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What to do and what not to do during a traffic stop

Pulled over? It happens a lot. Here's what to remember. (Thinkstock)

WASHINGTON — You may not expect to be pulled over, but in D.C., it’s pretty common. Arrests are more frequent for traffic violations than for any other kind of arrest in the District — nearly one-quarter, according to AAA.

The Bureau of Justice Statistics says a traffic stop is the “most common reason for contact with the police” in the U.S.

The Metropolitan Police Department’s 2013 Annual Report says more than 4,600 people were arrested that year for traffic violations, down from about 5,600 the previous year. AAA says state troopers in Maryland and Virginia issued more than 1.2 million traffic citations and summons during 2013 traffic stops.

In the aftermath of recent violent confrontations during police traffic stops, AAA is offering guidelines on what to do and what not to do during a traffic stop:

  • Follow the officer’s instructions, slow down, use your turning signals and pull your vehicle well off to the side of the road when being stopped.
  • Stay in your vehicle and turn off the engine and radio.
  • Keep your seat belt fastened until the officer has seen you wearing it.
  • Take a deep breath and don’t panic. Remain calm while the officer explains why you were stopped.
  • Turn on your interior lights or dome light if stopped at night.
  • Be on your best behavior, and always be polite to the officer. Don’t be argumentative.
  • Cooperate with the police. It could make all the difference between a ticket and a warning.
  • Be honest with the officer. If you really didn’t see the stop sign, or were unaware of the speed limit, let the officer know.
  • Keep hands in plain view of the officer. Avoid reaching or making sudden movements. Never reach under your seat.
  • Avoid provoking the officer or showing off in front of other occupants.
  • Always carry proper identification: a valid driver’s license, proof of vehicle registration and current proof of insurance. Do not retrieve or reach for documentation until instructed.
  • If you are asked to exit the vehicle, do it slowly.
  • If you receive a traffic citation or ticket, accept it calmly. Contest the traffic citation in a court of law.

AAA says Washington has the “highest proportion of policemen to citizens” in the nation.

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