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It’s a strange feeling, being out of law enforcement for almost two years now.
But there is one thing that seems never to change. The questions start flowing when someone discovers I used to wear the uniform.
One question seems to be at the top of the list. It might be because we are approaching the holiday season.
The most common thing people want to know, in one form or another, “How do I not get pulled over?”
Generally, I shake my head and say something like, “Don’t be stupid.”
But today, I want to share a few things I looked for when pulling over a vehicle.
Side note if you didn’t already know. I was a sworn police officer in the state of California.
That means these laws are specific to California. I’m sure you will find you have similar regulations in your area.
Don’t be stupid
Sometimes people get bent out of shape when you say things so straightforwardly. But I really do mean that.
The best way to avoid getting pulled over is to break the law. Use common sense.
I know, it’s easier said than done.
Many people don’t know that the California Vehicle Code is a thick book. The sections range from equipment violations doing unsafe or dangerous things, and many more.
You might think the violations I’m listing are straightforward, but there is a reason I’m mentioning them.
Out of the cars that I’ve pulled over, most of them were avoidable.
Something funny I read many years ago:
In the United States, red, white, and blue are patriotic.
That is, until you see those lights flashing behind you.
Let’s try and prevent that from happening to you.
Things not to do
At first, this was going to be a list of the top 10 ways, but once I started writing, there were more than 10.
We all know what not to do when driving a vehicle, but let’s be honest, people get lazy and complacent behind the wheel.
I constantly reminded people, which is why I’m mentioning here: driving is a privilege and not a right.
So many people want to argue that fact, but if you read the DMV paperwork you signed when getting your license, you will see that is the case.
Or, put another way, from the CA DMV.
A California driver’s license is a card which gives you permission to operate a motor vehicle.
Now, all that is out of the way, let’s get to the simple things you can do to prevent being pulled over.
- Don’t ever drink and drive. Not only is it stupid, but you will be paying it for years!
- Never talk or text on your cell phone (this includes holding it while it’s on speaker, the law is HANDS-FREE!)
- I remember stopping someone that used a rubber band to hold it to his ear. This one was pretty funny. I’ve also seen people use their hats and many other ways to keep their phone hands-free.
- Do not have headphones or earbuds in both ears (one is okay, but it’s illegal to have both ears covered while driving or even riding a bicycle)
- Always come to a complete stop at stop signs. I realize it’s called a California stop, but that doesn’t mean it’s legal.
- Watch your speed and the posted speed limit (fun fact, if you are going under the posted speed limit, you can also be stopped).
- Wear your seatbelt (here’s another fun fact, a driver can be cited for a passenger not wearing their seatbelt! Oh yeah, and so can the passenger.)
- Don’t transport people in the bed of your truck. It’s stupid and illegal in the state of California.
- Lighting equipment is a big one. There are many things that you can be stopped for.
- Ensure all your lights are working (headlights, brake lights, license plate lights, etc.)
- Yes, I wrote that you need a rear license plate light. That one gets a lot of people.
- Did you know if your car is a 1969 or newer, you even need two white backup lights?
- Don’t get me started about all those aftermarket multicolored lights. Don’t have them unless you want to get stopped.
- Something nobody wants to hear, side window tint. As I said, I’m based in California, but any window tint (on the windshield, driver, and passenger front windows) is illegal.
Some extras for you
- Most cars need to have two license plates (one in the front and one in the rear)
- Plates must also be permanently attached, visible, and displayed left to right (not sideways or upside down).
- Remember to always turn your headlights on if it’s raining or inclement weather. NOT your high beams!
- Speaking of high beams. If you are following or approaching a vehicle, you MUST dim your lights (no high beams!)
- Lastly, I will share the one violation that drives me crazy (pun intended)—flicking a lit cigarette out of your window (or any burning substance, for that matter).
Things to keep in mind
As I’m writing this, my head is full of more suggestions and ideas to share.
So here are a few bonus thoughts for you.
Be respectful and obey commands.
If you take away one thing from this post, always be respectful.
Depending on the violation, there are three outcomes, and it’s not always a ticket. One way to tip this in your favor is to be respectful.
If you have tinted windows, roll them down (especially the rear windows), which allows the officer to see who and what is in your vehicle.
Unless instructed otherwise, ALWAYS STAY IN YOUR VEHICLE!
I cannot tell you how often people jump out of their cars as the officer approaches. That is an excellent way to end up on the ground or worse.
Yield to ALL emergency lights
You must yield to the right side of the road when you see the emergency lights behind you.
Just because a police car is behind you, with lights and siren blaring, doesn’t mean it’s for you.
They are often going to a priority call, and the sooner you pull over, the better for everyone.
Additionally, the officer knows their jurisdictions (the areas they patrol). Meaning they might be following you for some time before pulling you over. A lot is going on when an Officer initiates a traffic stop.
A few of those, including
- Time of day
- Location of the stop
- Are there any priority calls
- Is it safe for the driver and officer
- Do you have any warrants for your arrest?
The short of it is that officers want to ensure you don’t pull over in a dangerous place for you or them.
Everyone has questions
And I mean everyone. For some comic relief, check out one of the best Chris Rock videos I’ve seen.
The video is just under four minutes long.
Traffic Stops – An inside look
Again, as I mentioned above, these have been many of the questions I’ve gotten. Next, I will take a minute and explain what I used to do.
Remember, everyone is different, and what worked for me might not necessarily work for them.
First, I would NEVER ask the driver, “Do you know why I pulled you over?” I have always thought that was lame.
Something I found helpful was always to explain the reason for the stop and ask if there was any reason why they (the driver) did what they did.
A large number of the population have never been pulled over before. Once the patriotic lights flash behind them, everyone has some nervousness and anxiety.
This would allow the driver to explain why. After hearing what they said (fun extra note, there are a few reasons for asking this. But that could be another post altogether).
At this point, I would tell the driver to stay in their vehicle and that I would return shortly.
Also, at this point, the officer has all the info from the driver (their license, insurance, and registration), also the driver/passenger/vehicle history and information.
There are generally three outcomes when you get pulled over.
You receive a warning
You get issued a ticket
You get arrested
When I issued a warning, I would explain why.
An arrest is pretty self-explanatory.
If I gave a ticket, I would describe it to the driver.
- I would explain the sections of the ticket (we hand-wrote ours)
- Underline the phone number at the bottom (which was to the court)
- Explain the next steps and what to expect (depending on the ticket issued)
- Ask the driver if they have any questions
- And last, have the driver sign the ticket
Overall, this helped both parties, didn’t take much time, and something I never understood started to happen.
People would thank me. Yeah, I’m being honest, and it tripped me out too.
Have you been pulled over?
First off, I want to hear your stories. Leave a comment below or send me an email.
There are some excellent ones out there. Such as, I have met a few people who later informed me that I stopped them.
It was always interesting to see what their take was on the situation. I’m pleased to say all went well (including a few I arrested).
For anyone in law enforcement, especially the new officers. First off, thanks for reading this post and for your service.
Second, I suggest you keep a notebook of all your funny calls. You can thank me later. I wish I had done this because I could have written a book by now.
And for everyone else, if you’ve been pulled over, what was it for? How did it go?
And did you thank the officer for treating you like a human being?
Let me know in the comments below!
And to end on a positive note, we do go to donut shops.
I always referred to them as “Power Rings,” though.
One early morning I had to get at least one picture of it.
I knew one day it would come in handy.