getting pulled over for speeding, on the freeway - better to pull off on the shoulder, or exit?

By the way, I “don’t need answer fast” :smiley:

Suppose you are driving along on the city freeway, exceeding the speed limit, but nothing too outlandish (for the sake of argument, let’s say 75 in a 65). An officer on the shoulder pings you, and starts following you with lights on.

Is it better to a) pull over ASAP to the shoulder of the road (let’s assume it’s your typical shoulder, about 12 feet wide, but you still have cars whizzing by you). Or is it better to b) back off on your speed, and proceed along in the 55 - 65 mph range, for another mile or so, then take the next exit into a McDonald’s parking lot? Granted, I’m sure there are ‘variables’ involved, so I’m thinking more from a “generally speaking” perspective.

Pros of a): the officer doesn’t have time to think "is this guy going to be the one that tries ‘running for it’. Cons: the cars whizzing by you

The Pros/Cons of b) is obviously the flip-side of a). That is, the officer might think in those 3 - 4 minutes that you’re going to be the one that takes off, but once you do pull over, he/she’s going to feel much safer discussing the offense with you.

And if you sense an undertone of “all else being equal, which way might give me a better chance of getting let off with just a warning”, then you know me better than you thought you did. :slight_smile:

Generally speaking there is no generally speaking; you don’t know what the individual feeling of the officer will be.

Personally I go for the shoulder, and if there is room, even safely off the shoulder into the grass (if it can be done.)

If you feel the need to drive a bit, hit the 4 way flashers to tell the officer you acknowledge him and will pull over.

In real life I got lit up on a slow long curving exit (for expired emissions). I hit the 4 ways, waved to the officer and proceeded 1/2 mile to where I could pull far off the road and in a very safe spot. The officer was quite pleasant to deal with, and it was a warning I received.

Good tip about the 4 way flashers. I don’t think I would have thought of that.

Being pulled over for a moving violation is not an emergency so the primary concern should be pulling over in a safe place. If you don’t feel that the shoulder is a safe place the cop will be more than happy to follow you as long as you acknowledge in some way that you know you’re being pulled over and don’t act like you’re trying to run him.

I got pulled over in the middle of the night once where there was nowhere to pull over to unless we would be blocking one of two lanes of traffic. Instead I rolled about 50 feet to a stoplight, stopped, took a right, drove 25 feet, and took another right into an empty parking lot and stopped.
The officer immediately laid into me with “WHY DIDN’T YOU STOP!”
I told him I wanted to get out of traffic that late at night.
Wasn’t good enough for him. He went on with “WHEN I TURN ON MY LIGHTS THAT MEANS STOP NOW!!!”
I didn’t go well from there.

It’s impossible to say what the outcome will be. I personally proceed slowly to the next exit and into a parking lot, and have never even been asked about why I did it. Others claim they’ve suffered being yelled at, verbally abused, and had everything up to and including a full felony takedown as a result. You’re rolling the dice, and if you don’t feel lucky than do the best you can and pull off safely where you are.

Well, maybe my advice isn’t foolproof. That guy was an asshole. I’ve been pulled over maybe seven times in 38 years but never had to actually keep going until I could find a safe spot, and never been verbally abused by a cop. So I was speaking somewhat theoretically.

I’ve always had success carrying on until I feel safe to pull over, but the key is making sure the cop knows that you’ve acknowledge his presence, either with a wave, four-way flashers, gesturing to indicate that you plan to pull over up ahead, etc.

I suspect that 99% of police will appreciate you pulling off of the freeway, assuming they’re not the asshole in the post above, or having a horribly shitty day (remember, cops are people too).

edit: to clarify, I’m referring to the cop being an asshole, not any of the posters above :stuck_out_tongue:

I thought so too, but the cop who pulled me over (speeding) reacted almost as Hampshire experienced. In my case, it was a pretty busy four-lane street. There was a shoulder, but it was No Parking. I pulled into a residential street, stopped, and turned on my four-ways. When “asked”, I told the cop I had pulled in where it was safer. He told me to let him worry about that. I considered mentioning that the major cause of on-the-job deaths for police is traffic accidents, but decided not to. He gave me the ticket.

Technically, yes, I was speeding - the limit was 45 all along that road except for the couple of blocks next to the nursing home. I didn’t slow down during those blocks.

He behaved like kind of a jerk - I try to be understanding, but he yelled at me for not pulling over immediately, and then ran thru the standard spiel on how to appeal the ticket etc. so fast that I couldn’t understand him.


Hit the flashers, acknowledge, and pull over if you feel safe. If a cop wants to tail you and hit his lights when there’s 3,000,000 cars around on an exit ramp, then he’s the one playing Frogger. :smiley: It’s not your job to keep traffic going - you just have to make sure you can pull over.

MY problem has always been, “If I’m the far left lane and I get pulled over,” type thing and it’s traffic central.

If a cop harasses you, call his supervisor.

