It is never pleasant to deal with a traffic stop. When the police pull you over, you may experience the sense of a fight or flight instinct. You likely feel anxious and uncertain about what is going to happen next.

Whether you feel like it or not, you actually have a lot of power over how well a situation like this plays out. The things you do and do not play a significant role in whether this encounter ends with you in handcuffs or the officer leaving you off with a warning. Here are some general guidelines on how to conduct yourself when the cops pull you over.

Stop safely while communicating your intentions

As soon as you see the flashing lights, you should pull over. However, this does not mean you should suddenly jerk the wheel to stop in a dangerous place. Put your turn signal on and start slowing down to show the officer you are planning to stop. Pull over only when it becomes safe to do so.

Remain calm

Do anything you can to repress your knee-jerk impulses. Take some deep breaths to calm yourself and restore your confidence that everything will turn out fine. Try to not take offense to the officer asking questions.

Provide documents and avoid talking too much

It is standard for a police officer to request your registration, license and proof of insurance. Offer these items politely. But do not say too much. Talking a lot may result in you accidentally incriminating yourself.

Remember your rights

Knowing your rights and protections is crucial during traffic stops. One of the most important rights you have is to refuse a search. Unless the officer has a warrant or sees something suspicious in plain view, there is no reason that he or she needs to search you or your vehicle. Additionally, you have the right to film or otherwise document the interaction.