When you're out driving around, the last thing you want to deal with is an encounter with the police. For most of us, a police encounter begins with a traffic stop. Not only do you not want to deal with the delay of a traffic stop or the fines and points from a traffic ticket, but you never know what kind of insanity could ensue when you are dealing with the police. The police are hunting for ways to cite you and take your money, so just don't give them the opportunity in the first place and don't get pulled over. Here are some things to keep in mind when you're out on the road.
Not getting pulled over is all about not calling attention to yourself - not standing out from all of the other drivers on the road.
- Drive a discreet car. For example, compare a completely stock gray station wagon to a lime green Camaro with an aftermarket exhaust. The first wouldn't get a second glance, whereas the second would be difficult to miss.
- Get a good tint job on your car. Keep it legal, but go dark. Why let that cop stare in at you to see what you are doing in your car?
- Don't speed. I know, I know, everyone speeds, but speeding is probably the most common reason traffic stops occur.
- If you must speed, don’t go more than about 5 mph over the posted speed limit. We're not advocating speeding (see above), but we're realistic. While a cop could pull you over for going just a mile or two per hour over the limit (it happens), it is unusual. Cops are usually looking for bigger fish, like someone driving at excessive speeds. Look to photo enforcement devices for guidance: In Arizona, photo enforcement devices generate tickets when they catch a driver going 11 mph or more over the posted speed limit, unless it is in a school zone and then it is 6 mph over the posted speed limit.
- Don’t be the fastest thing on the road. Pretend you're a Zebra - there is safety in the heard. Just blend in with the other cars instead of getting out in front of the heard.
- Don't cut across a bunch of lanes all at once. This is a real eye-catcher. You've probably seen it happen yourself if you've been driving in Phoenix for awhile. You can be driving along with the flow of traffic, then all of a sudden you see a car move across your field of vision, swerving across 4 lanes of traffic. You can't miss it, and neither will the cops! You could get pulled over for a variety of violations for a maneuver like this, like speeding, unsafe lane change, following too closely, and perhaps aggressive driving if you're particularly unlucky.
- Don’t weave in and out of traffic. See above. Rapidly and repeatedly changing lanes is the kind of movement that makes you stand out from the other drivers.
- Keep your car in good repair. If you have a headlight or taillight out, or if your windshield is badly damaged, that is just inviting a cop to pull you over.
- Keep your auto insurance current. Lapsed insurance can lead to a registration suspension. See the next point.
- Keep your registration current, make sure the registration tag on your car is current (and belongs to your car and not someone else!), and keep your insurance current. Why? See the next point.
- I generally try to never be in front of a cop car if I can help it. When a police officer is sitting behind you at a light, he’s staring at your license plate, checking your registration, seeing if the registered owner’s license is valid and so on. In other words, he's looking at you and your car and searching for a reason to pull you over and issue a ticket. If you're driving in front of a cop, he's looking for even the most minor of violations to pull you over. Maybe he'll say you were "swerving within your lane", or you failed to signal for a turn, or you made a wide turn, who knows, but don't give them the opportunity!
If you do get pulled over, here are some tips on making the best of that situation.