How should I act during a traffic stop?

Seeing the lights in your rearview mirror and knowing a law enforcement officer is pulling you over can bring on feelings of anxiety and panic. You may be unsure how to act to avoid making the situation worse. 

The News & Observer explains the driver’s license handbook now contains information on exactly how you should act during a traffic stop. 


The new guidelines include general advice to help you stay safe and to avoid making an officer feel threatened. For example, instead of reaching for your registration papers, wait until the officer asks you for them. They also state that you should always keep your hands where the officer can see them. This includes your passengers. 

The guidelines also give advice on how to pull over safely. If you do not see a safe place, you should turn on your flashers. You should slow down as well. 

They recommend putting your vehicle in park and turning it off. Also, roll down your window. Everyone in the vehicle should remain quiet and calm. Keep your seat belt on unless the officer asks you to remove it. 

It is also a good idea to turn on your interior light if it dark outside. This allows the officer to easily see inside your vehicle. 

In general, the guidelines state that you should listen to the officer and follow all directions he or she gives you. You may ask questions but remain respectful. 


When creating these new guidelines, the goal was to help prevent situations from escalating. Knowing what to do can help you to avoid misunderstandings that may lead to an arrest or volatile situation. It can keep you and officers safer during traffic stops. 

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