Motor Vehicle Stops

Have you wondered why or for what reason a police officer stops your vehicle?

Why You Were Stopped
The first question is usually, why was I stopped? The most common reason for stopping a vehicle is a moving violation. Some examples include failure to stop at a stop sign or traffic light, traveling too fast for the road conditions, speeding, tailgating, failure to use a turn signal, not wearing a seat belt or not securing your passengers properly.

Vehicles may be stopped for criminal investigations. Often the police are looking for vehicles that match the description of one recently used in a crime or involving a missing person. Your vehicle may be similar to the one we are searching for. Remember,  the Oklahoma City bomber was apprehended during a typical motor vehicle stop.

Other reasons for being stopped are equipment or registration violations. There are well over a thousand pages of vehicle laws and regulations. Often a driver is in violation of one of these laws without realizing it. Often times, vehicles are stopped by police out of courtesy to advise you about an open trunk lid or other safety issues.

Tips During a Stop
Here are somethings to do if you are stopped. Stop your vehicle as far out of the traffic lane as possible. Turn your flashers on and motion to the officer that you are going to comply. Stay in your vehicle! If you exit your vehicle, you subject yourself and the officer to the dangers of traffic. Turn on your interior light if it is dark out so the officer can communicate easier with you. Keep your hands in view, preferably on the steering wheel. Police officers are often killed with weapons. Criminals must use their hands to retrieve weapons that are usually kept within reach of the driver's seat. Wait for the officer to request your paper work.

Police officers are trained to ask for identification first and then provide an explanation second. You have the advantage of knowing who we are by observing our vehicles and name tags, please give us the courtesy of providing us with your ID without an argument. Please remove your license or paper work from its location in an envelope, wallet or purse.

Citizen Complaints
Most stops in Madison result in a verbal or written warning. If your actions do result in a citation and you disagree with it, or the officer's demeanor, please do not argue at the scene. You have the right to question the citation before a judge. Also, all police departments have a system in place to investigate citizen complaints.

Please understand that on average a police officer is killed in the United States every 54 hours and that a very large number of these deaths occur during a normal motor vehicle stop.