What to do when you are pulled over

Photo Credit: Southern Ute Police Dept.

I was teaching defensive driving class to young adult students and they asked me why female drivers get more warnings and fewer tickets. I told them that may seem true, but the real situation is female drivers often know how to make a traffic stop go smoother.

Smoother traffic stops get more warnings and result in fewer tickets.

Here are practical tips that can make a traffic stop go smooth and professional. When the emergency lights come on behind you, the first thing to do is signal that you are pulling over and then look for an immediate safe place to slow down and pull over. Often, the officer knows that a pullout area is nearby that will work for both vehicles. Pull over to the right side as far as possible to avoid the officer from having to stand in traffic on the side of the road. More officers die from traffic crashes each year than are killed by gunfire. You can help the officer feel safe.

Roll down the driver window and the rear side window if asked. The officer will be looking to see how many people are in the vehicle and if everyone is seat belted in the vehicle including children in car seats. If everyone is safe, the officer knows the stop is starting off well. Keep your hands on top of the steering wheel and do not unbuckle your seatbelt yet. If you are holding onto the unbuckled seatbelt and claim that you are only holding it to show that you are just now taking it off; you are not fooling anyone. An officer can see the seatbelt shoulder harness position and tension from the inside of a police unit twenty-five feet away. Faking seatbelt usage rarely works.

Rummaging under the seats, console or glovebox looking for your papers as the officer approaches can place an officer on alert. The officer won’t have a way to tell if it is papers or a weapon you are looking to find. Wait until they ask for your information and then look for it. If it is dark, turn your interior lights on as the officer approaches, this will help the officer see who is there and what they are doing. Hand over just the papers that the officer requests. Do not hand over your wallet with the license in it. Remove the license first. If your insurance is visible on the phone, let the officer know it is on the phone first and then show it to them.

Don’t be using the phone to make or receive calls during the traffic stop. Don’t text and don’t Skype. You have every right to record the traffic stop, but don’t go overboard with it. Keep the phone on the dash out of the way. The SUPD officers are required to record the contact with their body camera and the patrol vehicle camera. Officers will not be able to show you any footage of the stop from their cameras during the traffic stop.

Answer any questions the officer asks in a concise, logical and non-defensive way. If you are telling the officer that you are on your way home even though your home is in the opposite direction of your travel, expect a follow up question.

Southern Ute Tribal Police have marked units to use on traffic stops. However, depending on where you are inside the reservation, Colorado State Patrol, Ignacio Police and La Plata County Sheriffs will also pull over people on traffic stops. Some may have unmarked units. Let those officers know if you are Native American and extend them the same courtesies that you would extend a Southern Ute Officer.

Southern Ute Police Officers are trained in making traffic stops that are brief, direct, safety conscious and effective with either a warning or a summons and complaint as a result. There are traffic related matters that need further investigation. Offenses such as Driving Under the Influence, Reckless Driving and Driving Under Suspension may take longer to investigate and may result in an arrest. Be patient with any investigation because it may take time to sort things out properly and the officer will take the time needed to get the correct information.

Be careful in your driving habits and be safe. Good defensive driving saves lives, time and money. The Southern Ute Police Department wishes to protect and serve you wherever the road takes you on our reservation.



To top