When you hear those ‘whoop whoop’ noises and see those flashing lights, keep your cool, slow down, and think polite thoughts because there’s a right way to talk to a policeman, and a wrong way, says Hamburger. The right way is to be ‘unfailingly polite.’ The wrong way is any other way.
‘Don’t get out of your car,’ Hamburger advises, no matter how long it takes the officer to make his way to your car—because whatever you might be feeling when you’re stopped by a cop, you should assume the cop is concerned for his own safety. Being a law enforcement officer is a dangerous job. ‘Even with a weapon, every traffic stop a police officer makes could be the last,’ Hamburger explains, and this is true even in the most bucolic suburb.
‘Follow whatever instructions the police officer gives you,’ Hamburger adds, ‘but don’t offer a confession.’ Anything you say can be used against you in traffic court. Instead, as politely as possible, talk about how safe of a driver you generally are and how you understand that driving safely is of critical importance. ‘You have 30 seconds to convey that you’re a safe-driving, law-abiding citizen,’ so use it wisely. If you’ve never gotten a speeding ticket before, let the officer know that. If you swerved or sped up in an attempt to avoid a pothole, let the officer know that too, because that may be enough for the officer to let you go with a warning.
And here are some phrases you can use to avoid getting a ticket when you get stopped.