KarFarm recently gave a few tips on what to do after you’ve been pulled over by the Police, but what did you really do in the first place? Not too many people get pulled over for heinous crimes because most people don’t commit them. Every driver has an image in their mind that they are perfect, but the harsh reality is that you do something every day whether you know it or not that could get you pulled over.
KarFarm spent some time riding along with a few officers from Foster City, CA, and the experience was quite an eye opener. From drivers running stop signs in front of us, driving in the oncoming lane, or driving with illegally modified parts, I didn’t see one person who didn’t deserve to at least be warned. Sitting next to an Officer, and seeing traffic stops from their point of view, gave me a much better appreciation for the job they do, and how the general public shouldn’t be afraid of them in the least bit.
Leaving the station with Corporal Shaffer, a seven year veteran, it wasn’t long before he spotted an infraction. A Chevy truck had its tow hitch ball installed, and it was blocking the license plate. Thinking that right out of the gate I’m going to see a poor guy get a ticket for a minor reason, there was a battery of questions that I had ready for when he got back in the patrol car. I rolled down my window, listened, and what transpired was not what I had been expecting. In a calm, friendly demeanor, he educated the driver on why the Police want the plate unobstructed, smiled, and walked back. One simple warning later, and we were back on the road.
Hold the phone though, my perception is that all cops are out to get you, and generate revenue for the city through traffic tickets. Isn’t he going to miss his quota? It was the end of the month after all! Isn’t there some Chief somewhere yelling at all the Officers to pull more people over?
The fact of the matter is that there isn’t a ticket quota, and while some driving issues like cell phone usage might result in more tickets written to get the message out, the main goal in a traffic stop is to educate the driver. Corporal Shaffer commented on how the gentleman was polite, didn’t know the law, so he pulled him over to educate him on the law, rather than cite him. If the driver is unaware and hasn’t done anything dangerous, making them pay for their lesson is a bit steep. Nipping the problem in the bud however, makes the roads safer, as the driver has already learned their lesson.
This simple fact was demonstrated later when riding with Officer Grimaldi. Idling in a driveway next to an intersection known for incomplete stops, we watched drivers for a few minutes. A few coast through, a few panic stop last minute, but most make a full stop. After I watch a few go through that I thought would have deserved a ticket, one driver heads through going a bit quicker than the rest. Out we go, lights on, and after the stop is complete, a warning is issued.
So what does it take to actually get a ticket? A few minutes later at the same spot, another driver heads through going around 10 mph. This is no longer as simple as you didn’t come to a complete stop, this is a safety issue. Plus, who runs a stop sign in front of a Black and White Crown Victoria? It’s not like we’re hiding the car in the trees.
Corporal Shaffer has a similar outlook on enforcement. Earlier in the day, a car passed another car in an oncoming left turn lane. Again, we’re sitting there stationary, so it’s not like we are hard to see in the least bit. During the traffic stop, I can see Shaffer using hand gestures to show what he saw, and how it posed a safety issue. He speaks in a nice calm tone, he’s polite, issues a citation, then gives the driver a friendly “Drive home safe” parting line.
So what does it take to get pulled over? Well, 10,001 little things can light up the lights behind you, especially if your car is poorly maintained (lights out, expired tags, cracked window), but to get a ticket, you have to do something fairly boneheaded, and the kicker is you have to do it right in front of the Officer. With over 20 stops in the night, only a few tickets were issued, and they were given to people with gross disregard for the rules. Moral of the story? Obey the rules, and you won’t get pulled over in the first place.
With the goal of safety in mind, Officers really should not be feared. By educating drivers in their community, the aim is to keep the roads safe, not ruin your day. The next time you want to mouth off and ask the Officer if they have anything better to do than pull you over, bite your tongue. There isn’t anything much more important than keeping the roads safer, and keeping the drivers educated.