Although they can be frustrating to receive, traffic citations are designed to keep the streets safe. Car accidents can be caused by speeding, running red lights, turning without signalling and other behaviors. In order to prevent as many of these accidents as possible, police officers monitor traffic and ticket people who are breaking traffic laws.

Tickets impact more than your pocketbook. Traffic violations and speeding tickets count against your driving record. An excessive number can lead to a suspended or revoked driver’s license, and even a small number can negatively impact your car insurance for years to come. It’s a good idea to avoid getting a ticket whenever possible. Sometimes mistakes happen, however, and if you do get pulled over, here’s what you can do to avoid the worst penalties whenever possible:

Co-operate

Police officers have a difficult job. They must be constantly aware of potential threats, and what may start off as a simple traffic stop can quickly escalate into a dangerous situation if the other person becomes hostile. Going into it, an officer doesn’t know what type of stop this will be, so they will be prepared for the worst. You can alleviate this tension and make the situation as painless as possible by cooperating. Use good manners, say “Yes sir” or “Yes ma’am,” answer questions that are asked, provide the information that’s requested.

When you’re stopped, make yourself look as clearly non-threatening as possible. Keep your hands visible and let the officer know if you need to reach for something, like your wallet or glove box. The officer will appreciate not having to tell you to do these things, and it will help the interaction get off on the right foot.

Be Honest

You are not the only driver who’s been pulled over that day, and no excuse you come up with will be original. Lying to the police officer will only make the situation worse once you are caught in the lie, and you might get so nervous trying to concoct an excuse that you look like you’re hiding something worse from the officer. When the officer pulls you over, be honest and up-front about the situation rather than trying to explain your way out of it. In many cases, the officer will be so relieved by your honesty and laid-back attitude that they might be more willing to let you off with a warning.

If there are extenuating circumstances, you can certainly bring them up. For example, you may know that you’re missing a tail light and are driving to the shop to get it fixed. This may lead to the officer giving you a warning, or they may give you a “fix-it ticket” which can be dropped as soon as you come to court with proof that the situation has been resolved.

Be Prepared

You can easily make a traffic stop situation worse by not being prepared. If you’re pulled over for speeding and cannot provide a driver’s license, registration or proof of insurance, you might leave the situation with several tickets rather than just one. Even if you’re just driving down the block, you should never leave the house without a driver’s license on your person. You should keep your proof of insurance and vehicle registration either in the vehicle at all times or in a wallet or other bag that you always carry with you.

Of course, following the above guidelines will not guarantee that you leave the interaction with a warning instead of a ticket. Depending on the situation, you may get a ticket and you most likely deserved it if so. Nevertheless, being pleasant, cooperative and prepared can make the situation easier for both you and the police officer, and it does greatly improve your chances of being let off easy.

Whether you receive a ticket or a warning, your information will be registered by the police officer. If you’re pulled over a second time for the same situation, you can be sure that you will get a ticket. It’s always in your best interests to engage in the safest driving behaviors and avoid a ticket whenever possible rather than relying on a warning. Not only will this prevent tickets, it will also provide protection against accidents.