What to do if you're pulled over by the police

No matter who you are or where you're going, getting stopped by a police officer is an unpleasant intrusion into your day. Knowing what to do if you're pulled over can help you be on your way as soon as possible.
Pulling over
You see the blue and red lights flashing in your rear-view mirror. Now what? Auto insurer Progressive recommends not panicking, for starters. Then, as soon as it is safe to do so, do the following:
  • Put on your turn signal and head toward the right side of the road. Don't stop on the left shoulder or in the middle of the road.
  • Stop as close to your original location as possible to have a better geographic reference if any traffic violations are alleged.
  • Pull as far off the road as far as possible to allow more room for the police officer to safely approach your vehicle.
  • Stay inside your car. Don't get out unless the officer asks you to do so.
  • If it's dark out, turn on the interior light. Being able to see you can put the officer at ease.
  • Stay still (with your hands on the wheel) until the police officer approaches.
Dealing with the officer
It's extremely frustrating to be digging through your glove compartment with the police officer looking on. So it's important to have these critical vehicle documents easily accessible:
  • Driver's license.
  • Vehicle registration.
  • Proof of insurance.
Proof of insurance is not something that every police officer will ask for, but auto insurance is required in most states. If you don't have the card, you may be required to present it in court to avoid a fine.
Don't go rummaging through your pockets or your glove compartment until the officer asks you to present your documents. Doing so as the officer approaches might make him or her think you're looking for a weapon. It's also important to communicate respectfully with the officer. Don't pick a fight. You can contest the ticket in court later -- during a traffic stop is not the time. You can, however, ask to see the officer's badge and photo identification. In fact, this might be a good safety precaution if the car that pulls you over is unmarked.
Flying under the radar
You can avoid the unpleasantness of traffic stops altogether by following the rules of the road. According to Edmunds.com, the following violations are red flags for law enforcement:
  • Speeding.
  • Illegal cellphone use. Many states have primary enforcement laws when it comes to using your phone behind the wheel. That means an officer can pull you over for cellphone use alone; no other infraction (like speeding) is necessary.
  • Hazardous driving. This category includes illegal U-turns, failure to stop at a red light and failure to yield.
  • Equipment violations. This could include anything from expired plates to broken taillights.
  • Aggressive driving. Following the driver ahead too closely or improperly changing lanes (cutting another driver off) will get you pulled over if an officer sees it happen.

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