Police Reveal 4 Common Ways to Get Pulled Over

Here’s what not to do if you want to avoid that next traffic ticket.

Common ways to get pulled over

We’ve all seen it — someone changing lanes without signaling. Or a person driving while texting. And, if we’re honest, maybe we’ve even been that person. Nobody’s perfect. But when you’re trying to avoid being pulled over (which most of us are), it helps to know more about those bad driving habits we’ve all been (admittedly) guilty of at some point.

Edmunds.com polled 3 police agencies to get an idea of the most common driving no-no’s that cops encounter.

So, in the ongoing interest of helping us all become model motorists, here’s what Johnny Law had to say:


(pulled over because you can’t drive 55 … in a 35 mph zone)

In the Edmunds survey, every cop surveyed listed stopping speeding drivers as a main priority. So why do police officers key in on speeders? Well, issuing speeding tickets has a huge impact on safety. For every 100 extra speeding citations given in a month, there are 14.3 fewer crashes and 5.6 fewer injuries.

Point is, if your need for speed gets the better of you, be prepared to put your money where your lead foot is — a whopping 34 million speeding tickets are handed out each year in the U.S.

Distracted driving

(pulled over because you’re texting, emailing, eating, and driving)

The police officers surveyed say their main reasons for giving distracted-driving tickets include illegal texting and driving or other dangerous cell phone use. And with good reason, too. According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, a stunning 40 percent of U.S. teens admit to having been in a car while the driver used a cell phone in an endangering way. We don’t know about you, but it seems this phenomenon can’t get enough police intervention.

Equipment violations

(pulled over because those windows are just a bit too dark)

Equipment offenses are easy bait for tickets because they’re so simple to spot. A police officer doesn’t have to make any judgments about the situation. Rather, he or she can simply see that something isn’t up to code and make a move. According to the cops surveyed, the most glaring violation (pun intended) was illegal window tints. Following that were burned-out lights, broken windshields, and expired license plate tags.

Tailgating and improper lane changes

(pulled over because you’re bound to cause an accident)

These 2 violations ranked as equally important on the Edmunds study. Both are reckless maneuvers that cops said they monitor closely. One police officer even qualified exactly what he thinks is considered a dangerous lane change: cutting someone off or moving without looking.

Using the left lane for cruising instead of passing, driving too slowly, and squealing your tires are also high on the list.

Use common sense

When reviewing these offenses, it’s not exactly a surprise that they attract attention. True, you can’t control what other people will do on the road. But you can control yourself. So next time you notice you’re about to fall into one of these habits, think about the repercussions. Safe driving is good for you and everyone else on the road.

Want to learn how these driving no-no’s can impact your car insurance? Check out our moving violations insight center. And if you do get pulled over by the police, remain calm and remember these 8 useful tips.

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251 Responses to “Police Reveal 4 Common Ways to Get Pulled Over”

  1. Dan H
    December 23, 2014 #

    Actually, "speed" or "speeding" does not cause accidents. Recent studies where they INCREASE the speed limit, and there is no correlation in more accidents.
    Also, some areas post speed limit signs at the 40% or 50% which means 50%-60% of the people are "speeders"…but the engineering standard is the 85 percentile speed is the legal speed.
    50 percentile speed violates the basic premise that MOST drivers drive safely and traffic laws that are in conflict with MOST drivers are incorrectly set.
    It is not speed, but too fast for conditions or delta speed that is dangerous…or the slow driver in the fast lane (even if he is going the speed limit he is dangerous).

    A good resource is motorists dot org

    • bouledoux
      January 9, 2015 #

      It's not the fall, but the sudden stop at the end of the fall that does the damage. Would you rather fall at 5 mph or 50 mph ? Better yet, wouldn't it be better yet to avoid that fall in the first place by being more careful?

    • Walt Wilson
      January 10, 2015 #

      I agree. Always obey the speed limit, but the guy doing 45 in a 70 zone causes trouble. People will take unnecessary risks to pass, etc.

