10 police tips for avoiding traffic offences

Police - Traffic offences

There is no guaranteed method for avoiding traffic offences except not committing them.

However, you can use the following “expert” guide to lessen the impact, cop a lesser fine, prevent copping extra fines (such as being pulled over for speeding and ending up with vehicle defect notices as well) or, occasionally, get out of traffic offences.

These 10 tips for motorcycle riders are all gleaned from current and former police officers in Australia, New Zealand, the UK and USA as well as a psychologist who also works with the police.

They are based on the fact that all officers have discretion in handing out fines based on a number of factors. However, zero tolerance crackdowns are diminishing the patrol officer’s ability to make judgments for the good of the community.

police - Traffic offences1 Breathe. Your pulse will now be racing with feelings of anger, injustice, fear, indignation and more. You need to get in control of your feelings because you will need all your wits about you for the next few seconds and minutes. Take a few deep breaths, be positive and tell yourself that this does not have to be as bad as it seems.

2 Sit. Do not get out off your bike or out of your vehicle. This can be seen as a threat to police. Also, don’t go reaching inside your panniers or jacket for your wallet at this stage. Remember, officers are taught operational skills and tactics to look for visual queues of threats. There is currently a heightened state of alert in Australia and police are more aware of their safety than ever. However, you should remove your helmet so the officer gets a good look at your kind and innocent face.

3 Be nice. Police officers have been instructed to be nice and most start out that way with a “Good morning sir/ma’am”. However, what you say next could be the difference between the officer being nice or being nasty. Return the pleasant greeting and smile. Do not swear, argue, or be rude or sarcastic. If you are, then you could end up with more than the fine you were stopped for!

4 Admission. The cops have got you and you know it, so there is no harm in admitting it. This will make the police officer feel more at ease that he doesn’t have to argue with you or face a day in court. However, if you don’t believe you have offended, be careful how you answer their loaded question “Do you have a reason for speeding/running that red light/failing to give way/running over that pedestrian?” If you say no, then you’ve just admitted that you did it! Instead, say “I don’t believe I did (whatever you are accused of)”.

5 Apologise. If it’s a fair cop, apologise, telling the officer it will never happen again. Tell them you had a momentary lapse of reason, judgment or attention.Queensland Police "Fatal 5" bikes - Traffic offences

6 Traffic record. At this time you may also alert them to your impeccable driving record. But don’t lie, because they have computers that will check your driving record in seconds. If your record is good, they may take that into account and lessen the fine or just give you a stern warning.

7 Cry. If you are capable of being emotive, this can and has worked. But you will need a genuine reason to cry. It could be that you have just broken up with your girlfriend, been fired, lost a loved one or are about to cop a massive fine and demerit points you can’t afford! Even if you can’t cry, the officer may view your genuine distress as a mitigating factor.

8 Danger. If you are being chased by crazed maniacs, road ragers, or your crazy landlord, tell the officer. Don’t invent anything. However, you may have been led to believe that those youths in that souped-up Supra had evil intentions toward your bike and you were just trying to get away.

9 Public interest. Remind the officer that yours is a victimless crime and although you know your offence could have caused harm, no one was hurt in any way. Tell them it’s a fair cop, it’s the first time you have done it and that you will never do it again. Police use two tests before deciding whether to issue an infringement notice – the “Sufficiency of Evidence Test”  and the “Public Interest Test”. They need good cause to suspect or have evidence to satisfy a court beyond a reasonable doubt that you have committed an offence. Mere suspicion that you have committed an offence is not enough. The Public Interest test is also applied. Take for example, an elderly person detected travelling at just over the speed limit. If they haven’t had a traffic ticket for many years, it could be argued that it is not in the public interest to issue an infringement notice in this case.

Heavy police presences at Lions TT - Traffic offences

10 Recording. All police now have recorders on their uniforms so you are being recorded. If you have a problem with how they conduct themselves, there will be an official record that you can access. You probably also have an action camera recording the incident. Legal experts say you are allowed to video the proceedings, but out of courtesy you probably should advise the officer that you are recording and ask if he/she would like you to turn it off. Tell them you have the camera for “safety reasons”. However, you should also note that if an officer sees the camera is on, you are definitely getting a ticket, so you may consider switching off before the officer gets out of their car or off their bike.

If you really think they’ve got the wrong guy or their equipment is genuinely faulty or they have not conducted themselves properly, you have the right to make a formal complaint about their conduct.

All complaints against police are investigated. If your complaint is upheld, the officer will be disciplined and your fine may or (more likely) may not be revoked. Police keep extensive records of every officer’s “complaint history” and senior police are well aware of officers who gather a lengthy complaint history regarding allegations of incivility and take action to deal with these officers.

As in all walks of life, there are some rogue police. But statistically, most officers do the right thing. They have a difficult and sometimes dangerous job to do. They see the tragic results of traffic crashes on a regular basis, so it’s little wonder that they might start lecturing you.

They are often subjected to verbal abuse, obscene language and even violence. So when they deal with a decent, honest citizen like yourself, they will appreciate it. Being polite, respectful and calm is your best defence.

These are only tips gleaned from people who should know; they guarantee nothing. And, as one officer told me, if it’s a career traffic cop, almost none of the above applies!

(First published January 2015)

23 Comments

  1. I like that you stated that we shouldn’t make up anything. If I was pulled over I would want to make sure that I told the entire truth. I would imagine that lying to a police officer would only cause more problems for you as a driver.

  2. Officer says “Why we you doing 140ks rider!” me “I saw you hiding on the side of the road all alone and i thought i’d race ahead and get you some donuts and coffee!”
    I wonder if that would work?

