Red and blue lights in your rearview mirror can be stressful, frustrating, and alarming; however if you follow a few simple guidelines, the traffic stop can be quick and effective. Here is what you need to know:
Move to the right and stop
Missouri state law dictates a driver to move their vehicle as far to the right of the roadway as possible. Never pull over to the left shoulder of the road when being pulled over. If you are in the passing lane and notice a police officer behind you, slow down and activate your turn signal, advising your intention to move to the right side of the roadway. Remember not to panic. Most traffic stops are minor violations and completed quickly.
Keep hands visible
When you reach the far right side of the roadway, place your vehicle in park and wait for the officer to respond to the vehicle. During this time, do not reach for the glove box, under the seat, or in console areas. The officer cannot see your hands and does not know what is in the vehicle. Keep your hands visible, on the steering wheel until the officer arrives and provides instruction. Refrain from sudden movements as the officer walks to the vehicle. His view is limited and he is unaware of the reason for movements in the vehicle.
Watch your rearview mirror. The officer may respond on either the driver or passenger side of the vehicle. When the officer arrives, roll your car window down completely. If the window does not operate properly, tell the officer clearly and wait for his response. Do not automatically open the door.
Upon arrival, the officer may ask for your driver's license and proof of insurance. Both items are required by Missouri law to be with you while operating a motor vehicle. Do not make sudden movements. Advise the officer the location of the items and slowly retrieve them for the officer. If you do not have the items, inform the officer. He can collect information from you verbally to complete his traffic stop. If you have access to your insurance card on your cellular phone, inform the officer you can access your insurance prior to reaching for a cell phone which may be hidden in a purse or console.
If there are weapons in the vehicle, DO NOT reach for the weapon. Inform the officer the location of the weapons. The officer may choose to hold the weapon in his possession until the completion of the traffic stop. The officer may allow the weapon to be left in the vehicle. Do not reach in the area of the weapon. If your insurance card is in the glove box, where a weapon is also kept, inform the officer prior to opening the glove box. The officer is trying to maintain everyone's safety and he is not aware of your intentions without communicating them.
There are a number of reasons why an officer may sit in his vehicle momentarily. It is understood you may have a schedule to maintain, certain steps must be followed by the officer during a traffic stop. The wait time is often not under control of the officer. While you wait, DO NOT exit your vehicle. Keep your hands on the steering wheel or easily visible. Avoid movements within the vehicle, this diverts the officers attention from completing the tasks needed to get you back on your way. If you have pertinent information for the officer, regarding the traffic stop, place your hand outside of the driver's window to wave the officer to return.
Please do not argue
If you do not agree with the officer, there are many ways to handle the situation. Verbal disputes on the side of the roadway are not the answer. If you were issued a citation, you received a court date, located at the top, left corner of the citation. This is your scheduled time to bring up any concerns or issues. If you have a complaint with how the officer handled the situation, you will need to respond to the police department and speak personally with the Chief of Police. He will investigate all matters and handle them accordingly. If you have questions regarding Missouri State law, you may contact the police department by phone (417-736-4000) after you are off of the roadway and safe.
If you received a citation, remember to either pay the fines following the instructions on the pamphlet provided or appear at your court date and time. If you do not pay the fines, nor appear in court, you will have a warrant issued for your arrest. Arrangements can be made in court for assistance with a public defender, payment arrangements, etc.
ALWAYS pull over to the right side of the roadway
NEVER exit the vehicle without being instructed
KEEP your hands visible at all times
AVOID quick movements
DO NOT argue with the officer on the side of the road
Traffic stops are never routine. Neither the driver, nor the officer are aware of what the other is thinking. The above instructions allow the officer to feel safe enough to complete his job. So what happens if the driver does not feel safe?
If you are operating a vehicle and are uneasy about a traffic stop for any reason (the car doesn't look like a patrol vehicle, in a desolate area, or general fright) please follow these instructions for everyone's safety.
1. Slow your speed and activate your emergency flashers or turn signal to acknowledge the officer.
2. Call 9-1-1 Advise the 9-1-1 operator of your current location and vehicle description. The operator will be able to see if an officer is in the area attempting to make a traffic stop.
3. Follow the operator's instructions completely. The operator has capability of relaying information to the officer attempting to stop your vehicle.
4. You can request to have the officer follow you to a lit, public place near your location. The operator can direct you to the nearest safe location to stop. Do not pass this location and attempt to select a different location.
5. Remain calm when stopping. Keep your hands visible and follow all directions of the officer.
Your safety, as a driver, is as important to us as the officer's safety.