What to Do When an Unmarked Car Attempts to Pull You Over

alarm-959592_640Being pulled over by a real police officer can be disturbing, but what about when you realize that the person isn’t even a police officer? While data on police impersonations can be hard to come by, more than enough incidents have surfaced over the years to make the threat a reality.

Police impersonations involving motorists are especially problematic. Impersonators driving unmarked cars pull over motorists and use the opportunity to rob and assault them. Unless you happen to have inside knowledge of the police department (such as the fortunate officer in this video) or what makes a police officer an official police officer, there’s very little for the average person to discern against.

So, how can you tell whether you’re being pulled over by a real police officer? And what should you do when caught in such a situation?

  1. Understand state law

While some states permit law enforcement officers in unmarked police vehicles to make traffic stops, there are some states that outlaw this practice. New York for example does not permit officers in unmarked vehicles to make traffic stops.

Become familiar with the law in your state. If you don’t know what the law is, you won’t know if the traffic stop is valid or not.

  1. Stick to safe neighborhoods

What kind of neighborhoods and areas do you drive in? While avoiding sketchy areas at all times is impossible, you can avoid a lot of trouble by sticking to safe roads and neighborhoods. Additionally, parking your car in and frequenting safer zip codes should net your lower car insurance rates as there’s less of a chance for theft or vandalism.

  1. Study the vehicle

If you’re being pulled over by an unmarked vehicle, try to get a good look at the car. Law enforcement officers are usually limited by the state as to which type of vehicles they can use. In many cases these vehicles include sedans, such as Chevy Lumina, Dodge Charger and Ford Crown Victoria. Police departments may also use SUVs such as the Chevy Tahoe, Ford F150 and the Dodge Durango.

Many times these vehicles have been involved in car chases. They are therefore most likely to be lightly scratched up. They may also have a few dents.

  1. Call 911

If you’re not sure that you’re being pulled over by a real police officer, call 911. Give the dispatcher detailed information on your location and the direction you’re heading. Also, provide them with a description of the vehicle pursuing you.

911 dispatchers can check with local police to confirm whether the vehicle pursuing you is actually a police vehicle. They will then let you know what to do next. If the vehicle isn’t a police vehicle, they can send real police to assist you.

  1. Pull over in a well-lit public area

Don’t stop immediately if you are in an isolated area and are unsure about the identity of the person pulling you over. Drive at a steady pace and indicate to the vehicle that you’re looking for a place to stop. You can do this by flashing your lights and indicating through your window. Don’t drive off at a speed that may cause police to think that you intend to get away.

Look for a place where there are many people about and that is well-lit. Stopping in an area where there are many witnesses will deter police impersonators from carrying out their evil plans.

  1. Stay safe in your car

If you still have some doubts about the validity of the “officer” don’t unlock the door or roll down the window until you see some identification. While this may annoy an actual officer, they’ll likely understand later when you tell you tell them you were nervous about the unmarked vehicle.

Every situation is unique. However, these precautions will help you to stay safe. Practice caution. Just be sure that you don’t overreact and get a traffic ticket as a result.

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