Seeing a flashing red light in your rearview mirror is the adult equivalent of being caught with your hand in the cookie jar. If you’re human, you’re first reaction is to wonder what you did wrong and then figure out how you’re going to talk your way out of the ticket that’s probably going to affect your car insurance. While the best way to maintain cheap car insurance premiums is not to get ticketed in the first place, stuff happens. So here’s some wise advice about what to do if you are pulled over by the police.
Accept it. Law enforcement officers have the right to pull you over if they have a reasonable suspicion that you’ve violated a law. Could be tossing litter out the window, a broken tail light, expired tags, speeding, failure to signal or any of a zillion other reasons. Don’t cop an attitude with the cop.
Pull over as soon as it is safe to do so, turn off your engine and stay in your car. Don’t do anything that is going to freak out the officer (like leaning over to look under your front seat). Sit quietly with your hands in plain sight on the steering wheel and wait till the officer approaches you. By the way, keep your seat belt buckled (you don’t want to get ticketed for that, too).
Besides showing your driver’s license, you’re going to have to produce proof of car insurance and your registration. Keep them in a convenient place so you don’t have to fumble around while you’re nervous.
Only get out of your car if you’re asked to do so. Here again, you don’t want to do anything that gives the police any reason to think you’re a dangerous character.
You have the right to ask why you’ve been stopped and you should keep the conversation to that topic. Be polite, professional and brief in your responses. Never voluntarily admit your guilt. For example, if the police officer asks if you know why you were stopped or if you know how fast you were going, your best answer is a simple “no.” This will be important if you decide to fight the ticket in court, which is also your right and can help keep points off your driving record.
Signing a ticket is not an admission of guilt, so don’t prolong your agony or antagonize the cop by arguing about it. Do ask the officer to explain the nature of the ticket and what steps you’re supposed to take before you sign and drive away.
If you have any reason to suspect that the person pulling you over is not a police officer, drive to a well-lit or crowded public place before you pull over (you can always explain that action later). If you’ve already stopped and are having doubts, lock your doors, roll your window down a crack and ask to see the officer’s badge and photo id. If you’re still queasy, request that the officer call a supervisor to the scene or ask to follow the officer to the nearest police station.
Finally, don’t automatically pay a ticket. This will inevitably cause your car insurance rates to go up. You may be able to fight the conviction in traffic court, get the fine reduced or go to traffic school in lieu of payment, which will keep the violation off your record and help keep your car insurance cheap.