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What to do if you're stopped by the police?

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As a motorist, would you know what to do if you were being asked to stop by a police officer in a patrol car? How do you know that the officer is asking you to pull over and not the driver in front or behind you? Most people don’t really know what to do if they were to be asked to stop by an officer of the law and what the most common reasons for being pulled over are.

Most common reasons for being stopped by a police officer in a patrol car?
Although some officers are trained to use a speed gun to catch drivers who break the speed limit, other police officers take their job seriously and look for other things when they are out on routine drives. The most common reasons for stopping motorists are:

  • Failure to comply with speed regulations
  • Lights that are not on or have been blown out
  • Dangerous or reckless driving
  • Extreme car modifications such as heavy window tinting
  • Lack of use a seatbelt or seat restraint for young children
  • The possibility of driving under the influence of drugs and alcohol

How do you know an officer is indicating for you to stop?
In most cases a marked police car will have their lights flashing, siren on and indicating left; if the officer is behind you, they may also gesture pointing to the left as an indication for you to pull over.

How do I pull over when being asked to?
You should only pull over when it is safe to do so, do not immediately brake and stop in the middle of a road, lane or roundabout. Usually police officers are aware of the area and a safe area to stop is a little distance down the road, for instance a lay by. You should also indicate left to let the officer know of your intention to pull over.

How do I know the officer is not an impersonator?
Most times when it is possible an officer will stop in a well lit area; if you are unsure whether the police officer is legit keep the window closed, engine running and ask for identification. You can also call the police station to ask them to verify the badge number in some cases. When you are satisfied, switch off the engine and listen to the police officer.

Whenever you are stopped by the police, they will explain why to you - it could be because of a broken taillight, not wearing a seatbelt or because the vehicle has been flagged for not having insurance, MOT or a valid tax disc. It may also just be a routine stop on a late night to catch drink and drug offenders.

Always keep calm and answer all questions, be courteous at all times and do not remonstrate if you think you have been stopped unfairly. You can always take it up with the police after if you truly think that there was no reason to stop you or that you were treated unfairly.

There are many areas in the UK that are known to have a regular police patrol car for catching unsuspecting motorists but as long as you have done nothing wrong, an officer will not fine you or keep a police record of a routine stop.

gices Published 29 Mar 2011