Tips that can get you off the hook

Friday, May 12th, 2017

Being polite and co-operative when pulled over can reduce the odds of getting a ticket

The Province

The Victoria Day long weekend will soon be upon us, and with it comes an increased police presence on the roads. Many drivers will, of course, be pulled over and cited for doing stupid things, from speeding to carrying too much furniture on the car roof to texting behind the wheel (the stupidest of all).

And while most of the time the tickets we receive are well deserved, some infractions might be borderline, and may well be reduced or turned into a warning if the driver does all the right things after seeing those red and blue lights in the rearview mirror.

While none of the suggested behaviours below are certain to get you out of a ticket when you are pulled over by police, based on police comments and traffic court specialists, they all contribute to the chances of getting off the hook a little easier.

1 When the lights go on …

The second you see police are behind you with lights activated, signal that you are pulling over and find a safe spot to do so as quickly as possible. Pull as far right as the road allows to give the officer ample space to approach your vehicle safely. This shows some consideration for the safety of the officer who will usually be standing dangerously close to high-speed traffic. If you’re wearing a hoodie, sunglasses or a hat, remove them so your face is visible.

2 Now what?

Apply your emergency flashers and pull out your licence, insurance and registration. Sit tight. Do not exit the car or stick your head out the window and look back or throw your arms up in astonishment. Do not honk, do not use your phone or take photos of the police vehicle behind you. Be patient. The officer will be running your licence plate to see if your car is stolen or if the registered owner has a warrant for arrest.

3 At the roadside

Ensure all your windows are down, front and back, especially if you have tinted windows. Turn on your interior lights and place your hands at 10 and 2 on the steering wheel when the officer approaches so he or she can get a clear view inside the car to assess whether you pose a danger. Do not flirt, which will only insult the officer’s integrity. Greet the officer in a professional fashion as sir or ma’am.

4 Licence and registration

You should know exactly where your registration and insurance papers are, and have retrieved them, not go searching through the old Subway bags in the glovebox. Be ready to reveal the documents along with your driver’s licence. Of course, those documents should be current, along with your licence plate sticker, because you dutifully updated the renewal slips. It’s a good idea to keep the papers under the armrest in a special pouch.

5 Consider every move

When the officer asks for the documents, and if you haven’t already retrieved them, ask the officer if it’s OK for you to reach for them, whether it’s in your inside pocket or the overstuffed glove box. Again, this reveals you are cognizant the officer is on guard for dangers — such as a gun or knife — and he or she will likely appreciate your awareness of the risks in their job.

6 Do you know why I pulled you over?

Do not plead ignorance, which will only frustrate the officer and demonstrate that you’re trying to be evasive and/or difficult. Do not ask for proof. Do not accuse the officer of getting something wrong, and don’t ask whether they have something better to do. Don’t say you’re married to a the chief’s sister or ask if they know who you are, even if you’re Peter Mansbridge. Don’t make excuses: the officer has heard them all. And don’t crack jokes in an attempt to diminish the severity of the situation.

7 Know what to say, what not to say

If you’ve been caught red-handed and are certain you have no plans to fight the ticket, admit what you believe you did and succinctly apologize, but be concise. Say something like: “I am really sorry, sir, I really do know better.” Or, “I should have seen that sign, I am usually excellent at obeying rules. I’m sorry.” If you think you might fight the ticket, however, avoid any admission of guilt.

8 Doesn’t hurt to ask

Police departments keep track of the number of warnings police issue, and officers can be rewarded for how many they hand out. Where the infraction is small or very close to the line, ask the officer if he or she might consider issuing you with a warning instead. The officer’s goal, ultimately, is to get you to be a safer driver, protect the community, and obey the rules, and if she can see you are contrite, the chances of a verbal or written warning increase.

9 Your best behaviour

At all times, be exceedingly polite, show respect for the officer and the dangerous work they are committed to do. Be diplomatic, courteous, professional. Show you are a good, normally law-abiding citizen who momentarily lost focus and made an error. This makes you look human, and the officer will feel better about giving a kind person a break rather than punishing them.

10 If all else fails

The easiest thing of all is to avoid getting stopped in the first place by obeying all the rules, but if you do get a stopped and receive a ticket — and the chances are good that at some time you will — either pay the fine promptly when you get home, before you lose the ticket, or sign the back of the ticket to declare that you’re going to fight the infraction and mail it in. Then wait for the court to set a date for your hearing.

Remember that your actions at the roadside can still come into play. If you’re a combative jerk, the officer will be highly motivated to show up in court to challenge your assertions. And he or she will bring evidence, experience and a Crown prosecutor. You reap what you sow.

© 2017 Postmedia Network Inc.

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