No driver looks forward to seeing police lights in their rearview mirror, but it is an experience your teen must be prepared for.
Parents who have been pulled over know the feelings: anxiety, frustration and plenty more. We all like to think of ourselves as good drivers, but when we are pulled over as part of a traffic stop we are suddenly faced with the idea that we did something wrong behind the wheel.
What we must remember is that law enforcement is there to keep road users safe, and part of that includes enforcing traffic laws meant to protect drivers, passengers and pedestrians. Every traffic stop could be different depending on the circumstances, but if your teen is nervous about getting pulled over these tips can help get them through the experience with a positive attitude.
- Pull over safely. As soon as your teen realizes an officer is pulling them over, immediately look for a safe place to exit the road. In a rural area, that might just be the side of the road, a nearby parking area or similar turnoff. On the highway, the right shoulder is the safest area. Your teen should slow down, signal their intent to pull over and then do so, using their hazard lights or ‘flashers’ to notify other drivers of the situation.
- Stay put. Once pulled over, it is best for your teen to put the car in park, shut off the ignition, roll down their window and place their hands on the wheel until the officer approaches them. Once the officer asks for paperwork, such as their license and proof of insurance –make sure your teen has a designated spot for these documents, like the glove compartment – your teen should state where it is in the car before reaching for it. Then answer the officer’s questions honestly and, above all, be respectful.
- Remain calm. It is perfectly normal to be nervous during a traffic stop, but advise your teen to do their best to stay calm throughout the encounter. Remember, the officer is there to enforce rules that keep everyone safe, so while it may be scary to be pulled over for the first time, it is also an opportunity to improve their driving.
- Learn from the experience. Your teen may be upset after being part of a traffic stop, but with the right attitude they can still benefit from this experience. Have your teen talk you through the situation and help them view it through a safety lens. Maybe your teen was speeding or using a phone, for example, and even if it was only for a second they could have still put themselves and others at serious risk.
Even as experienced drivers, parents don’t like getting pulled over any more than their teens do. But these experiences can be excellent reminders and wake up calls to keep us driving safely. Talk to your teen about the right way to handle this scenario and hopefully it will be a rare occurrence.