Does Your Bumper Sticker Put You at Risk of Being Pulled Over?

We’ve all heard the myth (yes, it is a myth) that drivers of red cars are issued speeding tickets more often than other cars. We’ve been told that tickets riddled with mistakes are null and void, again untrue. But here’s something that’ll make you do a spit take—your choice of bumper sticker is cause enough to get you pulled over.

What-the-what now?

When I got my first car, my parents warned me against plastering my bumper with bumper stickers. According to them, having a unique bumper sticker (or several) would make it easier for people up to no good to recognize my car, whether it was parked at the store, at my job or in the driveway. If they didn’t agree with the message, they could vandalize my car.

As it would happen, police officers look at bumper sticker messages and pull motorists over based on those messages. Here are a couple of examples:

DARE Leads to Arrest

In 2011, a Texas couple was driving down the highway going two miles per hour over the speed limit. An officer pulled them over, and after noting a rosary hanging on the rearview mirror, an air freshener and a DARE bumper sticker, believed they were smuggling drugs. The officer did not find any drugs upon searching the vehicle, but did find a lump sum of cash that he then confiscated. After confiscating the cash, the officer arrested one half of the couple.

At appeal, the judge ruled in the officer’s favor, arguing that through the use of the rosary, air freshener and DARE bumper sticker, they were trying to hide contraband. Again, no contraband was found. And remember what DARE stands for, we learned about it school: Drug Abuse Resistance Education. An officer believed a couple with a rosary, air freshener and an anti-drug bumper sticker were hiding something.

Pulled Over for Buckeye Support

In 2013, a bereft couple was driving home from a funeral when they were pulled over by a police officer. They weren’t going over the speed limit and they weren’t driving erratically. The couple had been pulled over after another officer (not the one who pulled them over) notified two patrol officers that a vehicle with a marijuana bumper sticker was on their route.

The patrol officers flanked the vehicle on either side, and the driver, Bonnie Jonas-Boggioni reported that “they had body armor and guns.” They asked her why she had a marijuana bumper sticker on her car, and she explained to the officers that it was not an image of a marijuana leaf, but was in fact a Buckeye leaf decal. The decal is an exact replica of the stickers Ohio State Buckeye football players receive when they have performed a good play.

In an interview with Think Progress, Jonas-Boggioni stated that “the officer explained that someone from outside his jurisdiction—apparently another officer—had spotted the leaf sticker and thought it might indicate that the car was carrying marijuana.”

Upon realizing the mistake, the patrol officers let the couple go on their way.

As you well know from your years of driving, a ticket can increase your auto insurance rates. It’s not exactly fair to be written up a ticket just because you have a bumper sticker that might be misconstrued as supporting something illegal.

Sites like CoverHound help drivers compare auto insurance rates in real time. You’ll be paired with an agency that understands not all tickets are created equal, and that one ticket shouldn’t cost you an affordable rate.

Have any bumper stickers that might get you pulled over and cost you a ticket?