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November 17, 2016

What to do if you are Pulled Over By a Police in the US (with videos)

When the lights on a police car flash, someone is about to be pulled over.
Police cars will light up
when pursuing someone.
With all the media attention around getting pulled over by police, many to-be expats to the US wonder about how to follow the rules when getting pulled over so that they can avoid any problems in this interaction. 

Believe it or not, getting 'pulled over' is not the same in every country. In my experience between the U.S. and India, the idea of being 'pulled over' doesn't even really exist in India. And in India (at least where we lived in India), it's the norm for the driver to get out of the car to go talk to the to the police. If someone tried this in the US, it could have dire consequences.

The videos below will walk you through some of the things to keep in mind when getting pulled over by a trooper, sheriff, or police in the U.S.

A driver getting pulled over in an urban neighborhood.

How to Pull Over When the Police Flashers Come On Behind You

The Importance of Not Getting Out of Your Vehicle

Keep Your Hands Where the Officer Can See Them When Pulled Over

Be Polite to the Traffic Police When Stopped
Avoid using swear words to a police officer. Be polite. Admit your mistakes. Be humble.

What You Need To Show or Talk About When Stopped by State Troopers
Have your driver license ready to show along with your registration and proof of car insurance to show the officer.

What To Do When You Don't Have Your Driver License

Expats should keep these additional tips in mind when getting pulled over by a police in the U.S.A.:
    A police car in the USA.
  1. In some areas police will come to the passenger's side window rather than the driver's side. This is especially true on busy highways or other busy roads so that the police person is not walking or stopping on the road. There have been incidents where the police who went to the driver's side was struck by oncoming traffic.
  2. Be as polite as possible. Use your pleasantries- Sir, Ma'am, please, thank you, asking questions, etc.
  3. If you do not yet have a U.S. state driver license, show your international driver permit that is in English. Read more in this post, Can Expats Drive in the U.S.?
  4. If you are in a car rental (especially for expat business people and vacationers in the U.S.), always take car insurance on your rental (most car rental agencies will not allow you to rent a car without insurance). You would have to show your car rental agreement to the police requesting insurance information. The SeattlePI site has more information on this (though it's more geared toward US Citizens). Also always assure you are listed on the car rental agreement as a driver. If you are not, this is also problematic.
  5. If you are in the process of settling into the US, you may have a learner's permit. Assure you are always following the rules of the permit. Always take a licensed driver with you and abide by any other restrictions of the permit based on the state's laws. 
  6. Police may be more active in pulling over people for speeding or other infractions during rush hours (observe neighborhood speed limits), weekends and holidays. Also, be aware of abiding by school crossing zones, school speed limit zones and not passing a school bus with flashing red lights.
  7. If you pass a car being pulled over, always slow down, try to go to another lane or give space. Always be careful for other drivers coming toward you if you are on a two lane road.
  8. This post will help you to understand more about moving violations.

Do you have anything to add to this list? Feel free to share it in the comments below.

Thank you!

Author of the blog, Jennifer Kumar provides predeparture US cross-culture training programs for offshore teams with work assignments abroad to the U.S. Are you ready to expat to the U.S.? Take this quiz or sign up your offshore team for our virtual training program today!

~This post is part of "Questions about American Culture" - a part of the US Corporate Culture Training for Offshore Professionals. At the beginning and end of the training participants ask any question they have about living in the US as an expat. While some questions are answered on the spot, some will be followed up outside of the session, such as this one.

Related Links:
More tips for NRIs while driving in the US, here.
Preparing for Your Work Assignment to the US -Cross- Cultural Training 
Are Americans Superstitious? 

Note: The tips in this post are not to be construed as legal advice. Photo credits: First photo: Josh Beasley at Flickr, middle photo, Jennifer Kumar, photo at bottom: Pixabay
Updated Sept. 2018

Authentic Journeys: Bridging Culture on Virtual Teams

We help build effective, culturally competent global teams with focus on the cultures of the USA and India. Jennifer Kumar, Managing Director, an American citizen, has almost 10 years experience living, studying and working (owning a business) in India. Authentic Journeys Consultancy is registered as a Private Limited in India (Kerala) and an LLC in the USA (Salt Lake City, Utah). We provide onsite and live-online instructor-led courses, facilitation and corporate coaching.