    • Georgie Bush
      January 11, 2015 #

      Your chances of being killed or killing increases with speed dumb dumb. Speed limits are there for a reason, school zones being one.

      • Curtis
        January 23, 2015 #

        If that were true, then the Autobahn would be Death Road. It isn't. hmmm…

      • Running Man
        January 24, 2015 #

        Dear CURTIS,
        The autobahn has safety features our highway systems do not have. Further, the autobahn infrastructure is built to support significantly higher speeds. Our highway infrastructure is not.
        Bad comparison.

      • Running Man
        January 24, 2015 #

        The intent by many to justify breaking the law is humorous. I fall into the ubiquitous category of speeding as well. However, I would not try to justify the bad habit on my part as so many others are.

      • Arnie
        January 27, 2015 #

        Dear Running Man,
        As an American living in Stuttgart, Germany, I have to take exception to your comments on autobahn infrastructure. Other than digital signs that specify temporary speed limits due to prevailing conditions, the average German autobahn is no different than I-5 in California or I-95 in Virginia. The real difference is in the competency of the average German driver. The driving age is 18 and a license will only be issued after a graduation from a very expensive and professional driving school (fahrschule). Driver here are very predicable, courteous and know the rules of the road. The result is a safe and efficient driving experience, even when cruising at 200 kph (120 mph). Accidents are seldom seen.

      • USAF Taylor
        March 26, 2015 #

        Running man the autobahn is actually less safe than our interstates. The lane width is smaller first and for most.

        The drivers in Europe are overall safer drivers. They go though more driving training than the united states. They also have safer driving techniques that would go over well in the US like the zipper effect. They also have a certain inspection quality for vehicles to drive on the roads.

        Driving faster does not make you an unsafe driver. It's being distracted, unsafe vehicle, and inexperience.

    • Pianoman
      January 13, 2015 #

      those who act under color of state law, just need to leave citizens alone, find something better to do than harass citizens. People have the right to freely travel without being molested/harassed by cops.

      • Mike
        January 13, 2015 #

        So what you're saying is that a citizen that is violating a traffic law, i.e. speeding or distracted or some other way being dangerous should be left alone? Your statement makes no sense and it seems to be an anti-government based rant with no real point to make about the validity of this article. If you're not breaking the law, regardless of how minor it may be, then you shouldn't have to worry about being stopped, detained, or arrested.

      • Lisa
        January 17, 2015 #

        I got pulled over just bc I dropped off my recycling at 11:30in Roxboro NC a..no ticket of course just wanted to c if everything ok

      • Jason Dennis
        March 23, 2015 #

        @Mike you sound like a huge "conformist". Pianoman stated a federal ruling called the right to travel. Pianoman simply stated less people would be getting tickets or pulled over if most states quit extorting money out of their citizens and simply followed federal case law. I personally believe the article is right and wrong. By following the road rules you are less likely to be observed and pulled over simply due to probable cause laws. I know for a fact if a police officer wants to pull you over, they will regardless of law.

    • NP
      January 13, 2015 #

      How can a driver in the fast lane be 'slow' if they are doing the limit? It is the other drivers breaking the law going too fast which create the problem. Don't blame others for the danger you create yourself.

      • Dean Eaton
        January 14, 2015 #

        NP, the law in some areas and common sense is if you are not passing you stay out of the fast lane. That causes those of us to have to go faster to pass on the right which is a problem some times not mention drives most everybody crazy except the stupid drivers who travel in the fast lane at or below the speed limit. Deane10

      • Edward Hart
        January 15, 2015 #

        It is not the fast lane, it is the passing lane. So if you are not passing you should not be in it.

      • I, Rebel
        January 15, 2015 #

        Right. Then people want to say you "make them go faster" because they want to get around you. A driver doing the speed limit in the fast lane doesn't "make you" do anything! You CHOOSE to be impatient and pass on the right of a person who is obeying the law, thus choosing to "break" the law and speed because you were impatient.