I’d pull over at the first safe place to do so. If there was a wide shoulder, that’s fine, if there isn’t I’d suggest some sort of a signal to the officer, like a turn signal, indicating that your complying but looking for a safe place to pull over.

Ex-cop here.

If you’re on the open road like an interstate highway and the nearest exit isn’t in sight, pull over as far off the road as you safely can and not get stuck. If the exit is in sight, you’re less than half a mile, so putting on your flashers, slowing down, and waving an OK sign should let the officer know you know you’re caught, and are heading for safer pastures. I know not all of them appreciate this, but the majority do. Pulling slowly into a gas station or whatever at the exit is safer for him and he knows it.

Of course you could be getting all your guns ready and hiding dope in that 1-2 minutes, so let’s try to alleviate his fears a bit. Stay in the car, roll your window down and keep your hands on the wheel or better yet, just stick them out the window. Not like “don’t shoot - I’m coming out!”, but rather just rest your forearms on the door with both hands in sight. If it’s dark, turn on the dome light so he can see in the car. Why do all this for The Man? Because it helps him begin to see what you are: just a speeder, not Trouble. A calm cop is a happy cop, and you want him happy when he starts talking to you, right?

If you get the newbie screaming at you because you didn’t lock it down within 8 feet, just say “I’ve seen a lot of cops and cars get hit on the highway, and I didn’t want that to happen to you. Has anyone ever told you you have beautiful eyes?”
Using common sense is the key. Don’t head for the next county; just a minute or two is the most they’ll want to put up with. If you’re in town or the suburbs, getting off the road and into a parking lot or even a quiet side street is acceptable. Just remember to do it slowly, and keep those hands where I can see 'em!

Watching “Cops” is one of my guilty pleasures. Every now and then you see a traffic stop that starts out fairly routinely, and as the cop is first approaching your vehicle, this is when he’s most edgy: he has no idea what you’re about, and until he can eyeball your hands and comprehend your demeanor, he’s gonna be nervous and defensive, with his shooting hand ready to draw his sidearm. It’s amazing how casual some people are during this phase, not realizing that the things they are doing make the officer uneasy - which may make him likely to be less merciful about the traffic offense that started the whole mess.

The best write-up I’ve seen for how to comport yourself during a traffic stop is this piece, written by a former border patrol officer. It’s geared toward motorcyclists, but the same basic rules apply: no sudden moves, keep your hands in plain sight of the officer, and ask/inform before reaching anywhere he can’t see (e.g. glovebox, center console, etc.).

As for delaying your pullover, a short delay shouldn’t be an issue, as long as you’re not reaching all over the interior of the car in an effort to hide contraband, and in the process passing up opportunities to stop safely. Pilgrim says:

The last couple of times I got stopped on my motorcycle were on interstate highways. Both times I stopped promptly and pulled my bike over to the very edge of the pavement. When the conversation began, pretty much the first thing I did was ask the officer if I could dismount and step into the grass, further away from traffic. Between:

-showing a concern for traffic safety (apart from the initial infraction);
-showing courtesy/deference during our conversation; and
-working to ease the officer’s concern about any threat I might pose to his safety,

I’d like to think that all of this helped contribute to receiving only a verbal warning on both occasions.

Pull over as quickly as you can safely do so. Most cops IME will want you to pull over sooner rather than later. Once you see the police car’s lights, the farther you keep going, even with a friendly wave and your flashers on, the more annoyed the cop is likely to be. Definitely good advice upthread about keeping your hands visible and not reaching into your glovebox, under the seat, etc. without asking permission to do so. Also, be sure the officer sees you wearing your seatbelt before taking it off to retrieve anything.

I would (be tempted to) tell him, “I’m sorry, officer, I was mistaken. Next time I will remember that I should not take the safety of the police officer into consideration.”

So next time you’re in that neck of the woods*, find that officer, do something to merit his attention, and when he pulls in behind you and turns on his lights, slam on the brakes and let him plow right into you.

Explain in court that you were following his explicit instructions.


*While driving a rental car on which you took out the insurance, of course.

Which reminds me: I recently read that the film crew for the comedy What’s Up, Doc? rented a car and got collision insurance, then went out and smashed the car for the opening scene.

Eh, doesn’t really sound to me like the guy was being an asshole - I think there’s a difference between letting the officer know you’ve seen him and continuing straight on to the safest place to pull over; or making a few stops and turns.

Oh sorry. I meant: cops, man. What jerks. Always screaming, and writing tickets to speeders, such assholes.

Just wanted to add that I seem to recall the local police or state patrol saying something to the effect that they wouldn’t mind it if you choose a safe place to pull over. This was in response to a bad guy impersonating a cop who would flash lights and get people to pull over, and doing something bad. So the idea was if you didn’t feel safe pulling off to the side of a dark highway, if you instead drove to a well lit and populated parking lot, it would be OK.

I like this approach myself: