That headline may sound like a joke, but it is really quite serious. Earlier this year in New Mexico, a first-year law student was pulled over by an Albuquerque Police Department officer. During the traffic stop, Officer Padilla directed the student to sit on the curb. Officer Padilla then decided that the student was “resisting,” and what do you do anytime someone resists? If you are a cop, you administer a severe beating. In this case, Officer Padilla kneed the student in the groin with such force that one of the student’s testicles actually shattered. So bad was the damage to the student’s testicle that he had to have emergency surgery to remove the testicle. Not surprisingly, the police report failed to mention the testicle shattering. We could go on with other horror stories from traffic stops, like the 70-year-old South Carolina man who was shot numerous times during a traffic stop because he reached for his cane, but instead let’s cover some basics to avoid a traffic stop in the first place.
- Obey the traffic laws. This should go without saying. Do not speed, do not run red lights, do not drive aggressively, do not chirp your tires, etc. A moving violation is the most common reason drivers are stopped.
- Try to avoid driving in front of a police officer. When an officer is behind you, he or she is looking for any reason to pull you over. Did you swerve within your lane? Is the registration sticker on your license plate current? If I see a cop behind me, I immediately get out of the way by slowing down or turning off the road.
- Make sure none of the lights on your vehicle are burned out. Many newer cars will tell you if a light is out, but on older cars you should make it a habit to check your lights regularly.
- Make sure there are no cracks in your windshield.
- Make sure your tint is legal.
- Avoid things that draw attention to your vehicle, such as: Choose a nondescript color like white, silver or gray. Make sure your car is quiet-do not add a loud exhaust system and make sure a broken exhaust is quickly repaired.
- Don’t drive “suspiciously.” Seriously. Cops consider looking “suspicious” probable cause to pull you over. What does suspicious mean? Probably anything a cop wants it to.
- Make sure your vehicle is in good repair. When you are pulled over on the side of the road with a broken vehicle, it is a great opportunity for a cop to stop and look for a reason to issue you a ticket.
If you are unfortunate enough to be pulled over, please make sure you have read these ten tips for your next traffic stop.