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Speeding ticket

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At least once a year I travel south via the I-95 corridor to Virginia to visit my grandmother in a nursing home in Alexandria. I call her weekly, but for her, seeing me has another flavor and I'm always happy to see her. It's a long and boring trek and it could get aggravating with the traffic tie-ups. That's why I normally choose the times outside of travel season. In this case I chose to go the weekend after labor day. Thankfully I have a small car. With the current gas prices, I'd go broke after one trip.

Jersey turnpike is one area to look for speed traps. The only detector I use are my pair of eyes occasionally scanning the road for potential cops at every corner. In my youth I would classify myself as a fast driver. Speeding and weaving through traffic, albeit cautiously, was a natural part of driving for me. Time has however tamed me considerably. I generally stick to the speed limits with an occasional marginal speeding when conditions appear safe to do so. No tailgating, no weaving, no stunts. It is however my absolute belief that when towns and states are hurting for funds, the cops suddenly spring into action and crack down harder on violators. The fines bring more money into their coffers and there is always an abundance of drivers to be pulled over.

Apparently this time it was my turn to get snared. I was cruising the turnpike at around 75 (65 mph zone) when I saw the cruiser right on my tail. It was one of those moments that you realize the cross-hairs are right on your car and you begin to mentally prepare for the "license and registration" bit. The officer was pleasant enough. I got the usual comments. "I've been behind you for a while", "where are you headed?", "do you know how fast you were driving?", "stay in your car until I return". Yes sir. Going to Virginia to visit my grandmother. No sir, I don't know how fast - I was going at the speed of traffic. Yes sir. There is no point arguing. I'd been caught and might as well enjoy a little rest while the guy in his car with flashing lights does his thing.

After he handed me the ticket, he said, "I could have given you a $500 ticket, but instead this is a ticket for a minor infraction, probably around $50." At this point, feeling somewhat relieved, I wanted to offer an apology, but was that really necessary? Does he care that I'm sorry for speeding on his highway. He's probably happy to have caught me and then to have given me break. I would have probably been a much more satisfying case had I been driving way over the speed limit, or had been reckless, or I had a flashy car. Nonetheless, it probably gave him some feeling of pride to have pulled over someone and have written a ticket.

In the end I told him that I'd take it easy and we parted ways. While pulling away I contemplated what had just happened. I was convinced that I wasn't driving unsafely, nor was I so much above the speed limit to warrant a fine. In the final analysis it wasn't about punishing a speeder. It was rather a business transaction, with him being the collection agent and me being a source of money in this particular case. But it was worth it seeing my grandmother's face lit-up when I walked into her room.


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