Ask a trooper: Tips for drivers on the right way to handle a traffic stopQuestion: If you are pulled over by a law enforcement officer, and your wallet with your driver’s license is not immediately at hand - say it’s in a bag or purse in the back seat - at what point should you retrieve it?
Q: If you are pulled over by a law enforcement officer, and your wallet with your driver’s license is not immediately at hand, say it’s in a bag or purse in the back seat, at what point should you retrieve it? Should you wait for the officer to come to the car, and ask them if it’s OK to reach for it? Do you have any other tips for how drivers should handle a traffic stop? Also, is it a good idea to get out of your car to meet the officer half-way when pulled over?
A: If you are stopped by a police officer, pull over to the road as far off to the right as possible and stop. Never get out of your vehicle on a traffic stop unless the officer requests you to do so. We are concerned for your safety as well as ours and need to maintain control of the scene. So, stay in your vehicle and remain seat-belted.
Roll your window down far enough so the officer can communicate with you easily, and keep your hands on or near the steering wheel. When the officer asks you for your driver’s license, explain to them where it is, and ask them if you can retrieve it. If you have to unbuckle at that time to get your wallet or I.D. or whatever, then you can do so at that time. If you have a permit to carry, you can just hand the permit to the officer when you hand him or her your driver’s license. In most cases, an officer will simply hand the permit back to you without saying anything.
Control your passengers. Many passengers have escalated traffic stop situations to higher points than intended by the officer or the driver. Listen intently to what the officer is saying to you. Let them speak. When they are done, if you have any questions or comments, most officers will take time to hear you out if you are reasonable and not yelling or trying to escalate the situation. Ignorance (not knowing) of a law is not a valid excuse for committing a violation of that law, so excuses are usually without merit, and arguing usually takes you down a bad road.
Always be polite to the officer during the contact. When the stop is complete, the officer normally tells you and in most cases, you can leave before the officer does. Be careful to signal before pulling back out into a traffic lane, watching for vehicles, pedestrians or other hazards. Hundreds (perhaps thousands) of traffic stops successfully occur each day in Minnesota alone. Most people are very respectful to officers and we appreciate that courtesy very much. Thanks for asking!
Sgt. Curt S. Mowers is a regional public information officer for the Minnesota State Patrol.