If you’re like most folks, the thought of getting pulled over makes you nervous. Whether or not you were actually breaking any laws, the fact is that an encounter with a police officer can be unnerving. On top of that, once she’s got you pulled over that officer can look for any number of reasons to give you a ticket – sometimes more than one.
There are a number of things that police officers are looking for when pulling you over that will determine if and how you get ticketed. Some of them include:
- Signs of driving under the influence. One of the first and most important things that police officers are looking at when they pull you over is your state of mind. They want to know whether or not you’ve been drinking, or are perhaps under the influence of drugs. They’re going to listen carefully to your speech patterns, breathe deeply to see if they can smell alcohol or even marijuana, and look at thinks like whether your eyes are bloodshot and whether your movements are stuttered. If the officer thinks you’re under the influence, the simple traffic stop becomes much more complex in an instant. The best way to pass this test is to simply not drive under the influence.
- Defective equipment. The next thing that a police officer is looking for when he pulls you over is whether any of your vehicle’s equipment seems to be malfunctioning. Typically, this includes things like turn signals, emergency flashers, brake lights, or even the little light that sits above your license plate. If your car is older and in disrepair, they could even be trying to assess whether or not the vehicle is actually roadworthy, and whether it’s safe for you and for other drivers for the vehicle to be on the road. Regularly inspect your vehicle, and check for all of those odd little lights to make sure you don’t wind up getting ticketed for them.
- Your right to drive the vehicle. A police officer asks you for some specific paperwork. She needs to know that you have a legal right to drive a vehicle, that the vehicle you’re driving is legal to drive in the state, and that the vehicle meets the necessary insurance requirements. Your license, registration, and proof of insurance give her all of that information. If you don’t have one or more pieces, chances are your traffic stop is going to become more complicated. Keep your license in your wallet, and keep your other paperwork handy in a location you can easily get to and remember. If you’re driving someone else’s car, find out ahead of time where they keep that paperwork.
- Your attitude. Having a bad attitude with a police officer isn’t illegal. That said, police officers are as human as you are. If someone’s being intentionally difficult, they’re more likely to give them a hard time. Being respectful and deferential can help you to avoid a ticket, in some cases. Being belligerent will usually only result in a much closer scrutiny from the officer, and possibly result in more severe charges.
- The kind of vehicle you drive. Whether it’s a reflection on the people that drive them, or whether it’s a reflection on police officers, the fact is clear: some types of vehicles get more tickets than others. Sports cars, for example, get more tickets than minivans. Sport Utility Vehicles get more tickets than compact cars. There are a thousand factors that probably go into this from the sociological perspective, but the bottom line is this: if you don’t want to be pulled over, don’t drive a vehicle that stands out from the crowd. Some of the worst cars are the Chevy Camaro and Corvett, the BMW M3, M5, and 3-Series, the Dodge Challenger, and the Mitsubishi Eclipse.
- Evidence of illegal activity. If you have an empty bottle of booze on the back seat, a police officer is likely to notice. The same goes for a loaded handgun. In some states, radar detectors are illegal, so if you have one of those make sure it’s not out when there’s a risk of a traffic stop.
- An admission of guilt. This one is tricky. On the one hand, you want to be respectful and compliant. On the other hand, if an officer pulled you over because of a busted tail light and you answer his question of “why did I pull you over” with “I was speeding,” you can wind up with an extra ticket. Be polite, but vague when necessary.
Ostensibly, police officers are on the road to make our lives safer. Whether or not that’s really the case, the bottom line is that there are some things you can do that will almost certainly result in a ticket, while being smart can often help you avoid one.
Nick Simpson is Social Media Coordinator at Fred Loya Insurance, a leading provider of general car insurance in the Southwestern US. Fred Loya provides a unique service catered specifically to customers in multiple states, and was a pioneer in revolutionizing the Texas car insurance industry by offering multi-lingual service to all customers.