      • Lisa
        January 17, 2015 #

        The fast lane is for passing not riding n it

      • Eduard Dugard
        January 19, 2015 #

        Left lane is for passing.
        I recall doing 80 in a 55 while in the left lane.
        A state trooper pulled me over and cussed me out, not for speeding, but for just "casually" driving in the left lane.

      • Elvis
        January 28, 2015 #

        The fast lane is for passing.

      • Bill Westchester
        January 28, 2015 #

        It's against the law to drive in the left lane casually. No mater the speed. If you find more than five cars behind you and none in front of you then you are the problem.

      • Steve Lira
        February 18, 2015 #

        These people are passive-aggressive. They know they see a hindrance to the common flow of traffic, & care not that they increase the chance of accidents as others fight to maneuver around them. A passive form of road rage.

    • robeert
      January 27, 2015 #

      If you're going 55 in a 35. There is a high probability of a serious accident. That 20 mph more to slow down a 2000 lbs object. Court proved . The guy who hit me was going 55. And i collected, an extra 150,000. For bodily injury. Still would rather my arm back

    • Craig
      January 29, 2015 #

      As a police officer that has handled fender benders and high speed crashes due to loss of control – which ones do you think I was on the scene longer for and which ones I had to make a DOA next of kin contact? Stick that in your surveys.

    • Analyze this
      January 30, 2015 #

      The 85 percentile theory isn't your free pass to break the law.

    • Pete Terr
      February 7, 2015 #

      Actually Dan, to say that speeding does not cause accidents is subjective. If someone is speeding then their reaction time is decreased should they need to stop (traffic jam, disabled motorist, etc.). Not only is this likely to cause more accidents, but the faster the speed the greater likelihood of injury. Also, speed scientifically increases the chances of hydroplaning and losing control of a vehicle as well. (Reference NHTSHA data over the last 11 years).

    • EWB
      May 9, 2015 #

      As a traffic officer and accident reconstructionists for years…you are correct. Speed is rarely the cause. Speed does however complicate any collision so keeping speed under control will save lives!

  2. Robert Malloy
    December 24, 2014 #

    Police have a tough job and are greatly under-appreciated. I try to make their job easier. Being retired and not in a hurry to get anywhere, I drive the lesser of a) the speed limit or b) especially in urban areas, a speed that is comfortable for me considering weather and traffic (usually lower than posted speed). I get a few honks, a few stares and a few birds, but I don't take it personally. On the RARE occasion I'm stopped (last time was 15 years ago), I'm extremely courteous and understanding especially if I did something wrong. Works for me.

  3. Bob Crawford
    December 26, 2014 #

    Remember, tickets are really not about safety at all. Tickets are all about revenue enhancement for government. It's only about the money. Anyone who tells you anything else is lying to you.

    • Dr. E
      March 15, 2015 #

      Sad. I was stopped for cause by an officer. I stated immediately that I knew I'd gone through the turn light too late. He did not ticket me, because "my job is to make sure you know the law. I'm satisfied that you won't do this again." Stick that in your pipe!

  4. Kamala Jones-martucci
    December 29, 2014 #

    Obey the law. If you follow through with safety and consideration for your fellow motorist as well as pedestrians, and motorcyclist you will have no problem .

  5. h
    January 11, 2015 #

    I can't stand when people think of a certain lane as a fast lane. There's no lane where your slowed to go faster then the speed limit. In fact, Ithink it's halarious when I'm doing 5 over and some idiot comes up behind me thinking he has the right to speed

    • Mark
      January 13, 2015 #

      You need to study your state laws, I believe it is only one or two states that do not have laws REQUIRING you to stay in the right lanes except when passing. Riding in the left lane can get you a ticket and in some states it is much more expensive ticket than speeding. (In most states this only applies to limited access roads such as interstates and other limited access state roads)

      • erictheredherring
        January 15, 2015 #

        Much more than two states, ever since the anti road rage laws started many have a law stating that the left lane is for passing only. Those that don't can cite you for impeding the flow of traffic. As a general rule if the lane to the right of you is not going any slower than you move over.

