How to Get a Speeding Ticket (or Not)

Now that spring is here (or not) and road conditions are improving (or not), I have some advice – wrought from long, sometimes bitter experience – on dealing with traffic tickets.

First, when a police officer asks, “Do you know why I pulled you over?” never say yes.  That’s a legal admission of guilt.  She or he will tell you how fast you were going and s/he’s probably right.  So admit nothing, but be genial about it. (“Gee, I guess I didn’t realize I was going that fast…”)

Do not tell the officer you pay her/his salary.  One trooper I knew used to respond, “I pay my own salary,” which was just true enough to end that topic of conversation.

Do not say, “Yeah, well, I guess you have a quota to fill.”  The invariable response to this is, “No, I get to write as many as I like.”  This is not true, but then it’s legal for police to lie to you.  The New York State police – with which I was familiar as a reporter and an outfit with high standards – tracked the number of tickets a trooper wrote the first six months out of the academy and that became said trooper’s average for his/her career.  If the monthly average deviated substantially from that average, it was assumed something odd was happening and supervisors would become involved.  Probably worth assuming the same is true for other police agencies.

(There’s the story about the trooper who tried to write as many tickets as possible and his colleagues’ tactics for bringing him back into line, but that’s for another time.)

Do try being an attractive woman.  Some cops let pretty women off because they have delusions of Lothario, some because they’re shy (it’s true).  I knew one trooper who let all speeding mothers off with a warning the second Sunday of May; he called it his “Mother’s Day Special.”

Try – at your own risk – giving the cop a little something.  I do not mean a bribe.  Do not bribe a cop.  In this country.  It’s not impossible; I actually did it once, but I was stupid to try and lucky to have gotten away with it.  By giving a little something, I mean an equipment violation.  I used to let my inspection sticker expire.  Only a few months, don’t get greedy.  You have to sell it, though.  Halfway between friendly and contrite, “Ahh, gee officer, I’m so sorry, shucks…”

“Alright.  Look, you’ve got an overdue inspection here.  I’m gonna write you for that, but slow down!”  (Bear in mind I haven’t tried this since I was 25 and driving a beater.) (Now 52, still driving a beater.)

If you’re feeling truly special try – and I have never tried this, although a) I’ve heard some cops swear they will respect it and b) I know someone who pulled it off (with a witness) – the Obi Wan Kenobi.

As the officer approaches, roll your window halfway down and without turning your head, say distinctly: “These are not the ‘droids your looking for.”  (I would not attempt an Alec Guinness imitation, just give the line.)

If the officer complies she says: “Move on.”  If not, well, getting a ticket is awkward anyhow.  How much worse could it get?

© Mark Floegel, 2014

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