SURVIVOR 6 Series - Traffic Stops

Thursday, May 3rd 2001, 12:00 am

By: News On 6

For police - it's a potentially dangerous routine assignment.

For the people they stop - it can be frightening.

Sgt Mike Garner, Tulsa Police: "We scare people when we stop them."

But the traffic stop can be as stressful for the officer as for the people they pull over.

Sgt Mike Garner, Tulsa Police: "Officers are killed every year in what we consider routine traffic stops. Anytime there's a police car behind you with their lights on you're required to pull far to the right and stop."

And people shouldn't be surprised if the officer approaches with a hand on his gun.

Sgt Mike Garner, Tulsa Police: ""Please don't make any fast moves. A lot of times we'll walk up and they'll real quickly put their hand in the glove box and we don't know if they're going for their insurance verification or a gun."

The Oklahoma Highway Patrol deals with the same problems.

Trooper George Brown, Oklahoma Highway Patrol: "We like them to put their hands on the steering wheel, we like to see those hands. We don't know who we're dealing with initially. I know we only have people going pulling off to the right - that's ok”

One of the most common mistakes troopers see is people who pull over to the left instead of the right - on interstates.

Once the stop is made, the driver should stay in the car until the officer gives them instructions.

Trooper George Brown, Oklahoma Highway Patrol: "We're trained to either call the violator back to our cars and away from traffic or in other situations approach the vehicle on either side and then call the violators out and back to our cars. If traffic is heavy and we feel it's safe we will put the violator in our car.

Whether a person gets a ticket or a warning depends on the circumstances - and on the agency making the stop.

Trooper George Brown, Oklahoma Highway Patrol: "We have discretion, troopers discretion, either written warning or citation."

Sgt Mike Garner, Tulsa Police: "It's our policy that we don't issue written warning on moving violations, so if an officer stops you for speeding a lot of people say well can't you give me a warning, no we're not allowed to."

Here are some frequently asked questions and answers about traffic stops:

Why do officers stop people?

It's part of their job to stop someone for traffic violations or as part of a criminal investigation. They may also approach someone who either appears suspicious or in need of help. You may be stopped while driving or even walking. The most common violation is speeding, but you may also be stopped for other moving violations or faulty equipment (such as a blown headlamp).

What are my rights?

Officers are trained to respect the rights that protect people from having to answer questions (other than basic identification) and from improper searches and detainment without probable cause.

What should I do if I'm stopped by an officer?

Remain calm. Pull your car over the right side of the road in a safe place. If it is dark, turn on the inside light on your car. Roll down you window and wait for instructions. Stay in your car and keep your hands on the steering wheel. Make no sudden moves and tell the officer if there is a weapon in your car. Give the officer your name and address and be prepared to show your drivers license and proof of insurance.

What if I get a ticket?

You will be required to sign the ticket. If you do not, you may be arrested and taken before a judge. Signing the ticket is not an admission of guilt, just an acknowledgement you have received a copy.

Will my vehicle be searched?

The officer may search your vehicle is they see something illegal inside or have probable cause to believe something illegal is inside. The can also search if they have a warrant or if you are arrested.

What happens if I'm arrested?

You have the right to remain silent and have a lawyer present when you are questioned.


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