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]

Labor Day Traffic: How to Avoid Traffic Jams, Speeding Tickets, and More!

“Holiday weekend” and “traffic” go together like tequila shots and hangovers – if you’re enjoying the former, you’ll likely get of taste of the latter. While I can’t promise hangover-free margaritas, I can offer you a couple of ibuprofen for the next morning – and a few tips to save you a travel headache as well.

Traffic Jams:

When trying to avoid Labor Day traffic, a little planning can make a difference the size of the Pacific Ocean. Obviously the best plan is to leave as early as possible. (Wednesday would be ideal, but Thursday would work, too – why not turn that holiday weekend into a holiday week?) If you can’t leave in the middle of the week, see if you can put some extra hours in at the job later in the month and try to take a half-day on Friday. On Friday, every hour makes a difference. You might not be able to avoid traffic completely, but you could save some time.

A late start on Friday (and we’re talking no earlier than 9 p.m. here) is also a great tactic. You might arrive late, but you’ll avoid that agonizing idling in traffic – and by the time you get there, the party will be in full swing.

Just don’t start taking tequila shots as soon as you arrive in order to catch up with the rest of the group.

Speeding Tickets:

So you’ve found an alternate route, and you’re cruising along the back roads thinking about how soon you’re going to reach your destination. Then a police siren cuts through your revelry like a tequila migraine through your morning.

What do you do?

I did some research on how to get out of a speeding ticket. Most websites I checked out gave advice on what to do in court, rather than at the scene. But your goal should be to not get the ticket in the first place. Many people advised not admitting knowing you broke the law, because if you admit guilt you’ll never be able to fight the ticket in court.

But I disagree. Because here’s the thing: I’ve gotten out of a lot of tickets. And I mean a lot. I’ve gotten a few, too. But my ratio of police incidences to tickets is on my side. And it’s all because I learned early on that if you’re polite, respectful, and up front, cops tend to treat you the same way. If you get belligerent and try to deny that you were speeding, odds are the cop is going to write you that ticket and leave you to try to get it dropped in court.

So, if you’ve been going a bit over the limit and you get caught, don’t treat the cop like he’s an a**hole. Give the guy some respect, and maybe he’ll show you some as well.

Drunk Driving:

You don’t need me to tell you not to drink and drive. It’s wrong, and I don’t condone it. But, if you’ve had a couple drinks before you hit the road and find yourself in an uncomfortable situation, I offer the following advice (lifted from Cameron Tuttle’s The Bad Girl’s Guide to the Open Road):

Only try these if you are absolutely certain that your blood alcohol level will prove that you are drunk. Challenging a law enforcement officer is very serious business.

  • Insist on taking a blood test instead of a Breathalyzer test. This will buy you time and may save you from a D.U.I. Some states, however, will automatically charge anyone who refuses a Breathalyzer test with drunk driving. So you had better know the law (and what state you’re in!) if you do this.
  • If you’ve been drinking and have an open bottle liquor in the car, you’re already in deep sh**. So what do you really have to lose? Immediately get out of the car carrying the bottle of Jack Daniels or whatever. Keep both hands in the air so the cop can see that you don’t have a gun. Then, standing right in front of the patrol car in the headlights, begin to guzzle the contents of the bottle. Surprise is on your side, but you must act quickly for this to work. If the officer sees you getting drunk before his very eyes, it will be difficult if not impossible for him to prove that you were drunk while operating the car. This is a ballsy move, but it hinges on the law, not logic.

These methods are risky and not guaranteed to get you off, but they may help you avoid getting a D.U.I. Most likely, you’ll be arrested for a lesser offense. Understand that if you try either of these tactics, you are doing so at your own risk.

Drive safe!