Any time you get behind the wheel, there’s a chance that you’re gonna screw up and get pulled over. If it happens, hopefully the reason is an honest mistake that didn’t endanger anyone.
The first time I got pulled over, I was lucky and had my mom on Bluetooth when I saw lights in my rearview mirror. It was followed by my thoughts of “I think I’m getting pulled over,” “Can I pull over here?” and “I swear I wasn’t speeding.” She was able to talk me through what to do and joke about telling the cop he “was my first,” as I’d never been pulled over before.
Anyways, if you end up with a person in blue behind you, just take a few deep breaths, cross your fingers and keep these basic instructions in mind to get out of there with minimal damage to your record:
Whether you’re aware of what you did wrong or not, just stay calm and keep your mind clear. Spewing apologies the second you roll down your window won’t help, so take a deep breath and try to steady your hands and voice.
Pull over ASAP
Ideally, you’ll want to pull over onto a shoulder. But, even if you’re on a main road, signal with your blinker to the right and then put on your hazards. Don’t worry about it being a safe road to stop or somewhere you’re “allowed” to stop, you’ve got a police escort. Put the car in park once you’ve stopped.
License and registration
You’re gonna need these. A good rule of thumb is to not reach until the cop can see you to avoid looking sketchy. My wallet was right next to me, so that was easy to grab, but my registration was hidden beneath a whole bunch of crap. So, keep your glove box as organized as possible to minimize paperwork search time. Also, if you do have a concealed carry license with the weapon in the car, don’t reach for anything and instead let the cop know when they come to your window.
If you have no idea what the officer is asking of you or what to do, just be honest. Despite how they may be portrayed in any media, the majority of policemen and women stand by their role to protect and serve. Let them serve you by asking questions and letting them know that you’re unsure.
Know your rights
In an ideal world, police-civilian interactions would be cut and dried, but cellphone videos have proven that this isn’t always the case. Fingers crossed you never have an interaction with police where you feel threatened, but in case you you do, educate yourself on your rights to know when they cross a legal line.
It takes a few minutes for the cop to write down your tag information before coming up to the window. Then, it’ll take time to process and run your license and registration. Just suck it up and wait.
Once everything is set and done, you can pull away first, just be sure to signal with your blinker. But, if you need a minute to just sit and center yourself, you can do that as well. Things happen, and this is just a reminder as to why it is so important to stay aware of your surroundings at all times.
Featured image by Emily Creighton