Driving is a big responsibility for teenagers. It’s normal for parents to be worried about their kid’s first time on the road — and it’s common for teens to get pulled over at least once before they reach adulthood.
Before your teen drives off into the sunset, make sure they know what to say and do in the case of a traffic stop. The Costa Mesa Police Department (CMPD) in Costa Mesa, California gave Parentology some tips for interacting with officers. Use this expert advice to have the “what to do when you get pulled over by the police” conversation with your teen sooner rather than later.
First and foremost, the best thing a teen can do to avoid a ticket is to drive safely. That means not driving distracted, so no texting, using social media, or taking pictures on the road.
“Distracted driving includes things like putting on make-up, eating, fumbling in the backseat,” Roxi Fyad, Public Affairs Manager for CMPD tells Parentology. “Always be alert and keep your eyes on the road.”
Follow the rules of the road. Those driving lessons (understanding correct signaling and signs) and tests that lead to procuring a driver’s license are there to protect drivers, not just be an annoyance.
Though CMPD doesn’t condone underage drinking, they emphasize all drivers must be proactive when consuming any substance. “Select a sober [designated] driver, [call an] Uber or Lyft, let your parents or loved ones know where you are going,” Fyad says. “Notify someone you can call for a ride that you might call on them.”
Traffic Stops — What to Do When You Get Pulled Over by the Police
- Pull over safely. Don’t put other drivers in danger just because there’s a police car flagging you down — and definitely signal so your stop is legal.
Side note — if you feel unsafe, or if you’re being pulled over by an unmarked car, it’s fully legal for you to continue driving until you feel safe enough to pull over. Turn on your hazard lights, and drive slowly and safely until you reach a gas station, parking lot or another public place.
- Place both hands on your steering wheel. CMPD emphasizes that walking up to a potentially dangerous situation puts officers on alert. Even stopping someone for a simple speeding ticket can pose a threat. The driver should place both hands where an officer can see them to defuse tension.
- Follow instructions. Traffic stops should be relatively quick when everything goes smoothly, so do what the officer asks, when they ask you to, as politely as possible.
What Not to Do
- Don’t get out of the car. This will put an office on high alert — stay right where you are and stay calm.
- Don’t rummage around in your glove box or backseat as the officer walks up. This can be perceived as a threat. Make sure your driver’s license and registration are accessible before you start driving — but if you need a minute to find them, let the officer know.
- “Don’t take the stop personally,” Fyad says. “The officer doesn’t know you. They’re [just] doing their job, so we ask drivers to keep it professional.”