You can plan the route, the sights, the diners, drive-ins and dives on a road trip, but having a serious run-in with the boys in blue is not something people plan for when poring over a national atlas… it does happen though. And when it does, the feeling is something close to what it would be like if the entertainment at your 5th birthday party turned out to be a present-eating monster disguised as Carla the Clown.
Over four 2,000+ mile road trips this year, I’ve had six run-ins with the law which have resulted in three warnings, two citations and one overnight fiasco in Twin Falls, Idaho that left a companion stranded in jail for the night and a friend and I in a desperate motel outside of town! If you want to avoid having to explain yourself to a police officer in a distant state, follow these 5 tips that will keep you out of jail on your next road trip.
- Don’t travel with drugs in your trunk. Taking drugs across state lines is not the brightest idea to start with, but storing them in your trunk for the trip is a hundred times worse. If you’re going to hotbox your way across the midwest, at least keep everything within your control. You don’t want to end up at the mercy of an overly giddy K-9 unit. Keep in mind that views on things like marijuana can differ greatly even just across a state line. Which leads us to…
- Run a Google search for relevant laws in the states you’re driving through. Even traffic laws are good to have an idea of as they can also differ from one state to a neighbor. For example, in some states you could get pulled over for driving too slowly in the left lane even though you were just annoying highway drivers one state back.
- Respect our country’s partisan politics. In Washington state you can legally smoke grass. However, right next door in Idaho, they’ll slap you with the book if they catch you with a sack of buds. When you’re doing those Google searches on a state’s laws, also check out how severe the authorities there tend to be. If people have had exceptionally exasperating experiences with the law in a state, you’ll definitely be able to find out about it online.
- Listen to the locals. If your friend in a high altitude city like Denver tells you to take it easy with the booze and hydrate up, you gotta listen! One too many tequila shots and you could end up freshman-at-college drunk… and that’s far less tolerable outside of college. The laws across states may be different than you’re used to, but your body might also work a little differently too. If it sounds like local advice, take it!
- Have fun and don’t be intimidated by flashing lights. If you do get pulled over, stay cool and remember you have rights regardless of where in the United States you are! Be polite and courteous but also don’t get pushed around. And most importantly, don’t get all antsy when they ask you what you’re doing in their state! It’s not illegal to take a road trip.