“What’s New in County 22?”
This month in What’s New in County 22, I would like to talk about traffic stop procedures and what you should do in the event you would happen to see flashing lights or get stopped by an officer. I have talked about this a few years ago but was asked recently by my crew to address this again.
If you are driving along a roadway and see a vehicle approaching you with red and/or blue lights, and/or hear a siren, the driver of the vehicle shall yield the right of way and shall immediately drive to a position parallel to, and as close as possible to, the right hand edge or curb of the highway clear of any intersection, and shall stop and remain in such position until the authorized emergency vehicle has passed, except when otherwise directed by a police officer. This is outlined in Iowa Code 321.324. If this type of vehicle is coming up behind you, pull over to the side of the road and stop until the vehicle has passed and then continue on your way again. If you are meeting an emergency vehicle coming at you, it is again defined as “approaching” so you should also pull over to the side of the road and wait until it has gone by.
If you are driving along the roadway and see an officer with someone pulled over, a tow truck hooking up to a vehicle, or a flashing amber, white, red, or blue lights that are stationary, you shall approach the authorized vehicle with due caution. This is outlined in Iowa Code 321.323A. You should attempt to make a lane change if possible or slow your vehicle less than the posted speed limit and be prepared to stop. Failure to yield to either one of these scenarios could warrant a citation.
If you happen to get stopped by an officer you should put your vehicle in park once you get stopped and keep your hands at the positions of 10 and 2 on the steering wheel. At night, turn your dome light on so the officer can see you. Do not start digging in your glove box looking for your registration because the officer will be wondering what you are actually looking for.
The officer will usually come up to the driver’s side window but may also choose to approach you from the passenger window to avoid being hit by a vehicle. The officer will identify themselves, who he/she works for, and advise you why you were pulled over. The officer may then ask to see your driver’s license, registration and insurance for the vehicle you are driving. If you have a Carrying Concealed Weapon permit and have a weapon in your vehicle, I tell people to advise the officer what you have, where it is located and that you have a permit for such weapon. When the officer is done with his traffic stop be sure to use caution when pulling back onto the roadway.
Sometimes you may see a trooper or another squad driving with lights on, and the other squad you see isn’t using lights. This just recently happened to me. I met a trooper headed to another county for an accident and I pulled over and stopped in my squad when we met. I was not responding to the accident in the other county but the trooper was. People were probably wondering what I was doing at that point. Sometimes there may be occasions where you see squads driving fast with no lights on. We do receive certain types of calls, for instance a bank robbery hold up alarm. We respond, but do not want the suspects to hear, or see us coming. If I respond to a car/deer accident, I don’t always turn on my red lights, but will drive in a safe manner at a faster pace. I guess I figure I should get there as soon as I can to avoid another accident happening, but I don’t consider it an emergency if I know there is no road blockage or personal injury. I figure I would cause more confusion turning my lights on then not, but that is just me and my opinion.
Another scenario may be when the officer just passed you with lights on and now he shut them off and may even have turned around going back where he/she came from. Well, at that point the officer was probably responding to an emergency call. Other officers responding to the same call arrived at the scene before the officer you see had arrived there and he/she was told that everything is okay, slow down or disregard.
If you see any color of flashing light you should always use caution and slow down. The Iowa State DOT snowplows are now trying out flashing blue lights to draw more attention to drivers to slow down. Please drive safely out there and let us perform our duties so we do not have to worry about careless drivers.
If you have any questions, or comments, feel free to contact me anytime, e-mail me, or stop by to see me.
Thanks and be safe,
Sheriff Mike Tschirgi