How to talk your way out of a ticket

Reader's Digest Editors

More often than not, your driving violation isn’t the only factor in play. The officer’s monthly quota and their mood may also determine your fate. Here’s how to coax them into going easy on you…

Don’t make any sudden moves

It may sound like a dumb line from a bad movie, but it’s true. Don’t go rooting around in your glove box for your license the minute you’re stopped, because the officer may think you’re reaching for a weapon.

Instead, wait until he comes to your car window and tells you what he wants you to do.

“Do not get out of your vehicle unless you are asked to,” says Lauren Asher, a New York City attorney who works in traffic law. “The officer does not know who you are or if you’re a danger. Just keep your hands visible on the steering wheel so the officer can feel in control and safe.”

 

Be ready to talk

Usually, the officer takes a minute or two before coming over to your car to ask for your license and registration. Take advantage of that time by preparing what you are going to say.

As Asher points out, a ticket that’s already been written out is pretty much cast in stone. “If you have something to say that you think might make a difference, tell the officer right away, because once he starts writing the ticket, he can’t just tear it up.”

 

Tell the truth

If you know you were speeding or passing another car in a no-passing zone, own up to it. Many people try to lie or make excuses, so an officer is often appreciative when people are direct and honest.

“I know I was going too fast, and I’m sorry. I’m in a terrible rush to get to a class tonight. But that’s no excuse, I know.” Don’t ever ask the officer to let you off with a warning—that gives the impression you think you’re somehow above the law. It’s best to let them make that decision on their own.

 

Don’t push it

Sometimes a ticket is inevitable, and sometimes—let’s face it—you deserve one. Do not argue with the officer; just take your lumps, thank him, promise to be more careful, and drive off—slowly.

 

Be polite

Policemen don’t get to be police by allowing others to push them around. Whatever you say, be polite and respectful. “Behaving with courtesy and honesty absolutely offers you the best chance for things turning out positively for you,” says retired California police sergeant Peter Novakoff.

“Referring to the officer who has stopped you as ‘sir’ or ‘ma’am’ never hurts, either.”