And it isn't. When you're upset at being pulled over for a moving violation, you need to remain calm and understand that the moments of a policeman's day that carry the greatest risk of bodily harm are when he approaches a vehicle he just pulled over. While you are worrying about getting a ticket, he's worried about getting home alive. Keep your hands on the steering wheel. That will make sure you get home alive, too.
2. Never be Impolite, Antagonistic, or Belligerent to the Officer
There's an old saying, "You catch more flies with honey than vinegar." When the officer approaches your vehicle, be polite. If he asks, "Do you know why I pulled you over?", if you know why, tell him why and tell him apologetically. It's called humility. Falling on your sword. It doesn't always work, but you might be surprised how often an officer will let you off with a warning if you admit to him or her that you made a mistake and apologize for it. Don't be so prideful, and above all, don't feign innocence. Police are trained to recognize that and it's not going to win anyone over.
3. Never Volunteer Information the Officer Doesn't Ask For
It's one thing to be polite and respectful of the authority of the police and you should always fully cooperate when pulled over for some kind of traffic violation. But sometimes giving information the officer doesn't need to know or hasn't asked for, can become a real problem for you.
One true story involved a businessman driving from North Carolina to Vermont for a meeting. The businessman was pulled over for speeding in New Jersey. It was a totally routine traffic stop until the officer asked, "Is there anything in the vehicle I need to know about?" The only answer to that question is "no, sir." But the businessman, believing he was sharing something the officer could appreciate, told him about the 9mm Glock hand gun he had packed away in his luggage. Upon hearing that, the officer drew his firearm and ordered the man out of the car and onto the ground. He was arrested and charged with felony transport of a firearm. Unbeknownst to the businessman, it was illegal to merely travel through the state of New Jersey with a legally owned and registered gun in your vehicle. Months later and after thousands of dollars in lawyers fees and only because the businessman had an impeccably clean record, were the charges against him dismissed. Otherwise, his innocent attempt at sharing could have resulted in a felony conviction and several years in prison.
A word to the wise is sufficient: Never volunteer information you aren't asked for. This is not lying, by the way. It is unlawful to lie to a policeman. But in this case, the businessman would not have been lying had he simply answered the officer with "no."
4. Never Ask a Cop if He's Ticketing You to Make His Quota for the Month
Look, you're already in enough trouble for the violation the officer pulled you over for. You're in the wrong and you know it. So, don't make matters worse by questioning the integrity of the policeman. He's just doing a job. He's trying to keep the roadways safe from people...well, from people like you! Getting sassy with the man with the badge and the gun is never a good idea. You could talk your way into another summons. For example, if there is a slight crack in your windshield, sassing the officer will only encourage him not to look past that violation and write you a summons.
Even if it were true that police issue tickets to reach a quota, they aren't going to ticket you for something you haven't done. We all need to be honest and admit that most of us speed and are guilty of one traffic violation or another almost every day. Who hasn't sped up at a changing traffic light, for example? Folks, we are all low hanging fruit for being ticketed. So, whining about quotas is actually a bit childish.
5. Never Flash Your High Beams to Warn Other Drivers of the Presence of a Trooper
Many people will disagree with this one. There is a sort of unspoken courtesy among drivers to alert each other of the presence of Old Smokey by flashing high beams. If you plan on ignoring my warning, remember this: in some states, doing it is considered interfering with official police business and could get you arrested. Despite that, if you still plan on doing it, try not to do it in sight of the police. At the very least, they will stop you and read you the riot act for doing such a thing.
Except for #3, your author has been guilty of every other thing listed here. I can honestly say, I never got a ticket I didn't deserve. Well, perhaps there was one exception. Driving one night on an empty highway, except for dozens of deer all over the place, both on and off the road, I drove with my high beams on to avoid the creatures. On the other side of the highway, I saw another car coming, but I left my beams on, passing up on the usual courtesy of lowering them. It was a State Trooper. He went out of his way to cross over the highway, chase me down and ticket me for "driving with dazzling beams and failure to dim." I thought he was kidding and told him, I had just come from a place where a young lady named Dazzling Beams was dancing. He wasn't amused. I got ticketed and he followed me for miles, while I drove at the speed limit on cruise control. Lesson learned.
If you drive, you're bound to be stopped by the police at some point. Usually there is a good reason for it. Sometimes, there isn't or the reason is marginal at best. It's annoying and we all hate it. But your life will be much simpler and happier if you do your best to cooperate with the officers. They want to be on their way as much as you do. So, take this handful of advice and drive safely.