  3. In the US, a traffic cop told me that he looks out for drivers who draw attention to themselves. He does not book people for minor technical offences, which is totally different from what applies in Australia. I spent a full shift in his patrol car.

    We often hear the “revenue raising” refrain. As a regular visitor to and rider in the USA, I can say for certain that the booking culture here is totally different. Totally. I have been stopped three times in the US and every time have avoided a ticket. Once for speeding, once for riding past a road-closed sign, and once for a technical traffic turning offence. No agro, no lecture, and an ‘out’ was virtually offered to me each time. In Australia if you feel like it is a big ‘us versus them’ game, you’re right.

    Does this blunt instrument approach save lives? I don’t think so.

  4. I was polite and respectful to the police when pulled over for speeding. I also let him know it was about 27 years ago since my last speeding offence in my youth. Still got booked, fair enough, but the small lecture about I should know better as a local was a bit much. Sure, if I was a regular offender that lecture was deserved, but a clean run of 27 years…..

  5. Good article, my method for avoiding fines is to keep a very low profile when riding (and driving), I avoid speeding too much (using a GPS), I set my cruise control at about 113 kph on 110 kph roads and I never drink before riding.
    Do I break the law? Yes, mostly by opening up my bike but I pick those places where there is a very low police presence and no other traffic (never on a highway). When was the last time I was booked for speeding on a motorbike? Never, and I’ve been riding for 45 years (got my licence at 17). Am I a goody-goody? Hell no, I just DON’T want to lose my licence and I hate paying the government any money (I’m also a tight-a**e and hate parting with my hard-earned).

  6. Last time I got pulled over for a RBT, the authority said, ‘have you consumed any alcohol today?’
    I said, ‘What do you think I am…a stunt rider?’ hahaha, smile.

    Blew in the straw. He smiled, said ‘on ya bike’.

    Off I went.

    In other circumstances that could be seen as a smart ass comment, but I guess he was a bit sick of having to stick to his mantra and getting yes/no answers all shift.

  7. A couple of genuine tips
    If you notice a cop behind you pull over and clean your visor
    If they ask what you’re doing say a big bug hit it and you couldn’t see properly
    This gives you an excuse for a few things and short circuits there attempts to fine you for anything unless you were being a total dick beforehand.
    If they ask you what the speed limit is on the road and you know they have you for speeding answer honestly that it is the next up on what you know it is.
    The officer may then take it as an honest mistake and only fine you at the lowest rate not what you were really doing.

  8. “However, you should remove your helmet so the officer gets a good look at your kind and innocent face”. -yes! that’s the one that works for me.
    Cry. “Even if you can’t cry, the officer may view your genuine distress as a mitigating factor”.
    Chimera acting school, here I come.

    thanks Mark will keep all of the tips in mind, have been going out early in the mornings for a hour or two of just riding as the weather during the day has been insufferable, that’s possibly why I haven’t met the Police in the last 2-3 months & another month of it to go, funny how you wouldn’t do That in a car.

  9. Great article, respect is the key. I never have a problem with a cop pulling me up whether it is for a check or offence.i give them respect chat to them listen to them. They don’t know me and whether I am a threat. Every dealing I have had with them they have been professional as they go about the difficult job they have to do. They don’t make the rules they have to enforce them. Great article too.

  10. Why is it that the policeman is always correct, and I know we should respect him but he is also a human being like the rest of us. He can make a mistake, and trust me they are last to concede that they could have made a mistake.
    Also respect is not to be expected, it is earned. I don’t know the person as a police officer, and he does not know me.

    My video camera is on for his protection as well as mine, in all and any circumstance. So there is no need to be giving me a fine if I have it on, and I inform it of being on. If I am in a public location, which would be the case if I’m on the road, I may have it on unless there are specific signs indicating it needs to be off. He can then ask me to turn it off, although can be constituted as a chance for him to hide something.
    He should at no point need me to turn it off, if he has nothing to hide. He’s recording me after all.

  11. [“if i was this cop what would i want” and give it to them]
    Gee Ian if i was the cop what I would really like
    is a high speed chase with flashing lights and sirens

    1. They don’t make mistakes, and their equipment is faultless. I know this after being booked at 126/110 in the far outback South Australian desert.

      126 meant a fine hundreds of dollars more than 125. So I formally appealed the accuracy of their equipment to one kmh? In a Troop Carrier? No dice, pay $400.

      The next day in exactly the same country and circumstances, I was cruising legally at 130 without a care in the world. Welcome to Australia!

      1. Pete, cops are human, and they’re young. Yes, a chase is great fun and very exciting. One minute you’re sitting on the roadside, engine idling, the next you are doing a doughnut turn, dirt flying, engine screaming, siren blaring, lights flashing, and you’re off, quickly reaching 180Kmh.

        The bad guy drags his feet in the dirt as he is booked, for doing 140 on the freeway. Got him!

        If you have a pulse, this is 100% adrenaline…the story is true, I was a passenger in the patrol car.

    1. Great idea Pete…. NOT!

      If you’re in a group all stop and have your mates be as polite and contrite as you.

      Think about this – what do most people in authority want? Respect (Yeah, there are power players out there that can’t be pacified) is the key. Think this; “If I was the cop what would I want” and give it to them.

      The ‘runner’ idea is great, except if you are the one they decide to follow. How about a bit of loyalty to your mates?

      Cops (most) like us want an easy day at work – make you getting pulled over a ‘good’ part of their day and you’ll probably get off with a warning.

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