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A veteran deputy sheriff in Florida thought he’d seen it all. Until one late afternoon, he noticed two cars pulled over to the side of the road. The drivers were arguing loudly, almost coming to blows.

The deputy pulled over, assuming it was an accident. When he got there, both cars looked totally fine. Then he looked down. The men were standing over an alligator that had seen the wrong side of the car. “Both guys wanted to take it home,” says the officer. “One hit it, the other pulled over first.” The gator meat and skin had the two at each other’s throats. The worst thing, according to the deputy? “Each wanted me to arrest the other for stealing their property!”

Traffic cops see a lot of crazy behavior in the line of duty—some very dangerous, some downright ridiculous. One California officer pulled over a car that was weaving erratically. Read more...▼

CLICK TO SEE FULL INFOGRAPHIC When he got to the window, he saw a family struggling with a tiny piglet. In the back seat, there was a skunk in a cage. The smell was not good. “They’re not used to the car,” the father said sheepishly.

And they’ve heard it all, too. “I hear excuses for speeding all the time,” says an Ohio officer. The bathroom is the leading contender, but that cuts no ice with the law. Lying is the worst idea, say the cops. And they can tell. “If you say your wife’s in labor and you’re driving her to the hospital, it might be a good idea for her to actually be pregnant,” says the Florida cop.

What’s the worst thing a motorist can do when pulled over? “Whatever you do, absolutely do not jump out of your car and run back to greet me or demand to see the radar,” the Ohio officer says. He notes that a cop might think the motorist is trying to flee the scene, and it heightens the officer’s suspicion.

“Most folks just don’t know what we face,” says our Ohio cop. “There’s no such thing as a routine traffic stop.”

So how should you respond when stopped for a traffic violation?

Think like a cop and follow these helpful tips.

Stay calm: Don't freak out, jam on the brakes and stop in the lane. Get over to the far right side of the road as safely and quickly as you can. Then turn off the engine.

Be polite: Your mother was right. Good manners could mean the difference between a (free) warning and a fine-laden ticket.

Don't argue: Save your rebuttal for your court date. Refusing to provide your driver's license or becoming belligerent could be considered obstructing justice—and could land you in jail.

No sleight of hand: Roll down all the windows so it's easy for the officer to see inside the vehicle. At night, turn on the dome light. Then keep your hands on the steering wheel. Wait for the officer to ask you for the required documentation.