  6. Jane
    January 11, 2015 #

    Black, white, green, blue, red: Follow the laws and you'll be okay.

    • Pamela Kennedy
      February 2, 2015 #

      Nope. Black, red and brown: you could do everything right and still get pulled over, harassed about something minor that was buried so far in the back of the law books that NO ONE could possibly have known about it, and ticketed anyway just because the officer doesn't seem to believe you really graduated from law school just because of the colour of your skin. I get pulled over for things I didn't do just because of overpolicing on certain roads in certain "areas" and at certain times of year (read "ticket quota season.")

      The law books are 2,000-3,000 pages long and most reasonable people couldn't possibly be expected to read all of them let alone follow all of them all the time always. And especially if we drive in more than one state, then each state has several thousand pages' worth of laws and technicalities that we'd have to memorize.

  7. bob
    January 12, 2015 #

    To Bob Crawford: If you are convinced you are innocent and go to court, you will usually find the judge to be a magistrate, meaning they have not been elected, but rather hired, and had a grade point average below a C in law school. I refer to them as the head cashier.

  8. Mark
    January 13, 2015 #

    You need to do read closely the findings of the NTB on crashes. Speed is a huge contributing factor, but read on. The largest issue is speed below the average flow. When someone is speeding (in most NOT all cases) they are hyper alert. The problem comes when someone is going slower and people have to change lanes (sometimes suddenly) to avoid them. The people changing lanes actually are the ones that normally get into accidents and the slow one continues on. From the NTB studies on interstates and limited access roads, over 95% of non weather accidents involve a car going more than 10% below the average speed of cars on the road. When you get to other roads, the percentage drops to 60%. The real story is either everyone should slow down to the slowest driver on the road, or the slowest driver needs to drive or stay home and not drive anymore.

  9. Joesph spann
    January 14, 2015 #

    Well please send those cops to CT,everyone here,no signal,no stopping @ stop signs,talking and driving,all the above but worse,what's even sad,all city cops do the same,especially unproper lane change.,please come here,you guys make a fortune in 3 days.

    • Eduard Dugard
      January 19, 2015 #

      Don't you guys over in CT pay a lot in taxes.
      That tax revenue probably makes up for difference.

  10. fuzzy trexler
    January 17, 2015 #

    Slower traffic to the right says it all

  11. Richard
    January 20, 2015 #

    Some of the traffic problems are caused by an unrealistic speed limit. II you have ever driven on Georgetown Road north from Meadow view drive to the Mahan gap road intersection, you can see an example of my point about an unrealistic speed limit. The road has two curves before you reach the new elementary school turn off but from there is straight with a mile or more visibility. When TVA built a substation near that intersection ( years before the new elementary school) suddenly a new 45 mph speed limit was posted. Mahan gap road going West to Highway 58 is curved with a bridge, hill and little visibility but has a 55 mph speed limit. I have driven Georgetown road daily for over 10 years and it can be very frustrating when you are last in line and the lead driver is going 35 or 40 mph..

  12. michael
    January 20, 2015 #

    Turtle turtle

  13. c23634697
    January 21, 2015 #

    wow and nobody has spoken.

  14. Me
    January 24, 2015 #

    Or just being at the wrong place at the wrong time. Here in South Miami, people drive like they are in Fast and Furious. I'm the guy who does the speed limit, uses blinkers, and am courteous (no one else does any of that). I had a guy pass me going 80 in a 40 before and at that exact time we were parallel, a cop clocked him. I got pulled over also and the cop said I was going 80 when I was going about 43. Had to cough up a few hundred and go through traffic school for being a good driver. I tried to politely explain my case, but just got yelled at for 10 minutes like I was a criminal.

