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Law, Crime & Justice Travel & Auto

How to Decide Whether or Not to Pass a Slow Cop

tl;dr
If you need to pass a cop, make sure you’re not doing anything illegal and there are no obvious reasons why the cop would be driving slowly, then go for it.

The Long Version
It’s a chilly December’s day, and Barb is driving down a 4-lane divided highway on her way to pick up her dry cleaning. She had recently been standing nearby when a deer jumped off a cliff and splattered blood all over her good dress. Goodness, just Barb’s luck!

The speed limit on the road is 65, and Barb is going right about that—perhaps even a tick over. Traffic is pretty minimal; she’s passed a few cars, and she’s also been passed by a few others. But for the most part the roads are empty. Barb sees a car driving rather slowly in front of her, so she puts on her blinker, gets into the left lane, and begins to cruise around the slowpoke.

And that’s when she realizes… she is passing a cop.

Barb glances at her speedometer, assuming she must be speeding, but is relieved to see she’s going exactly the speed limit. So why is the cop driving so slow? Should she continue to pass him? Should she slow down and go his speed? Should she pull back in behind him? There are many variables to consider.

  • Barb first must make certain she isn’t in fact speeding. She sees she’s going 65, but is 65 definitely the speed limit? Is her speedometer accurate?
  • She also must make sure that if she is to complete the passing of the cop, she is comfortable having him follow her. She should make certain that she has no taillights out, her insurance is up to date, her license plate tabs aren’t expired, and there are no illegal aliens riding in her trunk.
  • Passing the cop while going the speed limit may indicate he’s going slower for some other reason. Are the roads bad? Is there an obstacle ahead?
  • Did Barb witness any other cars pass the cop before her? If she’s not the first one to pull off the daunting move, she should be okay with proceeding.
  • Likewise, are there other cars behind Barb also planning to pass? If so, this is a very safe move. Barb will pass, get ahead of the slow cop, and put another car in between her and the cop (unless they speed around her, too).
  • Barb must also consider the unlikely possibility that the cop has slowed down intentionally so that she can pass them… and then they can then pull her over for a prior infraction.
  • If Barb chooses for some reason not to pass and continue driving alongside the cop, she is now blocking what is meant to be a passing lane. Driving right alongside the cop should not be an option.
  • If Barb opts to pull back in behind the cop, now she suddenly looks like she has something to hide. That could be enough to arouse suspicion from the cops, who may keep a close eye on her.
  • Pulling back behind the slow cop and waiting for another daring car to pass may be the smartest, safest move. Play it safe until someone else shows whether or not passing will get them in trouble.

In the end, if the cop is in fact driving more than 5mph under the limit, there are no obvious driving hazards, Barb isn’t breaking any other laws, and she is good to go on insurance, license, and registration, she should go for it and pass the cop and continue driving at or below the posted speed limit. What’s really the worst that happens? If she gets pulled over, it will be very interesting to see what the cop’s reasoning could possibly be.

My Hot Take:
While typically initially hesitant, I have passed many police cars before and have never had one pull me over. (Of course, I wouldn’t do it if I had something to hide.) The best way to do it is in a group. Either be the first to go and have others follow you, putting them in the line of fire; or follow others who have passed once you know it’s safe and/or legal to do so.

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