3 Traffic Stop Tips To Help Keep Your Driving Record Clean

You’re rollicking along four lanes of highway when you realize a set of flashing blue lights in the rear view mirror. At this point, many motorists start to panic and replay the last several minutes in their heads, wondering what — if anything — they did to attract the attention of a police officer.

Apprehension and concern is only natural, especially when you’re not used to being pulled over; however, it’s very important that you keep your cool and prepare for the interaction ahead.

In fact, according to Officer Harold McClellan, a 25-year veteran police officer in New York State, an individual’s behavior largely dictates how smoothly the stop will go.

“Good choices lead to good outcomes,” McClellan told Nationwide Insurance in a recent post. “That doesn’t necessarily mean no ticket, but it can certainly influence how generous an officer is feeling.”

In order to survive the traffic stop with your head held high, McClellan shared the following tips:


Pull Over Promptly.

While you shouldn’t panic and commit more driving infractions trying to pull over — think: cutting people off, jumping curbs, and slamming on brakes in the middle of rush hour traffic — you should start to consider the best location to pull over and then make controlled, concise movements to get off the road and into a parked position.

McClellan adds that you should avoid coasting for long distances, because doing so will increase suspicion. “It suggests you’re trying to buy some time to hide something. It definitely increases the chances of a simple stop being elevated to a search.”

Instead, he advises you to “use your signal and slow down gradually,” moving as close to the shoulder of the road as possible “to avoid danger to your vehicle and to the officer.” Then: “Roll down your window and turn off your engine.”


Show Your Hands.

You don’t have to get out of the car with your hands above your head — not unless the officer tells you to, that is — but you should keep your hands visible at all times. Each year, many officers are assaulted or killed during routine traffic stops, so it’s something they approach very cautiously. McClellan advises that the best way to establish a sense of comfort or trust “is to keep your hands in view at all times,” placing them “on the steering wheel as the police officer is approaching” and then keeping them there. In darkness, it’s best to switch on the overhead light and to reach for items or documents “only when requested to do so and state what you are doing before taking an action.”

“Nothing makes an officer more nervous than not being able to see someone’s hands,” McClellan said.


Show Respect.

McClellan advises that “honey” works better than “vinegar” in these situations, and that it can be the difference between a warning and a citation depending on how the officer is feeling. That means you should try a simple “yes, sir/ma’am,” and “no, sir/ma’am,” and allow the officer to start every exchange. “Answer questions politely and clearly,” he tells Nationwide. “Don’t try to argue your way out of the ticket — save debate for the court appearance.”

“Arguing or lying to an officer is one sure way to turn what should be a short routine stop into a much lengthier and more challenging event,” he adds.


In Summary

While an auto insurance company won’t judge you directly on how friendly you are to a police officer, your behaviors can (and likely will) be reflected in your insurance rates should you get yourself into hot water with tickets and moving violations. Interacting with an officer and getting yourself out of these situations isn’t an exact science, and you may not always be successful. But as long as you’re prepared for the stop and you keep things feeling safe and respectful for the officer, you’ll be better off.

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