When the Lights Turn On: 8 Things to Do When You’re Pulled Over By Police

We all know that situation. You’re driving and suddenly you hear sirens and see flashing lights in your rearview mirror. You wonder — what have I done? Was I speeding? Will I get a ticket? Getting pulled over by police is scary. But don’t worry, you’re not alone. Police officers issue millions of speeding tickets every year.

It’s always unclear how we should react in this situation. Should we be obedient and respectful to the officer? Or refuse to say or do anything without the presence of your lawyer?

Here are 8 things to do when you’re pulled over by the police.

1. Pull to a Safe Area

The minute you notice you’re getting pulled over, take a deep breath, turn on your emergency lights, and find somewhere safe to pull over.

Common examples include the shoulder of the road or even a side street. If you’re near a business, you should also be able to pull into their parking lot.

What if you’re on a busy road with no side streets or shoulders? Or, what if you’re driving on a two-lane road with little room to pull over? Always stick to the right side of the road. This always poses the least hazards for other drivers.

The exception is if you’re already in the farthest left lane. If this is the case, pull onto a side street or stop in a median.

If you’re getting pulled over at night, stop somewhere that’s well-lit. Don’t forget — traffic stops are dangerous for officers. A well-lit area ensures they will be at ease.

2. Be Prepared

Immediately after you stop, turn off the engine and roll down your windows.

You’ll also want to have your license and registration in hand for when the officer approaches your car. If you’re pulled over at night, turn on your dome light so the officer can see inside your car.

Preparing yourself beforehand helps speed up the process. This also tells the officer you’re obedient, so you may be less likely to receive a ticket.

However, there’s an exception. If the officer approaches your window before you can grab your documents, acknowledge them first. Don’t reach for your documents until after the officer requests them.

3. Stay in the Car

Hand over the documents and the officer will return to their car to run your information. They do this to look up your driving status, if you’re on parole, and if you have had past violations.

While the officer is doing this, stay in your car. Leaving your car for any reason can look suspicious.

4. Have Your Hands Out

As stated previously, traffic stops are dangerous for an officer. When the officer is speaking with you, always display your hands.

This looks less suspicious; if the officer can’t see your hands, they may assume you’re reaching for a weapon. The last thing you want is for the officer to think you’re a threat — especially if you’re not.

Keep your hands on the steering wheel. This position looks natural and the officer can easily see your hands from the window.

5. Stay Calm

Take a deep breath. Understand there’s nothing to be nervous about. Even if you broke a minor traffic law (not using your turn signal, etc.) this violation is nothing compared to what the police endures every day.

For the most part, drivers can get off with a warning. If the officer thinks you seriously offended a traffic law, you’ll be issued a ticket. Compared to other outcomes, a traffic ticket is simple.

6. Always Be Polite

Regardless of the reason for the traffic stop, being polite is key. Be obedient and answer any questions that are within your right.

If you committed a minor traffic violation, such as driving a little fast, it’s best to admit it. They may let you off with a warning. Even if they issue a ticket, continue being polite to ensure the ticket doesn’t turn into a more serious charge.

However, you should always know your rights. You aren’t required to admit your offense. As long as you stay calm and polite, the officer will have no reason to suspect you of anything serious.

7. Don’t Admit Wrongdoing for Serious Offenses

What if you suspect your traffic stop was more severe?

For example, let’s say you’ve been drinking and you’re positive you’re over the legal limit. Don’t say anything about your wrongdoing. Anything you say can be used against you in court.

However, you don’t want to lie. There’s a reason why the officer pulled you over — there’s some proof that you committed a traffic violation. They could have recorded your speed. If you’ve been drinking, they can smell the alcohol.

So, what do you say if the officer asks you that famous “have you been drinking” or “do you know why I pulled you over” questions? A simple answer such as “I’d rather not say” indicates you’re acting within your rights.

8. Inform the Officer If You’re Armed

Whether you’re carrying a gun or pepper spray, the officer should know if you have any sort of weapon on hand. If you are carrying a gun, also display your gun permit.

Even if you don’t live in a “must inform” state, an officer has the right to ask for your weapon and to hold onto it for the duration of the stop.

Can you lie about carrying a weapon? Sure, but this is a bad idea. First, it makes you look suspicious. Second, an officer can spot a weapon easier than you think. For example, if you have a gun on a holster, an officer can spot this easily.

Pulled Over By the Police? Stay Calm

No one likes getting pulled over by the police. If it happens, stay calm and obedient. In some cases, assert your rights. However, you should never give an officer a reason to be suspicious of you.

What if you were arrested during a traffic stop? You’ll need a bail bond to get out of jail. If you’re in Raleigh, take a look at our bail bond services.