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Driving You Crazy: Are there laws stating where you are and are not allowed to stop when getting pulled over?

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Posted at 4:34 AM, Sep 26, 2023
and last updated 2023-09-27 13:26:26-04

Megan from Castle Rock writes, “What's driving you crazy? Are there rules/laws stating where you are and are not allowed to pull over and stop on the road when getting pulled over by a police officer? I’ve seen cars completely stop IN lanes of traffic (when there’s no shoulder) and even in a deceleration turn lane 5 yards from the intersection! To me that creates a very dangerous situation for the officer, the person getting pulled over, and everyone else driving in the area! I was always taught to go as far as you need to, to get to a safe stopping location away from moving traffic. If that’s a long distance, put on your flashers to tell the officer you acknowledge him.”

Since you are in Castle Rock, Megan, I talked to both the Castle Rock Police Department and the Douglas County Sheriff’s Office about how they would like drivers to act when being pulled over.

As for your first question regarding any laws stating where you should pull over and stop, Sergeant Jeff Burke with the Douglas County Sheriff's Office Traffic Unit told me, while there isn't a specific law about what to do when being pulled over, he suggests that drivers should follow the same requirements as when any emergency vehicle approaches a driver from behind.

“The law requires that a driver ‘…shall immediately clear the farthest left-hand lane lawfully available to through traffic AND shall drive to a position parallel to, and close as possible to, the right-hand edge or curb of a roadway clear of any intersection and shall stop and remain in that position until the authorized emergency vehicle has passed, except as otherwise directed by a police officer.’"

While Sergeant Kevin McCann with Castle Rock Police Department told me 'no,' there are no rules or laws stating where you should stop. But when getting pulled over, he did point out some things to consider.

“If you are on a roadway with no shoulder or safe place to pull off, you can put your hazard lights on to indicate to the officer you are aware of them and continue driving to a safe location,” McCann said.

McCann said that safe location could be a parking lot or side street.

Burke told me each specific circumstance could be a little different, so they are trained to initiate traffic stops when and where they feel it is safe to do so.

“Drivers should pull as far to the right as possible and come to a complete stop. Drivers should not pull to the left or stop in the middle of the roadway. It is difficult to address each specific scenario,” Burke said.

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Burke also recommended pulling into a nearby parking lot if there is one, but there are many times that doing so creates more of an obstruction and is more unsafe than stopping on the side of the road.

“Driving a reasonable distance may be acceptable, but I would not agree with the viewer comments about driving “as far as you need to.” If the law enforcement officer conducting the traffic stop has activated his lights to conduct a traffic stop, then they have determined that the location is safe by their assessment or has observed an immediate necessity for the safety of others to have the vehicle come to a stop at that location,” Burke said.

McCann said if you do happen to stop at a location or in a way that they believe is unsafe, the officer may approach you and ask that you move to a different and safer location.

“Stopping in the middle of a lane is very unsafe for the officer, driver of the stopped vehicle and other motorists on the roadway. When being pulled over, the Castle Rock Police Department recommends you pull off the roadway onto the shoulder or a parking lot, place your hands on the steering wheel and wait for the officer to make contact before obtaining your license, insurance and registration. If it’s dark outside, CRPD recommends you turn on your vehicle’s dome light,” McCann said.

Both sergeants told me traffic stops on highways like Santa Fe or Interstate 25 can potentially be more dangerous as speeds are typically higher, but the advice is still the same: pull as far to the right as possible in a safe manner and come to a stop.

“While the safest option is to pull off the interstate at the next off ramp, that may not always be feasible. CRPD recommends you pull off to the right shoulder as far as you can and never pull off to the left of an interstate”, McCann said.

For other drivers passing the traffic stop, remember to move over at least one lane or slow down significantly if you are unable to move a lane over.

“Being visible on the roadway influences the rest of the public at large as they see that traffic enforcement is occurring and acts as a visible warning to other drivers to obey traffic laws. Being visible is a terrific avenue to gaining voluntary compliance from drivers and most drivers tend to slow down and pay attention to their driving when law enforcement is present, which increases overall safety,” Burke said.

If you are unsure you are being pulled over by legitimate law enforcement in an unmarked vehicle, both sergeants told me you can call 911 on your cell phone and provide your license plate, or make/model of your vehicle and location. The dispatcher will be able to confirm if you are being pulled over by law enforcement.

Driving You Crazy: Are there laws stating where you are and are not allowed to stop when getting pulled over?

Denver7 Traffic Expert Jayson Luber says he has been covering Denver-metro traffic since Ben-Hur was driving a chariot. (We believe the actual number is over 25 years.) He's obsessed with letting viewers know what's happening on their drive and the best way to avoid the problems that spring up. Follow him on Facebook, Twitter or Instagram or listen to his Driving You Crazy podcast on any podcast app including iTunes, iHeartRadio, Spotify and Podbean.