It’s Christmas time, which means that police are out in force pulling over drivers, conducting spot checks and generally keeping us safe out on the roads in a period known for higher levels of drink driving.
But there are laws which govern how and when police can pull over drivers.
Do the police need a reason to pull me over?
No, the police have the power to stop any vehicle and ask for your name, date of birth and to see your driving licence and insurance and MOT documents. These can usually be produced later at a police station.
This is what the Road Traffic Act 1988 says:
Power of police to stop vehicles:
(1) A person driving a motor vehicle on a road must stop the vehicle on being required to do so by a constable in uniform.
(2) A person riding a cycle on a road must stop the cycle on being required to do so by a constable in uniform.
(3) If a person fails to comply with this section he is guilty of an offence.
Power of constables to require production of driving licence
(1) Any of the following personsâ€”
(a) a person driving a motor vehicle on a road,
(b) a person whom a constable has reasonable cause to believe to have been the driver of a motor vehicle at a time when an accident occurred owing to its presence on a road,
(c) a person whom a constable has reasonable cause to believe to have committed an offence in relation to the use of a motor vehicle on a road, or
(d) a personâ€” (i)who supervises the holder of a provisional licence while the holder is driving a motor vehicle on a road, or
(ii) whom a constable has reasonable cause to believe was supervising the holder of a provisional licence while driving, at a time when an accident occurred owing to the presence of the vehicle on a road or at a time when an offence is suspected of having been committed by the holder of the provisional licence in relation to the use of the vehicle on a road, must, on being so required by a constable, produce his licence for examination, so as to enable the constable to ascertain the name and address of the holder of the licence, the date of issue, and the authority by which it was issued.
The law goes on to say that a person may also be required to give their date of birth in cases where a licence cannot be produced on the spot.
So, as you can see, the police can pull you over and ask for your licence – and you must comply.
What should you do if you suspect an undercover police car is not genuine?
Call 999. Officers will be able to check a number plate and description of any car to work out if it’s a genuine officer or not. The advice from police is that if you’re unsure whether the car is genuine, do not stop. Drive to the nearest police station or public place like a petrol station. In remote areas, the driveway of an occupied house could work if you’re desperate. But definitely do not stop anywhere secluded.
Does an unmarked police car have the power to pull me over? Yes – but the officer must be wearing uniform in order to carry out the stop. If they aren’t wearing uniform, they shouldn’t be pulling you over.
This article first appeared in our sister title The Yorkshire Post