10 Things You Should Not Do (or Say) When Stopped By a Traffic Officer

September 22, 2021

If you are a novice driver who recently graduated from a driving school, you can get really nervous and anxious the first time a traffic police officer stops you. Of course, even experienced drivers who know all their rights still get quite uneasy when pulled over. Because you cannot be too sure of what to expect when stopped, there has to be a level of uncertainty. In the process, you end up doing or saying the wrongs things that may complicate the issue at hand.

Should You Panic When Stopped By The Traffic Police?

Being pulled over for whatever reason should not cause you to panic if you are a law-abiding citizen. Compose yourself and cooperate with the traffic police by answering their questions correctly.

But, even as you cooperate, are there things you should not say or do when stopped over by a traffic cop? The answer is, YES. The following are the things you should not say or do:

1. Don’t Speed Off

You have probably heard that reggae song with the chorus, “Don’t run from the policeman, don’t run from the government, if you know you are innocent.” Well, we urge you not to run, even if you know you are guilty of a traffic offense, having just been caught in the act.

Judging that they can get away with a traffic offense, some drivers ignore the police officer and drive away. You can successfully get away, but you can also be chased and cornered, in which case you will now be dealing with one more charge of trying to escape justice.

As a good citizen, always stop when signaled to stop by a police officer, even if you know they want to do a routine inspection that’s only going to waste your time. Remember, it is only through such routine checks that the cops capture some of the wanted criminals whose arrest warrants are out.

2. Don’t Hide Your Hands from the Police Officer

Once you have stopped and as the traffic police officer approaches your car, do not place your hands where he cannot see them. The cops are also usually concerned with their own safety, and that’s why they always want to see your hands.

If you keep your hands out of view, then act as though you are pulling out something (a license, say), the police officer might jump to wrong conclusions and open fire. That slight misunderstanding might not be corrected in your lifetime.

To give an officer confidence that you mean no harm, immediately turn on the interior lights if it is night, roll down the window and place your hands on the steering wheel. Don’t reach for things out of view, especially if you have not been asked to produce anything. Better still, always place your license and insurance on the dashboard before the cop gets to your car to avoid rummaging through your pockets in their presence.

3. Don’t Come Out Of the Car

When stopped by a traffic cop, do not stop and come out of your car. It can alarm the cops, especially if you have your hands hidden. Remain in the car and wait for the cops to come to you.

4. I Know My Rights; I Studied Criminal Law

You might be innocent, and you indeed know your rights, but never let a police officer look stupid or mistaken. You might be a lawyer or a judge who studied criminal law and has handled tens of traffic offense lawsuits, so you possibly have a better idea of what the traffic law stipulates. However, don’t rub it in. That’s akin to intimidating a cop. If you know your rights, keep calm.

5. Do Not Argue or Joke With a Police Officer

Avoid arguing if you can; explain yourself to the cop as respectfully as you can. If he cannot get the point, stop. He may be rude and unreasonable, but you will only make matters worse if you adopt his stance. Avoid statements like “You are lying, officer, you are lying. Let me read that radar gun for myself, officer; there is no way I could have been speeding that fast.”

Some drivers don’t argue, alright, but they indulge in light jokes, perhaps to show they are at ease. Now, it’s sometimes wise to lighten tense moments by striking some jokes, except that it can at times backfire and leave you with an egg on your face. A police checkpoint is a formal setting, not a roadside kiosk.

Some cops get irritated by whatever kind of jokes you may have ready at every checkpoint. It would be best if you remained as formal as possible. Do not tempt fate. Statements like “you look gorgeous, madam cop; you should have been a TV presenter” might the recipient the wrong way.

6. I Don’t Know How Fast I Was Driving

When asked if you know how fast you were driving, do not say you do not know. That on its own is a crime: you ought to know your speed limit at any given moment. In short, you should always know your speed limit.

But that will only save you if you were not driving beyond the speed limit. Saying, “yes, I know I was driving beyond the speed limit by 30KMP”, is as good as testifying against yourself in court. Remember, some cops will audio or video record you as you answer the questions when pulled over.

7. Everyone Is Speeding and You Just Single Me Out

Some drivers who have been caught speeding defend themselves by making the offense seem common. Everyone is speeding, they say, why me? I was only trying to keep up with the traffic, officer!

Please do not ask a traffic cop why he chose you. It irritates them further. Please don’t take it personal because you well know it is not. You might as well start by asking for a warning.

8. Officer, I Want to See Your Badge Number

Some drivers will arrogantly demand to see the officer’s badge number as the officer writes a ticket. This is usually more of a threat and intimidation than the need to have that information.

Do not ask for a cop to show his badge number as he writes your ticket. Do not even ask him to spell his name. All these will be on the ticket.

If you feel the officer is overreaching or is rude, you should raise this in court if the case gets that far, or report the matter to the police department. You have the right to know his name and badge number, just know that some rights are not worth pursuing.

9. I Have Been Drinking

If you are drunk, the breathalyzer will prove it, should your eyes or behaviors fail to. So there is no point confirming audibly that you have been drinking. You have nothing to gain. If the officer is recording your speeches, then you have also helped him build a strong case against you.

10. You Can Search My Car, Officer

Never consent to a search because you will find it hard to challenge any evidence that the officer finds in your car if you gave him consent. If an officer has legal grounds to search your car, he will always do it even without your consent. So, you really have no say when push comes to shove.

Wrap Up

Why do we need the traffic officers?The traffic police officers are there to protect the lives of the road users by enforcing the rules or laws that create order along the roads. They are just doing their job. Part of their job involves locking you up or ensuring you pay a fine if you are caught breaking the traffic rules. For that reason, you may have reason to be scared stiff when pulled over at the checkpoint.

If you are a good driver who follows the law, you will be less anxious when stopped at a traffic police checkpoint. At Pierre Paul Driving School, we ensure you become a good driver who makes the work of the traffic cops easier.