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However, once in a blue moon I have one of those days when everything that can go wrong does and then some, and I get really bothered. That type of day occurred not too long ago and it led to an unnerving roadside encounter.
Like any professional trucker, I know that when you deal with law enforcement officers you ought to be courteous. Back in my “I’ve got a date with freight and it can’t wait” days, I learned that appearing rude, angry and annoyed, or treating an officer in a condescending manner makes any situation much worse.
But on this particular late afternoon, I was extremely aggravated, and my thoughts were a jumble. I didn’t notice that a state trooper had been attempting to pull me over. “Great,” I said to myself, once I did notice. “This is all I need.”
I quickly pulled off the roadway, set the brakes, exited the cab and headed toward the patrol car. As I did, the trooper got out, stood behind his car door, placed a hand on his gun (funny how you notice certain things even when steaming mad) and yelled: “Get back in your truck.”
I did, closed the door and started looking for the truck’s registration and insurance card. Since it was not my truck, I had to search for these things.
Approaching my door and not seeing me, the officer hollered: “Get in your seat and place both your hands on the top of the steering wheel. Do it now!”
“What’s this all about?” I wondered, as I grew more irked.
About that time, another state trooper pulled up, briskly walked over and stood in a state of combat readiness next to the first trooper.
“Slowly get out of the truck and keep your hands where I can see them,” the first trooper instructed. Then, under the watchful eyes of the second trooper, he patted me down.
It seems law enforcement can do that if they have reason to believe you’re dangerous, armed or involved in criminal activity. Getting frisked was a wake-up call to stop being such a jerk.
I sincerely apologized to both troopers for my rough behavior and explained my mental state. While the officers seemed empathetic, they explained that “routine” traffic stops are stressful and dangerous for police officers.
The ordeal was a very educational experience for me. Yes, I did get a “large” ticket, and I’m thankful that’s all I got.
To help others avoid putting themselves in a precarious situation when stopped by law enforcement, I offer Kolman’s Rules for Staying out of the Clink from a Traffic Stop.
1. Stay calm. Be polite and cooperative. The officer has the last word on traffic stops. You won’t do yourself any favors by irritating him.
2. Slow down and pull over in a safe location off the roadway, as far to the right as possible.
3 Turn off the engine, lower the driver’s side window and keep your hands on the steering wheel where the officer can see them.
4. Turn on your interior lights if you get stopped at night, when it is dark. The officer can see what you are doing then, and it will be clear that you are ready to cooperate. The officers told me that doing a traffic stop at night, particularly along a dark stretch of road, heightens the anxiety.
5. Stay put while the officer approaches you. Don’t get out unless you are instructed to do so. Exiting your vehicle without being asked will be taken as a threat, and officers are trained to expect the worst.
6. Avoid sudden or suspicious movements, like rooting around for something, as this is a cause for suspicion. Law enforcement personnel are trained to watch for a driver reaching for hidden items or stashing items, and it’s likely an officer may misinterpret your actions.
7. If your documents are out of reach, tell the officer where they are before reaching for them.
8. Keep in mind that the officer has no idea who you are or what you may have just done. That is why they must take reasonable steps for the safety of all parties involved.
9. Always follow the officer’s instructions and don’t be argumentative. You don’t want to ramp up the tension in an already uncomfortable situation.
One final thought: Attitude is a little thing that makes a big difference.