Just the facts, sir.
“Puh-lease, at least drive the speed limit,” I frustratingly thought to myself. But after about 5 blocks of doing 19 mph in a 35mph speed limit, my frustration got the better of me. As soon as the oncoming lane of traffic had an opening, I sped around the decaying driver and breathed a sigh of relief as I was able to drive the limit unimpeded.
It didn’t last.
Two blocks later I was pulled over by the local police.
“Do you know why I stopped you?” she asked.
“Yeah,” I said with some of the frustration returning. But mostly I just felt chagrined. “I passed a car in a no-passing zone.”
I had already taken my sunglasses off to make sure I had eye contact. Maybe she would notice that I was already remorseful about it. She asked me why I did it.
“I was just frustrated by the slow speed of the driver in front of me and after 5 blocks I just let my frustration get the better of me.”
She took my license and insurance card, and went back to her squad car to run whatever checks police do and waited for the ticket that was about to cost me.
She returned with my stuff and the ticket. As she handed it to me she said, “I’ve only given you a warning this time. I appreciated the fact that you were honest with me. Just don’t let it happen again.”
I expressed my gratitude with her leniency and made a mental note to send an anonymous thank you to the Chief of Police about the kindness extended to an out-of-area driver.
Book 'em, Dano
Fast forward to a couple of years later. Different city. Different traffic violation.
“Do you know why I pulled you over?” the officer asked.
“Yes sir,” I said, again feeling mostly chagrined. “I made a right turn when I shouldn’t have. I just …” and let my voice trail off as my shoulders and face made a resigned shrug. “Sorry.”
License. Card. Police check. Officer returning with ticket.
“I’m just issuing a warning this time,” he said. “Most drivers lie to me, and it’s refreshing to hear someone just tell the truth straight up. Sometimes honesty pays and today it did for you. Just watch those signs in the future. Drive safely.”
I don’t drive stupidly. In fact, I’m a rather conscientious, courteous and defensive driver the overwhelming majority the time. Over a couple of decades, I can count on one hand the number of tickets (only one) and warnings (these two) I’ve received.
So why share this story? Two things.
One. When it comes to relatively minor traffic violations, honesty really is a good policy. It won’t always get you out of a ticket, or even out of any tickets, but at the very least, almost every cop will appreciate your respect and honesty and likely treat you the same.
Two. Keep your car clean and in good shape. It probably has little to do with whether or not you get a ticket versus a warning. I’m just tired of seeing so many dirty cars that look and sound like they could fall apart at any time.
Oh, and if someone has written the words “Wash Me” followed by someone else having written “PLEASE!”, take the hint.