Getting pulled over by the police when driving is super stressful and nerve-wracking. Your hands may start to shake, your mind starts to race, you get scared and often, you may be unsure of what caused you to get pulled over in the first place.
Traffic stops are high-stress situations for both drivers and law enforcement, which can quickly escalate scenarios of misunderstanding and miscommunication into situations of compromised safety. Recent headlines and current events have brought to light the importance of taking action and working together as a community to better ensure the safety and security of all during routine traffic stops.
As drivers, specific actions and measures can be taken to promote safer traffic stops and better communication with law enforcement. Russ Eldore, owner of police-led Westminster 911 Driving School, has shared the following best practices on what local drivers should do, know and say when pulled over by police:
1. Don't panic. A lot of people panic when they see the emergency lights behind them. When safe, pull to the RIGHT and stop. If you are in an intersection or roundabout, get through the intersection or roundabout and then pull over. Do not pull to the left or into a two-way turn lane. If it is not a safe spot, the officer will usually tell you over their P.A. where to move, so be sure to have your music turned off and maybe even the window cracked to hear that.
2. Safety is the number one priority of a police officer -- both your safety and theirs. Keep in mind that police officer does not know who they are pulling over, but you know it's the police pulling you over. Always obey the officer's commands.
3. When the law enforcement officer approaches the car, don't be fidgeting around. Keep your hands on the wheel. At night, turning your dome lights on is also advisable. He/she will ask for your license, registration, and proof of Insurance. Don't get out of your car unless asked to do so.
4. It's very important to remember not to reach quickly for things and do not lunge for the glove box. Before you reach into the glove box, it is best practice to first ask: "Can I open the glove box to get my registration and insurance card?" The clear communication will make the officer feel better that you're giving them warning of what you're reaching for. Should you have a concealed carry permit, it's best to hand that licensed card to the officer along with your driver's license, registration and insurance. This will prevent any alarm or suspicion related to your registered firearm.
5. Officers will normally tell you why you're being pulled over right off the bat. On a routine stop, the officer should be polite and answer questions. He/she should explain any warnings or tickets and what you have to do to take care of it. Don't whine or beg, but you can explain your actions. You can ask questions.
6. It's also important to know that with a reasonable suspicion, police officers do have the legal authority to:
-- Order everyone out of the car
-- Pat everyone down.
-- Search the car, no warrant needed,
-- Put you in their car until resolution
-- Request a sobriety test
-- Arrest you, make you post bond and tow your car.
7. Realize that traffic safety is an important part of the officer's responsibilities in protecting the community, it's not personal. Consider thanking him/her even if you get a ticket. His/her copy of the ticket will have notes on it and your attitude, good or bad, will be noted.
For more information, contact Westminster 911 Driving School at https://911drivingschool.com/colorado/ or call (303) 425-0911.