Avoiding Traffic Tickets
Most people are concerned with traffic tickets after they’ve actually received a traffic ticket. Clearly there is much to be said about what to do once a ticket has been issued.
But what about avoiding traffic tickets in the first place? Here are some tips:
- Don’t get pulled over. Drive carefully in every sense of the phrase and the odds of receiving a ticket will drop dramatically. Sounds obvious, but it’s a simple first step that’s often overlooked.
- If you are about to be pulled over, take a deep breath and don’t panic. Use your signal if you need to change lanes or direction of travel as you move to the side of the road. Look for a safe place to stop but also look to stop as quickly as possible. You don’t want the officer thinking that you really are a bad driver while approaching your vehicle simply because you had a momentary lapse in reason once you saw the sirens behind you.
- Avoid moving around while waiting for the officer to approach your vehicle. The officer’s first task is to ensure his own safety. If he thinks you are trying to hide something (weapons, drugs) he could become agitated. Keep your hands on the wheel and stay still.
- Keep your seatbelt on. Don’t anticipate that the officer will need your license and registration. Wait until he asks and then unbuckle your belt and reach for these items. First, by avoiding unnecessary movement, you are less likely to make the officer nervous. Second, you’re not tempting the officer to issue you a seatbelt summons in addition to whatever other violation he observed.
- If you are pulled over, do not assume you are being issued a traffic ticket. Estimates are that maybe 25% or more of car stops do not result in a traffic citation. Perhaps it’s a minor equipment malfunction or other issue that will simply result in a warning or perhaps the officer is just in a good mood. Talk, act and think as if there is still a chance that you can avoid being issued a traffic ticket.
- Be polite. Maybe the officer was just going to warn you about some minor equipment failure he noticed. Don’t give him a reason to turn that warning into a summons. Moreover, officers tend to have better recollection of cases where there was some confrontation on the road. When it comes time to deal with the officer later, you don’t want to stand out as a motorist who gave him a hard time.
- If you have a PBA card or other document or information which you feel might discourage the officer from issuing a summons, use it wisely. Be polite, and while you are giving him the paperwork he requested you can show or tell him why he may want to reconsider and why you are sorry. If you are mentioning an officer in particular, know which town or precinct he’s in and be prepared to explain your relationship.
- Know where your paperwork is. Your insurance and registration and driver license should all be readily available. If you don’t have something or can’t find it, now you are essentially asking the officer to give you two warnings (one for the underlying reason for the car stop and one for the missing paperwork). The odds of the officer letting two violations go will naturally be less than the odds of the officer letting one violation go.
Some officers are going to issue the traffic ticket no matter what you do. However, it’s certainly worth doing whatever you can to maximize the chances that you will drive away with a mere warning.