Updated: May 24, 2021
No matter how old or how experienced a driver you are, getting pulled over by the police can be nerve-wracking! So, for a new driver, it’s a very anxious situation! Part of being a safe and responsible driver is learning about all the possibilities of driving, including being pulled over by a police officer. Even if your teen is a safe driver, they will likely make a mistake which results in getting pulled over; being properly prepared can make the situation better for everyone.
Before your teen begins driving, explain that they are responsible for the vehicle they drive. That means their vehicle registration should be current, they should be driving within the parameters of their license, and they should know the rules of the road. By the time your teen takes their drivers test, you should feel confident that they are prepared to drive safely on their own.
First, new drivers should know that they are supposed to be alert and scanning. That means if a police car is behind them with only their lights on, they should see the car, process the situation and know they need to respond. Police typically do not put the siren on to pull over a car, so drivers must be watching.
If they are pulled over, they should use their turn signal, pull over to the right side of the road or safely pull into a parking lot or side street. They should put the car in park, put on the parking brake, roll down both windows, and turn off the vehicle. Stopping on the left side of the road is dangerous for the driver, the officer, and other drivers.
Explain to your teenager that the police officer doesn’t know what is going on in the vehicle at the time of the traffic stop. Just because they pull you over doesn’t mean you're getting a ticket. They don’t know if the driver is distracted and speeding or if they are fleeing a crime. Traffic stops can be very dangerous for police officers, so drivers have a responsibility to create as safe an environment as possible. It’s the driver’s responsibility to earn the trust and respect of the officer.
Drivers should always know where their license, registration, and insurance are in the vehicle, but they should wait to get those items until the officer asks for them. Even then, they should first tell the officer where the documents are before retrieving them. Until then, it’s best to keep both hands on the steering wheel in plain sight. Have your teen practice this with you so they are comfortable with the process.
If your teen does get a citation, they will have to sign saying they received it. Explain that this is not an admission of guilt, just that they were the one to receive the citation. Parents should encourage an open dialogue about driving, including traffic stops and citations. Remind your teen that being pulled over isn’t the end of the world, but it should be a learning lesson. If it does happen, you may want to have a few more lessons with them to review their safe driving skills, and you may consider setting stricter boundaries for a period of time.
There’s a lot to cover when you’re teaching your teen to drive. But you’re not alone! In my new online course, The Parent’s Survival Guide for New Teen Drivers, I cover the topics that you should be reviewing with your teens (such as being pulled over) and the best tips and strategies for how to communicate effectively with your teens while teaching them. Learn more about the course today!