Getting pulled over for a traffic violation is seldom an enjoyable experience. While we have all experienced the “pain” of the bright lights flashing in our rear view mirror, how many of us really, truly know exactly what to do when we are pulled over?
Your safety—and that of the Officer’s—is at stake anytime you are pulled off on the side of the road. I asked Sandy Gutierrez, the Senior Public Information Officer for the San Antonio Police Department for pointers on the proper etiquette to receiving a traffic violation “with grace”–okay, the last two words are mine but there really is a protocol to getting a ticket. Here we go…
How can I tell if the flashing lights are intended for me?
Gutierrez says that “if you are moving to the right and the vehicle continues to follow you then the lights are for you.” I have also noticed a time or two that the nice officer said something on the loud speaker and I quickly figured out that the violator was me. I immediately wondered how long he was following me and how many people saw me before I looked in my rear view mirror. Cue the accelerated heart beat and sweaty palms.
What is the correct (and safest) way to pull over?
The decision to immediately pull over onto the right shoulder or wait for a freeway exit is a difficult one; you don’t want the Officer to think you are invoking a highway chase but you don’t want to get an additional ticket for unsafe driving and changing lanes. “Be sure to check your mirrors,” Gutierrez advises on pulling over. “Utilize your signal lights as you move over, and avoid sudden braking which can lead to an accident.” Acknowledge the officer by briefly turning on your hazard lights or waving your hand in the rearview mirror. If there is sufficient space on the shoulder and you can safely get there, pull over to the right shoulder. If an appropriate amount of space is not available on the shoulder, or one does not exist, then take the nearest exit in the safest possible manner. And for heaven’s sakes, don’t forget to use your blinker.
Once you are safely pulled over to the side of the road, Gutierrez says “Place your vehicle in park, turn down your radio, end any phone call you may be on, and have your hands on the wheel when the Officer approaches. If it is during the evening hours, turn on your dome light so the inside of your vehicle is illuminated.” I can’t believe it! She said “end your phone call”. If I were an officer and I walked up to a passenger that was on their cell phone I would be irritated beyond measure. I’d give them a ticket – for rude behavior. Ugh.
Okay, I digress. Gutierrez urges you to wait until the officer has reached your car before your start digging around for your ID or insurance card. No quick moves. And whatever you do, stay in your car for obvious reasons. Gutierrez gives two reasons for this: “the Officer has no idea what your intentions are and may cause an unwanted reaction on his/her part. Secondly, the side of the road is a dangerous place to be because of other drivers on the road and the last place you need to be is standing outside of your vehicle”.
Can I ask to see the radar gun?
Some states allow you to ask to see the radar if you think you were targeted unfairly, but not the State of Texas. The state “does not require Officers to show the radar to a person stopped for speeding” says Gutierrez, and she does not recommend asking to see it. The biggest piece of advice and wisdom she offers is to “be respectful and understand that receiving a citation doesn’t mean you are guilty. You have the right to contest it in court, so don’t feel the need to do it on the side of the freeway where you and the Officer are in a position to be struck by a vehicle.” I personally feel like you are challenging police authority by asking to see the radar gun – really, you know you were speeding!
What about a few tears? Forget it! Crying will not typically get you out of a speeding ticket and you will ruin your makeup before you get to work. Slow down, stay off your cell phone, eat your breakfast and put on your mascara before you leave the house.
You can see me talk about this segment on the San Antonio Living Show. Drive safe and PLEASE get off your cell phone!