Dealing With A Traffic Stop When You're Wrong

Dealing With A Traffic Stop When You're Wrong

Yes, it happens. Someone drives too fast in a residential area, or runs a red light, or rolls through a stop sign, or has an expired tag. And they get pulled over by the police.

To make matters worse, they have something illegal in the car, or they have a personal problem that they think will get even worse as a result of this traffic stop.

That’s possible, because traffic stops can be deadly serious. We were reminded of that several days ago when former Minnesota police officer Kim Potter was sentenced to prison for the fatal shooting of Daunte Wright during a traffic stop.

According to a 2021 New York Times investigation, police killed more than 400 people over a five-year period—more than one a week—during traffic stops. Those killed did not have a gun or knife, and they were not being chased for committing a violent crime.

Research has shown that Black drivers are stopped at higher rates than White drivers, and Black and Hispanic drivers are searched at higher rates than White drivers.

What can be done about this? Yes, changes in police officer training and procedures may help. In the meantime, many drivers need to change the way they react to a traffic stop, especially when they’re wrong.

Here are some things to do:

  • Calm down. Something you did or have is wrong, so you may feel fear, anxiety, or stress facing a police officer. Take deep breaths, and remember that safely getting through the situation is your top priority.
  • Put your car in park, and turn it off.
  • Obey the officer’s commands.
  • Answer the officer’s questions, and be honest.
  • Remain calm. Even if/when the officer’s voice rises or the behavior gets more aggressive in response to something illegal in your car or personal background, you must keep your emotions in check.

I repeat: your top priority is to safely get through the traffic stop. You’ve got these quick tips, so use them if you’re wrong when you get stopped!

Police officers, and people stopped by police officers, have been very open with me over the years about their interactions. I’d like to see everyone on both sides of a traffic stop get home at the end of the day.

If your organization would like to host a conversation about the challenges of public and personal safety, contact me.

Also available with information designed to help people feel secure are my book, Rent-A-Cop Reboot, and videos on the Leumas Publishing YouTube Channel. Please Like the channel and subscribe.

Title Image: Shutterstock/Paul Biryukov