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Traffic Stops: Do's and Don'ts When You Are Being Pulled Over

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TULSA, Oklahoma -

No one likes being pulled over by police, and with recent cases lately, both citizens and police are on edge.

Just seeing flashing lights in your rearview mirror can make you nervous. You're not sure what you did wrong or what to do or what to expect.

Broken Arrow Police Officer Kevin Hunsperger trains other officers how to perform traffic stops.

Hunsperger: "May I see your license and insurance ma'am?
Lori: "My license is on my console and my insurance is up there."
Officer: "OK."
Lori: "Here's this one and here's this one."
Officer: "The reason I stopped you is because you were speeding, so hang tight for me a minute.”

First, do what they tell you.

Second, keep your hands visible, preferably on the steering wheel, then let the officer know where your license and insurance are before you reach for them.

"No. 1, we want to see your hands,” Hunsperger said. “Hands can hurt us; hands can hold a weapon, so as long as we can't see your hands, there's a safety issue."

The worst place for your documents is the glove box. Best place: console or visor.

If you are digging around, even if your intentions are good, the officer doesn't know that.

Officer: "Ma'am, stop digging."
Lori: "I was just reaching for my..."
Officer: "OK, where's your license and insurance."
Lori: "It's in the glove box."
Officer: "OK, go ahead and get it."

They'll watch you retrieve your documents to make sure you're not grabbing a weapon or trying to destroy evidence or drugs.

They don't know if you're the best person in the world, or the worst.

"Every contact with a citizen is a safety concern for us,” Hunsperger said.

Officers do have a legal right to ask you to step out of the car. That generally happens if they have additional questions or concerns. Again, follow their instructions.

Officer: "Ma'am, I need you to step out of the car."
Lori: "Do I need to turn it off."
Officer: "No, if you'll step right around here for me please."

When pulled over, always pull to the right and stop. Because traffic is on your left, the officer will have you stand between the vehicles on the right side, the safest place for both of you.

If you argue or refuse, the officer has a right to force you to get out, which could lead to arrest for obstruction.

Officer; "I need you to step out of the car ma'am."
Lori: "Why?"
Officer: "I need you to step out of the car."
Lori: "I don't want to."
Officer: "If you don't, I'll consider that to be obstruction and you could go to jail."
Lori: "Yes, sir."

Officers have a right to ask you to sit in their vehicle, but most agencies no longer do that for safety reasons.
 

Now what about your rights? Well, you can ask to see their commission card or department identification card to verify their identity.

You can request they have a supervisor come to the scene.

If you have an issue with the officer's behavior, that is not the time to argue. You can always file a complaint later.

If you're not sure it's a real officer pulling you over, wave, turn on your hazards, do something to let them know you see them, then as you are going slowly to the nearest well lit, well populated area to pull over, call 911 and ask them if there's an officer at that location.

The goal is to keep everyone safe.

And because there have been some cases lately where people did comply but got hurt anyway, we asked police about that. They tell us those cases are rare and the exception to the rule.

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