Here at Traffic Safety GA, we would always prefer everyone to drive carefully – and lawfully – at all times. We believe it’s the best way for all of us to arrive safely to our destinations, and, as you may have noticed, ‘Safety’ is right there in our name. At the same time, we know that the realities of the road are what they are, and chances are good that nearly every driver will be pulled over by the police for speeding at some point in their lifetime. Your dear Aunt Gertrude, who brags about her perfect driving record every time someone mentions getting a ticket, is the exception. Nice work, Aunt Gertrude.
For the rest of us, it’s important to know what to do in the event we are pulled over for speeding. If that ever happens to you, you should remain calm, stay focused, and follow these simple tips to make both yourself and the officer who pulled you over as comfortable as possible.
#1 – Slow Down
Alright, that was a bit of a cheap shot. But obviously, as soon as those lights come on behind you and you determine the officer is looking to pull you over, you need to slow your vehicle down and look for a safe place to stop. You want to leave yourself plenty of room on the side of the road, and you also want to pull over somewhere the officer has room to park and walk safely up to your driver’s side window.
Additionally, you want to slow yourself down and keep calm. No doubt your mind will be racing with thoughts like, ‘How fast was I going? How much is my ticket going to be? How did he miss the guy in the sports car that blazed past me a couple of minutes ago?’
As relevant (or irrelevant) as these thoughts may be, they aren’t the most important thing at the moment. The most important thing is to pull over to the side of the road safely.
#2 – Prepare for the Interview
You wouldn’t go to a job interview without putting on some decent looking clothes and taking a shower, would you? By the same token, you shouldn’t go into the interview with the police officer, who will be standing by your car momentarily, without making preparations. First up, turn off your car. Nothing says, “I’m about to lead you on an insane car chase that makes the evening news and ends up on YouTube,” like sitting there with your engine on. Turn off your engine.
Next, consider the time of day and visibility. If it’s dark outside and the officer is going to have a hard time seeing you or the inside of your vehicle, go ahead and turn on your cabin lights. You should also roll down your window. If your window isn’t working for some reason, don’t open your door. Just be prepared to speak a little more loudly and explain the window situation.
What you don’t do is also important. While it may be tempting to get ahead of the game and grab your license, registration, and proof of insurance, you don’t really want to be digging through your glovebox and console as the officer approaches. He doesn’t know you from Adam, and has no idea whether you are grabbing documentation or a weapon. Put yourself in the officer’s shoes and remember that while your family and friends know how nice and awesome you are, the police officer who just pulled you over hasn’t gotten to know you yet and often deals with violent criminals.
Rather than digging around in your vehicle, place your hands on your steering wheel at 10 and 2. (Like a clock, you know?) Maintain this position until the officer arrives.
When he gets to your window, go ahead and look his way. Now begins the next phase of our little interview.
#3 – Nail the Interview
The officer will probably initiate your interaction with some form of normal human greeting, and then will likely have some questions for you. They may ask you, for example, if you know why they pulled you over. This article is assuming that you have been pulled over for speeding (it’s right there in the title, see?). And, let’s get real: if you’ve been pulled over for speeding, 99 times out of 100, you know exactly why you were pulled over. You were speeding. You know you were speeding. The officer knows you were speeding. If you have a passenger, they know you were speeding. The officer knows you know they know you were speeding. And now you know that the officer knows you know. So, knowing the officer knows you know, and recognizing that you do indeed know, what should you most definitely not say to the officer in that moment?
“I don’t know.”
Come on. Who are you kidding? You were speeding. Don’t act like a kid who just got caught with his hand in the cookie jar. Don’t get cute. “Oh gee, I don’t know officer. Gee whiz, why did you pull me over? Hmmm?” It’s a bit obnoxious, isn’t it? Much better is the simple, graceful, “I was going too fast.” Ahh, the simple relief of confession.
The officer may at that point ask you if you know how fast you were going. It is up to you how you handle this, whether by offering the exact speed if you know it, or just ballparking it, but bear in mind that the officer, again, knows exactly how fast you were going, so there’s really no point in lowballing it. You aren’t going to trick anyone.
Be upfront, be friendly, and be sincere. Treat the officer respectfully and be straight with them. They are authority figures, sure, but at the end of the day they are just people doing their jobs, with their own private hopes and dreams. They want to stay safe, they want to keep you safe, and they want to enforce the law. It should be easy for anyone who has ever worked a job to empathize with them.
Making the Best of It
Getting pulled over for speeding isn’t fun. And while the tips above will prove helpful in the event you are pulled over, they are no guarantee you will receive a warning rather than a ticket, and paying a speeding ticket is no fun either.
But that’s part of the deal we make when we drive on the road. In order to ensure our collective safety and wellbeing, we sacrifice some degree of autonomy and power. It’s just a fact. We can’t all be in front all the time, we can’t all drive as fast as we want all the time, but what we can do is enjoy the freedom and autonomy we have within the broad strictures of the system we have agreed to participate in. And treating police officers who pull you over with total respect and empathy, while being honest about your decision to speed, is a key part of that social arrangement.
So, slow down, drive safe, and, if you do get pulled over for speeding, tell the truth. It’s the right way to make the most of a situation you wanted to avoid but nevertheless wound up in.