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Traffic Stops


Why Do Officers Conduct Traffic Stops?

No one likes to get a ticket, but if a ticket deters someone from doing things that put the community's safety at risk, we all benefit.

In addition to reducing injuries and deaths on our roadways, officers save us money.  For example, an uninsured driver not wearing a seat belt speeds down the road, loses control and hits a guardrail. Who pays for rescue and emergency services?  Who pays for his hospital stay and physical therapy?  Who pays for the guardrail repair?  It is not the careless driver, but your local government, which is generously funded by you, the taxpayer. Costs are controlled every time patrol officers enforce the laws.  This is another reason why officers encourage us to do things - like wearing our seat belts, using child safety seats for our little ones, and not driving under to influence.

Traffic Stops Are Dangerous

Many officers are killed each year and thousands more are injured in traffic related incidences. For example, in 1998, about half of all officer line of duty deaths were related to traffic incidences. This is because even the most routine stop for a traffic violation has the potential for danger.

Routine traffic stops often turn out to be not so routine. Officers find uninsured drivers, suspended licenses, impaired drivers, illegal firearms, drugs and fugitives.  Discoveries like these are all in a day's work for many officers. This is why officers are trained to place a great deal of emphases on their safety and take a defensive posture at the stop until the risk of confrontation or injury is diminished. 

What Can You Do?

Whether you are stopped by a police officer, state highway patrol trooper or a county sheriff deputy, you can help to create a more professional atmosphere at the stop by cooperating. Here are a few things to remember:

  • Carry proper identification: a valid driver's license, proof of vehicle registration and proof of insurance.
  • When being signaled by an officer to stop, look for the nearest safe, well lit place and position your vehicle as far out of the lane of traffic as possible.  Generally, pull off to the right side of the roadway where the shoulder is wider, unless otherwise directed. Turn on your flashers.
  • Never attempt to outrun the patrol vehicle or pretend not to see the lights or hear the siren. Stay in your vehicle unless told otherwise. Exit the vehicle slowly if asked to do so.
  • Remain calm. If there are passengers, also ask them to remain quiet and cooperate with instructions. Do not let anyone make statements or threatening motions to the officers.



Explaining Traffic Stops:
Why a police officer does the things he does during a traffic stop.

Why did the officer stand behind my driver’s door so that I had to turn around to look at him?

Car stops are one of the most dangerous things that a law enforcement officer does. A large percentage of officers injured on duty are injured during traffic stops and domestic disputes.

The purpose of the officer standing to the rear of the driver’s door is for his own safety. It allows the officer a view of the entire interior of a vehicle and allows him to react if the driver or other occupant has a weapon

The other night I was stopped by an officer and he left all his lights on bright when he approached my car and asked me for my driver’s license. The bright lights blinded me. Why did he do that?

During the hours of darkness the risk to an officer increases simply because he cannot see into the vehicle as he approaches it. It is necessary to “light up” the vehicle until the officer is satisfied that the occupant is not going to do harm to the officer or hide contraband.

Why did the officer order me to stay in my car? I just got out to walk back and talk to him to find out what I had done wrong?

When the officer asks you to stay in, or return to, your vehicle it is for your safety as well as the officer’s. The officer is concerned that if you are out of your vehicle walking around you may be struck by another vehicle. He is also concerned you may be approaching him with a weapon and intend to harm him.

When the officer first walked up to my car, his attitude was blunt toward me. Later, the officer’s attitude changed and he was friendly. Why?

When the officer first approached your vehicle, he did not know that the only thing you had done was commit a traffic infraction. He was at that time concerned for his safety. After the officer was satisfied that you were not someone who was going to harm him, and in fact were an honest citizen who had just committed a traffic infraction, the officer was more at ease.

When I get stopped by an officer, I don’t appreciate how long it takes for him to give me a ticket. What is he doing back there in his car?

When an officer returns to his vehicle with your license, there are several things that happen. The officer contacts the dispatcher and requests both a driving record check and a check of the National Crime Information Center (NCIC) computer. This is how the officer finds out if you are wanted for a crime, or just someone who committed a traffic infraction. Computers are sometimes slow in giving the officer the information he needs.

When the officer first walked up to my car, why did he have his hand on his gun? I was just speeding and it wasn’t necessary for him to act like he was going to draw his gun.

The fact that an officer approaches your car with his hand on his weapon is not an offensive action on his part, but rather a defensive one. You probably also noticed that when the officer approached your car, he walked up rather cautiously. He also stopped just behind the driver’s door and stood at an angle to your vehicle. All these things are for the officer’s protection until the officer is satisfied that you, or an occupant in your vehicle, are not going to harm him.

The other night a friend was arrest for DUI. Why was he handcuffed?

When a person is arrested, the officer places the person in handcuffs, then searches the person to make sure the person has no weapons. Sometimes people, who are on drugs or alcohol, can become violent. It is necessary to restrict their movements for their own safety as well as the officer’s.

What can I do to put the officer more at ease when I get stopped?

If you are stopped in the daylight, stay in your vehicle, keep both hands on the steering wheel and wait for the officer to ask for your driver’s license or give you instructions. If you need to reach into the glove compartment or elsewhere, advise the officer before doing so. If you are stopped at night, it is helpful to the officer if you have your dome light on when he approaches. Again, keep your hands where the officer can see them. Do not be a “name dropper” or threaten to have the officer’s job if he gives you a ticket. If you would like to know the officer’s name and badge number, they are on the ticket. 

If you have a weapon in your vehicle, advise the officer as soon as he approaches you. Keep your hands in view of the officer at all times.

Remember, if you treat the officer with the same respect as you expect from him, the experience will be more pleasant for all involved. 

78 E. Main St., P.O. Box 222, Orwell, OH 44076 | (440) 437-1234 | Dispatch 440-272-9111