In Chicago the air is getting cooler, the leaves are changing color and the Department of Motor Vehicles is beckoning me home to renew my driver’s license. I’m genuinely excited to visit my family, except for the DMV day trip.
Its stagnant lines and incessant renewal fees are unbearable, but I’m required to visit for a vision test and a photo shoot.
Hopefully, I will depart the DMV with a better license picture, restored confidence and current vehicle/motorcycle certifications.
As a car and driving enthusiast I understand the importance of proper licensing and safe driving. I also understand that it’s fun to drive spiritedly.
Thankfully, Florida has a higher than average speed limit of 70mph on rural interstate roads (if you want to drive even faster move to Texas where the limit on rural interstate roads is 80mph). We can hope the federal government will never again strong-arm states into a mandated 55mph limit.
If you can’t seem to shed the blue lights twinkling in your mirrors while enjoying Florida’s 70mph limit, heed this etiquette. I have acquired it from several of my friends in law enforcement.
Most officers have already decided the penalty before approaching your vehicle. But, you’ll at least receive your ticket with dignity, maybe even leave with a warning, and definitely keep yourself from being mistakenly shot.
Step 1: Obey the law to avoid being pulled over. Most speed limit laws are grounded in science and exist in the interest of safety. (The blaring exceptions to these relevant laws are interstate speed limits. Purdue University studied an increase in speed limit on I-65 from 65 to 70mph and found that it was still safe. This finding reinforces a plethora of similar studies nationwide. However, just because reputable research is invalidating government safety claims doesn’t mean it’s appropriate to break the law.)
Step 2: When you realize you are being pulled over, move to the right shoulder of the road as quickly and safely as possible. Stopping on the left is illogical, unsafe and will aggravate the officer. Use your turn signal and pull over far enough so the officer can safely stand at one of your windows. If pulling over immediately would block traffic or be unsafe, promptly find the nearest parking lot or side street.
Step 3: Turn off the engine and roll down your windows. Remove your sunglasses; they are a block to communication. Make sure your radio is off! If it’s dark out, slowly reach up and turn on your dome light. Calmly return your hands to the top of the steering wheel and sit still as he or she approaches the car. Law enforcement officers selflessly put their lives at risk to serve us. Do everything you can to make them feel at ease and in control.
Step 4: As the officer approaches, timidly say: “Hello officer.” Always address him or her as “officer” unless you know his or her title, such as “sheriff” or “trooper.” Addressing the officer properly establishes his or her control. It’s also polite and recognizes his or her service. Think of it as addressing a judge as “your honor.” Remain quiet until it’s obvious that it’s time for your response.
Step 5: When the officer asks for your license, registration and proof of insurance inform him or her where it is and that you are going to reach for it. First say something similar to, “yes officer it’s in my pocket/glove compartment I’m going to get it.” Then reach for it. This allows them to anticipate a legitimately dangerous situation. They fear the possibility of a weapon stashed in the car. Inform him or her before you make any movement and always return your hands to the steering wheel where they are visible.
Step 6: If it seems the officer is expecting you to speak, make a generalized statement. “I’m really sorry officer I guess I wasn’t paying attention” and “I’m really sorry officer I was just in a hurry” are short, humble ways to apologize. Remember, the goal of a traffic citation is to correct bad behavior and generate revenue for anemic budgets. Reinforce this by showing that you feel shame. You have just been caught doing something naughty.
Step 6: Don’t keep talking. Let the officer lead the conversation and conclude the reprimand. Graciously thank the officer, especially if he or she eased your penalty. Use your signal when returning to traffic. Use the rest of the day to grouse about the ticket and how the money could have been spent on something better.