Getting Pulled Over | Talk It Out | Street Savvy

By Marc Cook, Photography by Aaron Frank

You didn’t see The Law heading the other direction at light speed until it was too late. But The Law has seen you. A tap of the brakes, a quick trip across the median and he’s on the way to have a nice little roadside chat with you. Wonderful.

You know you’re going to have a conversation, and you probably already know exactly why you’re going to have it. So the burning question is: Can you do anything to get out of a ticket? Are there any surefire ways to get let off with a warning instead of a piece of paper?

No. At least nothing that will absolutely, positively work every time. But there are tactics you should use in every encounter with police or the highway patrol to aid your chances.

Be calm. Acknowledge the fact that you’re being pulled over with a wave if you’re being followed and by nodding should the officer come up beside you. Smooth, easy movements; just let him know that you know your next destination is the side of the road. On that note, pick a safe spot where the bike won’t get mired in sand and where he has sufficient room to park the cruiser. If you’ve been tagged by a motor officer, provide him room and a reasonable surface to stop his bike.

The next minute is critical. Stop the bike, turn off the ignition, set the bike on the sidestand and slowly get off the bike. Stand on the side of the bike away from the road and open your helmet visor. Keep your hands in view. What you’re doing is assuring the officer that you’re not going to run, or produce a weapon from your jacket or luggage and cause him physical harm. Your sole goal at this point is to put the officer at ease.

Don’t talk. The officer will begin the conversation, usually asking for license and registration, though sometimes you may be asked to remove your helmet before you get to that stage. Again, do it slowly. Before going for the license, tell him where it is before you reach for it. “Yes, sir. It’s in my wallet, back pocket.” After handing over your license, let him know where the registration and insurance paperwork is. Produce it with a minimum of fuss; a big portion of getting through the next few minutes with the benefit of the doubt is to have all your paperwork in order. If you’re riding on an expired license or registration, don’t have a motorcycle endorsement, or can’t find your insurance paperwork (for states with compulsory insurance), you’re most of the way to getting some kind of ticket, if only because you seem to say, “I don’t care about the law.”

“Yes, sir” and “No, sir” like crazy. Confrontational behavior will only be met with more of the same. Do not admit to any speed. Sometimes, that “how fast do you think you were going?” question is a fishing expedition. Don’t bite. Worst of all is flat-out lying. If you’ve been doing 80 mph, don’t try to say you were going 60. Traffic officers pride themselves on being able to judge speed at a glance, and the best ones can guess within 2-3 mph of actual. You are not going to win that argument.

Show remorse. Unless the officer has retreated to his heated/air-conditioned car to write the ticket, stand there and apologize for your stupidity. If he says you were going 80, the best thing you can say is, “Geez, that seems kinda dumb, huh?” Answer his questions in a forthright way, succinctly. Then stop talking. A pause in the conversation as he stands there with your license in hand, looking over you and your motorcycle means he is probably thinking about letting you off. Don’t change his mind by saying something dumb. No doughnut jokes, ever.

This is human nature in action. If you seem reasonable and sincere, and don’t act like the kind of fool who would serially run triple digits in a school zone, you stand a decent chance of getting a warning. Proper, complete gear, a bike that’s not the latest 190-horsepwer beast and a bit of gray hair are also helpful. And if you do get a ticket, hold your argument for court. No whining to the cop.

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