Apr 042005
Authors: Justin Jarvis

By following proper pullover procedures and providing the necessary documentation, drivers can ensure safety and prevent an expensive trip to court.

Drivers should learn and use the proper procedure when being pulled over, which provides safety for the officer and the motorist.

"The first thing to do is activate your turn signal," said Sgt. Tac McCleery of the Larimer County Sheriff's Office. "This tells us two things; that one, you see our overhead lights flashing and you are planning to pull over, and two, it is a legal requirement to use a turn signal when pulling onto the shoulder of a road."

The safest time to pull over to the side of road is usually immediately after a police car turns on its flashers, said Chris Robertson an officer for the CSU Police Department.

"Immediately pull over to the right side of the road, even if you are unsure about the location," Robertson said. "If the officer activates the overhead lights, that (location) is probably the safest place to pull over. This is usually planned on routine traffic stops."

Once they are pulled over, people should not get out of the vehicle for any reason unless the officer instructs them to do so.

"Remaining in your vehicle is one of the biggest things," Robertson said. "We are trained to be cautious about people getting out of the car. Stay in your vehicle and we will come to you."

Drivers should keep their hands in the open or on the steering wheel, said Sgt. Dave Haywood of the Fort Collins Police Services.

"We don't want people to be digging around under their seat," Haywood said. "Routine traffic stops are the second largest killer of police officers in the nation. We take every contact seriously."

Since the kidnapping and death of Lacy Miller in 2003, there is concern about being pulled over by a man impersonating an officer. In April 2003, the Colorado General Assembly passed a bill imposing stricter penalties for police impersonation as a result of Miller's death.

Both CSU and Fort Collins police do use unmarked patrol cars and it is possible to be pulled over by one of them.

"If you get pulled over by an unmarked car and are unsure if it is an officer or not, ask for their identification. If they fail to provide a badge and a form of identification, call 911 immediately," Haywood said. "This is not a huge issue, but it is something people should know about."

Bicyclists should follow the same procedure when being pulled over.

"Basically the same rules apply for bikes," Robertson said. "Immediately pull over and it is probably a good idea to dismount your bike. If you are in the street, it is a good idea to step up onto a sidewalk to get out of traffic."

Pullover procedures for bicyclists and motorists are the same, but citations are different. Insurance and following new lane laws are important for motorist to remember.

Colorado has been cracking down on uninsured motorists since Jan. 1, McCleery said.

"Failure to present proof of insurance is a mandatory court appearance and now a potential fine of $500," he said. "It is no longer the case that you can show up in court and show the judge your insurance card and have the penalties dropped."

There are smaller fines for failing to provide a driver's license and vehicle registration.

"Depending on the different jurisdictions, the fine for failing to provide a driver's license and registration is approximately $20 to $25 each," McCleery said.

Drivers should have valid documents in the vehicle and in a place where they are easily accessible.

"It is frustrating to stand at the window of a vehicle and watch the driver go through a trash can of expired materials in their glove box," McCleery said.

Since Jan. 1, officers have also been citing drivers for violating Colorado's Left Lane law, which was created July 1, 2004. This new law makes it illegal for drivers on a divided highway with a posted speed limit of 65 miles per hour or greater to drive in the left-hand lane unless they are passing.

"From July to January, officers were issuing warnings for driving in the left-hand lane," McCleery said. "Since Jan. 1, officers are now issuing citations."

The overall process of getting pulled over should not be a confrontation, Haywood said.

"Arguing will not get you anything. The place to argue is in court," he said. "You may get a traffic violation. It is like a headache – we all get one sometimes."

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