The Only Two Surefire Ways to Get Arrested While Driving

Craig Cole
by Craig Cole

People do amazingly stupid things while behind the wheel, from eating dinner to reading the morning news, and putting on makeup to engaging in certain x-rated adult activities. If you can think of it, someone’s probably done it while driving.

Despite the litany of irresponsible endeavors one could engage in while behind the wheel, only a few will result in handcuffs and a trip downtown. This may sound hard to believe, but it’s true.

The initial idea for this story was to provide a list of idiotic actions that would get you arrested while driving. But following a chat with Sheriff Michael Bouchard, the man in charge of the Oakland County Sheriff’s Office in Michigan, it turned out our original idea was flawed, and here’s why.

“Typically if you’re arrested while you’re driving, it’s [for] one of two reasons,” explained Bouchard. Being drunk or otherwise impaired is a non-refundable one-way ticket to jail. Likewise, if you’ve committed a crime that’s unrelated to driving, you’ll also get taken downtown.

For instance, you may have an outstanding warrant for burglary. If you run a stop sign and get pulled over, the officer involved will probably be hauling you away in handcuffs. Bouchard said it’s not “the criminality of you actually driving at that point.”

The same would happen if you just robbed a bank and are trying to flee the scene in a car. When police finally do apprehend and detain you, it won’t be for driving recklessly even though you may have been speeding the wrong way down the interstate after sideswiping several mail delivery trucks and running over a pedestrian.

Sheriff Bouchard even noted that it’s unusual to get arrested for reckless driving. A ticket is far more likely and the officer may impound the vehicle, but jail time is improbable. “To actually take somebody into custody would be unusual,” he said.

It’s the same story with being rude. Mouthing off to law enforcement is not a crime, even if it is in poor taste. Screaming, swearing or otherwise being disrespectful will only decrease your chances of getting off with a warning during a traffic stop. According to Bouchard, it’s “absolutely not grounds for being arrested,” though he also said, “It definitely doesn’t lead to positive outcomes.”

Bouchard said if they did take people in for acting like complete jackasses, “We’d be far overcrowded in our jails,” which are needed for actual criminals, not just maladjusted narcissists. About the only time you might get arrested for this behavior while driving is in extreme cases. If a driver has gone completely off the deep end, are getting out of their vehicle and/or ignoring basic instructions, this might result in an arrest.

SEE ALSO: What NOT to do When Being Pulled Over

Still, just because you can shout obscenities at the police, it doesn’t mean you should. Being polite with law enforcement officers will go a long way toward helping you sidestep a citation. “I always thought if I could solve a traffic stop without a ticket, that was the preferred option,” said Bouchard.

Impaired driving and other unrelated crimes are about the only instances where you’ll get arrested while behind the wheel. Not surprisingly, Bouchard has more than his share of tales to tell about ridiculous things he’s seen while working as a traffic officer.

“I remember one time I pulled up next to a car that was stopped at a green light,” recounted Bouchard. The vehicle in question was sitting in the middle of Telegraph Road, a major thoroughfare in Southeastern Michigan. Surprisingly, “The guy was dead passed out behind the wheel … With the car in drive,” said Bouchard. Fortunately, the man’s foot never left the brake pedal, or things could have gotten ugly. Remember, kids: Don’t drink and drive.

Another offence that’s incredibly risky but likely won’t result in an arrest is distracted driving, something that’s reached epidemic proportions in recent years. “People have the ability to text, to talk on the phone,” said Bouchard, which, while behind the wheel, are incredibly demanding tasks and can be as dangerous as driving drunk. On top of these disturbances, there are navigation systems, satellite radio, in-vehicle DVD players and much more vying for motorists’ attention.

Bouchard noted that even hands-free systems can be distracting. “[There are] all sorts of people that literally can’t talk without using their hands,” he said, gesticulating wildly while talking. “Their attention is really on what they’re saying and how they’re saying it,” which, can have deadly consequences while piloting a two-and-a-half-ton crossover at 70 miles an hour.

SEE ALSO: 10 Ways to Avoid Getting a Ticket

But 21st century electronics aren’t always the culprit in distracted-driving cases. Something as simple as snack can cause a world of hurt. Years ago, Bouchard responded to a head-on collision. One driver involved had dropped a bag of Doritos on the passenger-side floor and tried to pick it up. While reaching he inadvertently jerked the wheel left, directly into oncoming traffic.

Surprisingly, it’s pretty difficult to get arrested while driving, but that doesn’t mean you should try. Put your cellphone away, keep your hands on the wheel and don’t drink and drive. Should you get pulled over try to be nice; a little courtesy goes a long way.

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Craig Cole
Craig Cole

Born and raised in metro Detroit, Craig was steeped in mechanics from childhood. He feels as much at home with a wrench or welding gun in his hand as he does behind the wheel or in front of a camera. Putting his Bachelor's Degree in Journalism to good use, he's always pumping out videos, reviews, and features for When the workday is over, he can be found out driving his fully restored 1936 Ford V8 sedan. Craig has covered the automotive industry full time for more than 10 years and is a member of the Automotive Press Association (APA) and Midwest Automotive Media Association (MAMA).

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2 of 5 comments
  • Ed Ed on Jan 28, 2016

    In Massachusetts operating at a speed of 90 mph or greater is considered "operating as to endanger" and may result in arrest if the officer wishes to do so (he may also issue a summons to appear).

  • Sonu Kaur Sonu Kaur on Oct 11, 2016

    Eating is a huge distraction while driving. I was driving my grandmother, 4 year old cousin sister, and two 17 year olds when a Jeep hit my Corolla twice in a few seconds. The driver said that he choked on this breakfast... We called an officer and in the meanwhile the guy called his neighbor who was also a police officer. His carelessness damaged my car and talking to his insurance company was a nightmare. A NIGHTMARE. The old man didn't even get a ticket because the officer said that there's no ticket he could give him for "choking on his breakfast". *rolls eyes* It's called careless driving, Officer Todd of Brazoria County...freaking careless driving.