I HOPE this isn't an urban legend, or a fluke making its email rounds, but my dear cousin, who lives in CA and drives alone all the time, sent this to me today:
It is and it isn't true. How's that for a fuzzy grey area answer?
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We have no way of telling if this is an "actual true story and not one of those Internet stories that are passed on and on": the details given in the account aren't sufficient to assist us in confirming the tale, and searches through online news databases based on what little is included (that the incident happened in Virginia in the last week of December 2001) don't fetch any articles about an arrest made or charges laid in such a case. And some of the details in the story give us pause: Why didn't the fleeing woman speed up, flash her lights, or honk her horn to attract the attention of the police car in front of her? And how did the real police car fail to notice the warning lights of the phony, unmarked police car?
Whether this particular tale is true or not, women driving alone have been sexually assaulted by rapists pretending to be patrolmen (and in certain rare cases by actual police officers), so the advice it gives about not pulling over in deserted areas when signaled to do so by unmarked police vehicles is well worth heeding. Throw on your flashers, slow down, and keep driving until you get to a well-lit area where there are others about. Though you might subsequently be charged for failing to heed a police officer's commands, you will avoid the potential for harm. Call 911 and tell them what's happening, asking them to relay to the officer in pursuit your intent to continue traveling until a populated has been reached. (Although in some U.S. states, #77 on a cell phone will immediately connect you to that state's highway patrol, that code is not universal. Some states use #77, but others use *55, *47, or *HP, and some don't have any special code at all. Rather than frantically try to figure out which one will work in the area you're in, get around the problem by going straight to 911.)