London News & Search
The Victoria Day long weekend will soon be upon us, and with it an increased police presence. Many drivers will, of course, be pulled over and cited for doing stupid things – from speeding and carrying too much furniture on the roof, to texting behind the wheel (the stupidest of all). While most of the time the tickets we receive are well-deserved, some might be borderline and may well be reduced to a warning if drivers do all the right things upon seeing those red-and-blue lights in the mirror.
Based off police comments and traffic court specialists, none of the suggested behaviours below are certain to get you out of a ticket when pulled over by police. But collectively, they contribute to the chances of getting off the hook a little easier. Even if they don’t work, these strategies will have at least made the work of the issuing officer less difficult. The officer doesn’t know who you are or who they are dealing with, so everything you do to make their job easier helps your case.
When the lights go on
The second you see police are behind you with lights activated – and they are indeed after you, not the speeding Audi driver – 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, well into the grass on the shoulder if necessary to give the officer ample space to approach your vehicle safely. This shows some consideration for the safety of the officer who will be standing dangerously close to high-speed traffic. If you are wearing a hoodie, sunglasses or a hat, remove them so your face is visible.
Apply your emergency flashers and pull out your licence, insurance and registration. Sit tight. Do not exit the car, stick your head out the window, look back or throw your arms up in astonishment that nothing is happening. 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 check the provenance of your vehicle to see if it’s stolen or if the registered owner has a warrant for arrest. Note: If you’re passing police who have someone pulled over, it’s the law in most provinces to move over one lane or face a stiff fine.
At the roadside
Ensure all your windows are down, 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 using sir or ma’am — it’s no mystery why you are both here. The more you appear as non-threatening, the more favourable the officer is likely to be.
Licence and registration
You should know exactly where your registration and insurance papers live, and have retrieved them, not having to go searching amid 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 — showing you are a responsible, organized motorist — who knows the importance of valid, required documentation.
Consider every move
When the officer asks for the documents, and if you haven’t already retrieved them, ask the officer if it’s okay for you to reach for them, whether it’s in your inside pocket or the overstuffed glovebox. 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. Recognize that if it’s raining, snowing or blistering hot outside, a quick apology for making them work in the weather might help, the simple small talk suggesting you are a normal human being.
Do you know why I pulled you over?
Do not plead utter ignorance, which will only frustrate the officer and demonstrate you were not paying attention behind the wheel and are trying to be evasive and/or difficult. Do not ask for proof. Do not accuse the officer of anything, of getting something wrong, or asking whether they have something better to do, which will only cement your ticket and eliminate any chance of getting a break. Do not say you are married to a judge or the chief’s sister or if they know who you are, even if you’re Peter Mansbridge. Do not make excuses; he or she will have heard them all. Do not crack jokes in a vain attempt to diminish the severity of the situation.
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, don’t blather. 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 possibly fight the ticket, however, avoid any admission of guilt, but you can say, “Sorry you had to pull me over.”
Doesn’t hurt to ask
Plenty of police departments keep track of the number of warnings police issue, and officers can be rewarded for how many they hand out. While there’s no assurance, in circumstances 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 and are likely to learn from the mistake, the chances of a verbal or written warning increase.
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 it will probably make the officer feel better about giving a kind person a break rather than punishing them. Or cry profusely, and only the coldest-hearted officer will be unwilling to cut you some slack.
If all else fails
Sure, the easiest thing of all is to avoid getting stopped in the first place by obeying all the rules; but if you do get stopped and receive a ticket — and the chances are good you will — either pay the fine promptly when you get home, before you lose the ticket, or sign the back of the ticket within a few weeks of the citation and declare you are going to fight the infraction and mail it. Then wait for the court to set a date for your hearing. But remember that your actions at the roadside can still come into play: if you are a total combative jerk to the cop, 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. Reap what you sow.
London News & Search