How To Handle A Traffic Stop

For cops, there’s no such thing as a routine traffic stop. For Albuquerque (NM) Police Officer Lou Golson, this traffic stop started out like a thousand other traffic stops but, as the video above shows, this stop was anything but routine.

As a traffic school instructor I’ve heard a lot of complaints about the conduct of police officers during traffic stops but, from the perspective of law enforcement officers, they never know how the situation may turn out and they must always be on guard during a traffic stop. As the person who’s being stopped, you may be angry but the police officer is understandably fearful. When a driver who has been stopped is belligerent or argumentative, the officer on the scene is going to reply in kind.

It’s important for the driver who has been stopped to think about what’s happening from the perspective of the police officer. If a police officer is directing you to pull over, signal for a turn to the right, then move over to the right side of the road and pull over in a way that gives you plenty of clearance between you and the traffic on the road. Pulling far to the right is both for your safety and the safety of the officer.

It’s common for a driver who’s been pulled over to immediately start reaching for their driver’s license or to look in the glove compartment for their vehicle registration. The police officer who sees this activity doesn’t know if you are reaching for your registration or a gun. He or she will be automatically on guard. Once you’ve pulled over, roll down your window and place your hands in clear view on the steering wheel. Don’t try to reach for anything until you’ve been directed to by the officer.

Always wait for and follow the officers directions. When the officer asks for your license and registration, let the officer know that you’ll need to reach for your wallet, purse, or into the glove compartment to get it. You’re nervous but he’s even more nervous; don’t make any quick movements. Communicating openly with the officer will make everything go much more smoothly.

Don’t try to argue with the officer or offer excuses; he or she has already heard them all. The officer often has discretion to issue a warning or give a ticket for a lesser offense; the more cooperative you are, the better the chance that the officer will exercise that discretion.

Another danger involved in a traffic stop is failure of other drivers to obey the “Move Over Law”. If the officer asks you to step out of the vehicle, follow the officer’s directions about where to go and stand. The video below shows why you shouldn’t stand close to the roadway or between the vehicles.