How to avoid getting pulled over

From the first day we get our driver’s license, one of our greatest fears is… seeing flashing red lights in our rearview mirror. Beyond the obvious (and hardest) way to avoid it—staying under the speed limit—there are other things to keep in mind. Here are a few things, from the basic to the farfetched, that might help.

Car color: buy a black car*

We’ve all heard about how red cars are a magnet for tickets, that they get pulled over more than more subdued colors. This perception might be because we all know someone with a red sports car who drives like a bat out of Hell. But, it’s only that—a perception. In fact, it’s those subdued, practical, under-the-radar white cars that get pulled over most. Then red, grey, and then silver.

It’s worth noting that white, grey, and silver are three of the four most common car colors—the fourth being black—so cars in these colors are more likely to be pulled over simply because there are so many of them on the road. (Yet black, the second most popular color after white, is not among the most-frequently pulled over.)

So a black car may be best for helping you stay under the radar. So to speak.

*We’re not actually suggesting you buy a black car. Unless you want to. There is some evidence to suggest it’s the fastest color. And we think they look great in sunlight, though Gino Vanelli would have you believe they look better in the shade. It’s a complicated decision.

Mind the basic speed law: don’t go faster than is safe for the conditions

“Never drive faster than is safe for present conditions, regardless of posted speed limit.”

The basic speed law is a standard of judgment that basically supersedes the posted speed limit.

If it’s foggy, and you can only see 20 feet in front of you, you need to slow down to a speed that allows you enough distance and reaction time.

blurred cars in torrential rain
motion blur of driving cars on a wet street in torrential rain

If there’s water on the road, you need to make sure your speed allows you to keep your car under control around curves and and brake with plenty of distance, without skidding.

And obviously, if traffic is moving at 35, you can’t go 55.

So even if you aren’t exceeding the posted speed limit, you can still get a speeding ticket if you’re driving too fast to be safe for the conditions—whatever they may be.

Headlights, taillights, turn signals, front and back license plates (if your state requires it)

One of the fastest ways to get pulled over is to have something clearly visible on your car that shows it doesn’t meet legal requirements—things like a headlight that isn’t functioning, or a taillight or turn signal bulb out.

Another thing to keep track of is making sure that you’ve placed your current registration stickers on your license plate. And in most states, you need to have a front license plate on your car, as well as a rear one. (Yes, it’s not always the most rakish fashion statement for the front of our car, and not what a lot of us would prefer, but… in most cases, it’s the law.)

Distracted driving

Life is busy, and we have more complex electronics in our cars, in our hands, then ever before. And then there are the old school distractions—kids, dogs, and the radio are all things that can take our attention from the road, and make us unsafe.

But the most common distraction these days is texting. In fact, texting has surpassed drunk driving as the leading cause of death for teenage drivers. The rest of the population is likely not far behind.

distracted driving-New Mexico
photo credit: yourmechanic.com

Letting any of the above divert your eyes or focus from road for even a split second can have disastrous results. And if a police officer sees it, it’s a surefire way to get pulled over and get a citation. (Also worth noting is the fact that in most states, even nearly causing an accident while texting or otherwise using your phone—or any other type of distracted driving—can result in a felony reckless endangerment charge.)

If something truly tragic happens, and you injure or kill someone as a result of distracted driving, you’re likely to be charged with vehicular homicide or manslaughter with an aggravating factor (in addition to living with  the weight of having hurt or killed someone.)

So please, please either wait until you get where you’re going, or pull over when it’s safe, if you really need to text, program your navigation system, or deal with your children or dog.

Alcohol, drugs, drowsiness

We all know not to drink and drive—and that it’s a sure way to get pulled over, among many even more serious possibilities. But beyond just alcohol, there are some less obvious things to think about:

Prescription drugs, and even non-prescription drugs, can be just as dangerous as alcohol when you’re behind the wheel. Anything that alters your level of consciousness, whether it’s a “loopy” feeling or drowsiness, is a reason not to drive.

Marijuana, though it’s legal in several states now, is getting to be an interesting conundrum where driving is concerned, as it can’t be measured the way alcohol can. So the safest thing to do is simply not drive if you’re under the influence of any cannabis products.

One of the easiest—but equally dangerous—altered states to drive under is simple tiredness. If you find yourself extremely fatigued, or nodding off, it’s really important to avoid driving or to get off the road and take a nap as soon as you realize you’re too tired to be behind the wheel.

So it’s mostly common sense, but these are some of the best things to pay attention to—not only to be a safe driver in general, but to avoid being pulled over.

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