Nobody likes receiving speeding tickets. They cost you hundreds of dollars. They jack up your car insurance rates. And they slow you down when you’re just trying to get home from a bachelor party in Montreal where you’ve already spent way too much money and you’re pretty hungover and exhausted. (Or maybe that’s just us.)
The point is, getting written up for a speeding ticket—or any traffic ticket—is no fun. And we’d all like to know how to avoid receiving them if we could. Luckily, we have Steve Lehto.
Steve Lehto is an author, a podcaster, and an attorney who has been practicing law in Michigan for more than 25 years. Also, he’s a great communicator. He’s got a likable personality and he’s very clear about whatever he’s trying to express. He sort of reminds us of Michael Scott from The Office. But in the best way possible.
On a recent 18-minute podcast, Lehto explained what you can do to reduce the odds of being ticketed when you get pulled over by law enforcement. The advice is really helpful. His tips are based on his experience handling hundreds and hundreds of traffic tickets in his career, as well as his own experience dealing with police officers who have pulled him over. (Because he’s a fast driver.)
Some of the advice is common sense that you might have heard before, but most of it was new to us and we found it rather insightful.
Basically, here are Lehto’s steps for getting out of a speeding ticket.
1. As soon as you see the car of someone in law enforcement, lift your foot off the accelerator. “Don’t hit the brakes because then it becomes obvious that you were speeding,” says Lehto.
2. When the flashing lights of a cop car are behind you, pull over as swiftly as you can into a safe spot. The spot should be safe for you but also the police officer behind you. Pull way off to the right of the shoulder. This way, when the police officer stands outside your car, he or she will still be out of the way of traffic. And feel safe. “Think of it from their viewpoint,” says Lehto. “If you make it easy on them, they’ll hopefully go easy on you.”
3. Put your car in park, turn on the overhead dome light, roll your window all the way down, and put your hands on your steering wheel at 10 and 2. “This will put them at easy, knowing they can see your hands,” says Lehto. “Hopefully they’ll realize that you’re doing this on purpose to make their job easier.”
4. When they ask if you know how fast you were going, never confess to anything. “You’ll lose if it goes to court,” says Lehto. Instead, say something like, “I’m sorry, officer. I don’t know. I apologize.”
5. When they ask if there’s some reason you were driving so fast, be apologetic and honest. (On a recent stop, Lehto told the young state trooper who had pulled him over, “I’m sorry, officer. It’s been a long day. I drove all the way to Ann Arbor. I’m driving all the way back. I’m almost home. I’m tired. I guess I wasn’t paying attention and I’m sorry.”)
6. When they ask for your driver’s license, registration, and proof of insurance, be ready. “That’s almost always gonna be asked,” says Lehto. Before you move, let the officer know what you’re going to do. In other words, announce your movements.
7. You should even ask for permission, advises Lehto: “With my hands still on the steering wheel, I said, ‘All my information is in my wallet. I’m now going to reach for it with my left hand. Is that OK?'”
This will put the officer at ease. It might even make him or her chuckle. “Even though the officer knows that most men carry a wallet in their pocket, when he sees a man reach underneath himself, that hand disappears for a moment. And until he sees what you’ve pulled out, he’s going to be on high alert. Because there’s always a possibility you’re reaching underneath yourself to pull out a gun. And we’ve all heard stories about police officers being shot on the roadside during a routine traffic stop.”
8. Asking for permission to move might even get you off the hook. Lehto says it did for him recently: “When the officer laughed at me for asking for permission, he recognized that here’s a guy who’s doing what he can to cooperate with me to make my job go easier.”
9. When the officer takes your information and goes back to his or her car, don’t move. Don’t dig through your wallet or your glove compartment. Don’t do anything. “Think about it from the police officer’s viewpoint,” says Lehto. “He types information into his computer and he looks up and sees you’ve got your head down. Your head is moving around. Now he’s wondering, ‘What are you doing? Are you up there hiding stuff?'”
Which is why you should just sit there. With the dome light still on. “Put your hands back on the wheel and sit there like a dummy,” says Lehto. “And I mean that literally. Sit there and don’t move. Don’t even roll the window up. Even if it’s raining.”
Doing all of these things may get you out of a ticket. Or it may not. But it gives you the best chance of simply getting a warning.
Lehto goes on to offer a few tips about how to get your ticket reduced in court. And again, the whole thing is 18 minutes long. Which is extremely short for a podcast episode.
To hear the full explanation from Lehto, listen to the podcast below.
—Shawn Donnelly for RealClearLife