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SABOTEUR's avatar

Aren't drivers supposed to safely pull to the side when they observe police cars approaching with flashing lights?

Asked by SABOTEUR (12426points) March 18th, 2012

I don’t see this done much anymore and I’m beginning to believe the rules have changed and I missed the memo.

I was a few blocks from my home last week when I glanced in my rear view mirror and saw flashing blue lights (police car) two cars behind me.

I pull over.
The car behind me pulls over.
The police car pulls over behind us both.

We sit for maybe three minutes.

Then the police directs a search light to my driver side mirror.

We sit.

Finally, police approach from both sides of my vehicle, shine a flashlight inside and ask if everything is alright.


Why are you just sitting here?

“Uh…you turned the flashy light thing on.”

We were pulling over the car behind you.

“Oh…thank you Officer.”

I never knew you were supposed to first determine why the flashing lights were on. I just thought you were supposed to pull over.

What am I missing here?

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12 Answers

MrItty's avatar

If the cop car stopped behind you, you sit there. But it didn’t. It stopped behind the guy behind you. That was your cue that you were free to continue on your way.

elbanditoroso's avatar

In general, yes, unless if doing so would be potentially dangerous to pedestrians and/or other vehicles.

You did the right thing by pulling over. You didn’t know whether he was coming after you or someone else, and your actions were correct since it was ambiguous.

SABOTEUR's avatar

@MrItty Yeah, the officer seemed to imply the same thing, however…

how do I know he’s pulling someone over, trying to get by or going to the bathroom?

Had I proceeded, I could have just as well been in trouble for failing to yield the right-of-way to an official vehicle, or something.

MrItty's avatar

Because he stopped. I’m not clear on where your confusion lies. There were exactly three possibilities when you pulled over. 1) He passes you buy – after he does so, you keep going. 2) He stops behind you – you wait in your car and get prepared to show your license & registration. 3) He stops behind someone behind you – you go on your way.

You were right to pull over. You were not right to stay pulled over after he stopped behind the car behind you.

marinelife's avatar

Yes, they are. I still do it even though many people do not.

jca's avatar

How long did you sit there before having conversation with cop? I assume it was a while if he did traffic stop to the car he actually pulled over.

SABOTEUR's avatar

@MrItty I take it you’ve never seen officers pull over multiple vehicles. The fact that the officer stopped indicates one thing only…

…the vehicle is no longer in motion.

But I may be observing outdated procedure. When I first learned to drive you never questioned “why” or assumed anything concerning police officers.

That is, unless if you’re black. A lot of older black people assume they’re guaranteed an ass whipping and/or a trip to the station if an officer believes they’ve stepped out of line.

Perhaps that influences my perspective too. Regardless, we were taught to immediately find a safe place to pull to the side. Apparently, that no longer applies.

SABOTEUR's avatar

@jca Over 5 minutes. Time enough for me to wonder what traffic law I violated and why they were directing that bright light at my vehicle. I half expected S.W.A.T. to swoop in at any moment.

serenade's avatar

Cops don’t always telegraph their intentions very well. I’ve had episodes where I’ve had to guess at what they were trying to communicate (via their vehicle position, etc) and guessed wrong. Perhaps the stupidest episode I remember was a cop who was tailgating me during rush hour and then finally turned his lights on. Naturally, I pulled over into the inside emergency lane only to watch him repeat the procedure with the next car and the next. He just wanted to get through the traffic, I guess, but had no emergency.

You were dealing with inept communication.

Interestingly, this speaks to the “Do you know why I pulled you over?” line of questioning. Fact is, you can’t know why unless you are a mind reader.

jca's avatar

@serenade: always answer no to that. Otherwise you may be admitting to the wrong reason.

ucme's avatar

This happened to me one time, it was an ice cream truck & I purchased a delicious vanilla cone. How very pleasant of him to pull over for me just like that.

CWOTUS's avatar

Well, yeah. They’re supposed to stop at red lights and stop signs, too, and stop before turning “Right on Red” (as permitted in much of the USA) and not stop on crosswalks, to give way to pedestrians… and yada yada.

In the scenario you describe, I think the rule is that we have to stop for emergency vehicles “in motion”. That is, we make way for them or stop if it’s clear that it’s us they want stopped. When they’ve got the guy behind you, then they probably don’t want you. I think it’s normally safe to proceed (at reasonable speed and when safe to do so) on that assumption.

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