Talking your way into or out of a speeding ticket

Do you know why I pulled you over? It’s the question you hate to hear on a road trip and there is no right answer. In most cases, you know very well why you’ve been pulled over: you were driving too fast. But is it best to immediately admit it and apologize; play dumb and say something like, ‘I’m not sure, was I going to fast?’, make an excuse for why you were speeding, or go the denial route and tell the officer you have no idea why you were pulled over?

On a recent family road trip, I was pulled over just fifteen minutes away from my destination, after a seven hour drive with two toddlers raising hell in the backseat. I was frazzled and just couldn’t wait to get there. The officer asked me the obligatory question that all highway patrolmen in the U.S. seem to ask and I froze. My mind processed his query as though it were rhetorical and didn’t require a response.

“Do YOU know why I pulled you over,” he repeated.

I took stock of the situation and blurted out a response.”Well, we’ve been in the car all day and my kids have been driving me crazy, asking, ‘are we there yet?’ in fifteen minute increments,” I explained. “I just wanted to get there.”

The officer claimed I was going 70 in a 40. I was caught in a speed trap- a short little stretch of road where the limit dips down drastically for no apparent reason. It was a busy four lane highway and there were no shops or homes in sight. Just a reduced speed limit.

I should admit here that I’m no scofflaw. But on highways, I usually drive about 5-10 m.p.h. over the limit, and quickly lose patience with people who drive in the left lane at or below the speed limit. Somehow, the idea that the left lane is for passing seems to be lost on an increasing number of drivers in the U.S. And don’t even get me started on people who are driving slowly in the far left lane and then, when you pass them, their head is staring down at an electronic device.

As the officer went back to his patrol car, I was pretty sure he was going to give me a ticket, but thought he might reduce it to 55 or 60. Those hopes were soon squashed as he came back and handed me a ticket for the full Monty, 30 over the limit. D’oh.

My wife, who once sided with a cop who gave me a ticket for going 42 in a 30, scolded me for not answering the police officer’s- do you know why- question on the first try.

“I thought it was a rhetorical question!” I said, repeating my lame defense.

“The police don’t ask rhetorical questions,” she said. “He might have given you a break if you’d at least said something.”

Maybe so. But maybe not. What do you say when you get caught speeding?

[flickr image via Highway Patrol Images]