Thursday, June 2, 2005

Speeding Ticket

Something interesting happened to me this week. I don't know if you'll find it interesting, but I did.

It was Monday,
Memorial Day, and like most Retail Managers, I was driving to work. I commute almost two hours one way five days a week. Call me crazy, but that's what I do. Working a ten-hour day and driving four hours per day, I don't have much time left to divide between sleep and family. I sometimes find it difficult to drag myself out of bed at 4:00 in the morning when it's time to get up and get ready for another day. Monday was just such a day, even though it was a holiday.

I was trying to get to work just a little bit early to get a jump on the morning activities. That's when I passed a Sheriff going the opposite direction -- who wasn't going the opposite direction for long. I saw him turning around in the rearview mirror, and slowed down to pull off the road as soon as his lights started flashing.

"I clocked you at 72," he said as he approached the driver's window. The speed limit was 55.

"Really?" I asked, trying to sound surprised. "I dropped something and reached to pick it up, and must have stepped on the gas as I was reaching," I fibbed.

"Could I see your license and registration?" he asked.

Being very obvious about reaching over to unbuckle my seatbelt, I retrieved the documents he requested and he returned to his cruiser.

Time passes so slowly when you're sitting in your car with law enforcement behind you deciding whether or not to write you a ticket. I knew I was wrong, and that I probably had no hope of getting away with speeding on a holiday like
Memorial Day, but nevertheless, hope is just what I did.

The officer returned to my car and I could clearly see the ticket he was holding. "I cut you a break today," he began, standing just out of arms length behind the car door, "and cited you for no seat belt, which carries a $25 fine."

"I was wearing my seat belt," I said, before my mind sorted through the situation completely. "But thank you," I then continued.

He looked at me as if I was the most stupid person he had ever encountered.

"Really, thanks," I repeated.

"You can pay the fine by mail," he continued, "or if you'd like to dispute it --"

"Absolutely not," I interrupted. "Thanks."

As I pulled back on the street and drove on down the road, I felt a little miffed that I would be paying a $25 fine for something I didn't do. It took me a few moments to adjust to the fact that the speeding ticket I should have received carried a $116 fine. Okay, I can accept saving $95.

So I started wondering, why is it that he would let me off so easily? I couldn't possibly have given him an excuse he hasn't heard before. I considered several possibilities:

  • It was Memorial Day, and I have a "Hoosier Veteran" license plate on my car. Maybe he felt good cutting a break to a veteran on Memorial Day?
  • He stopped me on a State Highway. Maybe the speeding fine would go to the state while the seat belt fine would go to the county (he was, after all, a County Sheriff's Deputy).

Then, driving in to work today, it hit me. As I passed through a small town, I saw a Police Officer standing on the corner with his ticket book in hand, looking into every car that passed by, checking to see if they had their seat belts on. It was then that I remembered a news story announcing that there would be "increased enforcement" of the seat belt law over the holiday weekend. Go figure. Increased enforcement. No wonder I got cited for a seat belt instead of speeding. Someone in some office somewhere was focused on seat belt citations, and the officer who stopped me took advantage of the situation to chalk one up.

I guess I really shouldn't be complaining, though. It did save me $91.

What do you think?


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