Originally published: September/October 2017

Almost every driver gets pulled over by law enforcement at least once during their driving career. AAA held focus groups with Law Enforcement Officers and driving instructors to develop the following steps for what to do when you are pulled over.

Step 1: Pulling over

After you see flashing lights behind you, the first thing to do is communicate to the officer that you see them by waving or turning on your hazard flashers. Slowly pull over in a safe location and out of traffic.

  1. Put your vehicle in Park, with your foot off the brake pedal.
  2. Remain in the vehicle, unless otherwise instructed.
  3. Turn the radio down to zero volume.
  4. Roll your window down all the way. If the officer approaches on the right, roll down that window.
  5. Keep your safety belt fastened.
  6. At night, turn your interior light on.
  7. Don’t reach for any object before the officer approaches and asks you to do so.

Step 2: The Officer approaches your vehicle

It may be a minute or two before the Law Enforcement Officer approaches your vehicle. They may be telling their radio dispatch that they are engaged in a traffic stop and may also look up your vehicle based on its license plate.

The Officer must be ready at all times for the driver to pose a serious threat. Any driver could become aggressive and attack them. That’s why it’s important for you to present yourself as low-risk. As the officer approaches, position your hands at 10 & 2 on the steering wheel or extend them out your window a bit. If you have passengers with you, also have them keep their hands where they are visible.

Step 3: Conversations with the Officer

Allow the officer to start the conversation. How you respond to the officer sets the tone for the entire traffic stop. Also:

  • Follow the officer’s instructions.
  • Answer all questions truthfully, but keep your responses short and sweet.
  • Be patient about learning why you were pulled over – you’ll get your answer.
  • Reach for your license and other documents only after the officer asks you to provide them, and do so slowly.
  • Be honest, courteous and polite!

Final step

Do not drive away until the officer says it’s OK to do so. Be very careful pulling back into traffic.



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