  15. AnOK Driver
    January 28, 2015 #

    Remember, there are calculated speed limits to accommodate all makes and models, from a small 2-door smart car to the biggest and widest SUVs, to travel at a safe speed on highways.. Obviously there are vehicles rated with more horse power and torque that are built for higher specs and much more speed. I am not preaching any kind of speeding, but common sense driving. I am all for moving with the traffic speed. IF you do not feel comfortable going with the traffic flow or if your vehicle is not capable of keeping up….then do not stay in the left lane. Period! People driving below or at the speed limit in the left lane on a 3 or 4 lane highway cause most of the accidents. I saw couple of them on I-95 when I was driving in the middle lane. People want to pass for several reasons…they may be a surgeon trying to get to an emergency, couple having a baby or other medical emergencies, bank robbers, criminals trying to run from cops or plan ol' stir crazy speed demon. Whatever the reason maybe, do not try to be a traffic regulator or speed control guy in the left lane. You might just make some one mad enough to get in front of you to slam brakes :(

    Just drive at a reasonable rate and if you see traffic behind you in your lane move over to middle lane. However, if there is traffic on all lanes, take your time and move over when you can, BUT please do not just float in the left lane. People get frustrated and try to cut off others, just to pass you, which is more dangerous. Thankfully, VA is posting clear signs which say "Slower traffic keep right" to let people know what to do in some sections of the highway. Still it is amazing to see how many people drive slow in the left lane. The sign says nothing about driving at speed limit, but for slower drivers (compared to rest of the traffic) to move over! If you follow the speed limits, good for you, but also please note and follow the directions where necessary and use common sense judgement.

  16. jim
    January 31, 2015 #

    What gripes me is drivers changing lanes in an intersection! This is dangerous for those who have the right to a right turn on a red light! Another is drivers crossing an intersection in the left turn lane! Where are their heads at!

    • Kevin
      February 6, 2015 #

      You're the danger to those driving on the road you're turning on to! They have the right of way. Its your job to determine when it is safe to execute a turn on red.

      • Bryan
        March 26, 2015 #

        Most states actually prohibit changing lanes in an intersection for this very reason. So no, the person changing lanes is causing the initial danger BUT a good driver should anticipate things like this and only pull out when both lanes are clear.

  17. Bob Solomon
    February 15, 2015 #

    Gee, everyone commenting here is an expert. So let me add my expertise. Speeding is not a problem in and of itself. The problems are (1) driving too fast for conditions, including traffic and weather; and (2) speed variability among vehicles. If a multi-lane, limited access highway has a posted speed limit of 55 mph, and most drivers are moving at about 70 mph, accidents are exceedingly unlikely. If some are going 55 and others are going 75, the likelihood of accidents soars. If the same speed limit (55 mph) is posted on a two-lane country road, 70 mph is likely to be much less safe than on that multi-lane highway (where the 55 mph limit is a vestige of the 1970s federal law enacted to conserve energy). The easiest place to issue vast numbers of speeding tickets is the Interstate highway, where people routinely exceed the speed limit by 15 mph if it's posted at 55. And those are the citations least likely to improve traffic safety.

  18. john
    February 16, 2015 #

    to pass anyone, even in the left lane, you are not to break the posted speed limit of the road you are on. that is the law.

    • Bryan
      March 26, 2015 #

      It is also a law to stay out of the left lane unless you're passing. If someone wants to pass over the speed limit, that's their choice. But why should another driver be allowed to break a law (stay in the left lane) to enforce another law.

  19. Hector
    April 12, 2015 #

    It is sad some self appointed highway vigilante decide to occupy the left most passing lane, driving slower than surrounding traffic, sometimes slower than the slowest right lane, probably sadistic laughing at all the mayhem they are causing and creating dangerous road conditions for everyone else. Driving schools should emphasize the purpose and use and cops should aggressively enforce unlawful use. Large slower trucks need to stay clear it creates a special havoc in the urban areas hard to see around these units. Save the lane for emergencies, emerg. Vehicles and passing slower than posted speed limit vehicles. Knowledge is power..peace to all

  20. kit hudson
    May 17, 2015 #

    In the Lexington, KY area….even the cop cars are very guilty of speeding with NO lights …. AND …. not using turn signals. It's just ridiculous when cops won't even obey traffic laws.

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