Written by Geoff Williams
It’s the holidays, we’re coming off a brutal recession, and the last thing any of us needs is a speeding ticket. And yet someone reading this — I hope not the person writing this — is going to get a speeding ticket in the next week or so. According to the National Motorists Association, between 25 million and 50 million speeding tickets are issued every year. So with that in mind, and since plenty of people get pulled over on their way to and from work, we’re offering some suggestions for talking your way out of a ticket.
Will any of this work? Your guess is as good as ours. And, of course, you can drive 90 miles an hour on the freeway and try to find out, but we don’t recommend it. At any rate, here are our suggestions, cultivated from some experts and regular folks who have managed to talk their way out of a ticket. Consider it our gift to anyone caught speeding over the holidays or in the midst of a new year.
Don’t lie. Sure, it’s understandable that you’re going to want to punt and tell the officer that your wife is in labor at the hospital waiting for you, or you’re being chased by a gang of jewel thieves determined to rub you out. But aside from the fact that lying is wrong, and honesty is the best policy and all of that, police officers are kind of trained to spot, well, you know, crooks. If you lie, they’re either going to recognize that or simply find out (“Oh, wow, sorry to hear about your wife — let me make sure you get to the hospital on time”). Instead, do what may not come naturally at a time like this and tell the truth.
That’s the approach Devra Renner, a parenting blogger, gave back when she was in college, driving from Tucson to Lubbock and was pulled over in Salt Flat, Texas. The state trooper asked Renner what she was doing “speeding through the great state of Texas.” Renner admitted that she was in the middle of nowhere, had been driving for hours, got bored and wanted to see how fast her car could go.
Maybe the officer admired that honesty, because he looked at her and said, “Darlin’, you know you’re in a Volkswagen Rabbit, not on the Nascar circuit, right?”
She agreed, apologized and told him she would “hop more slowly” from now on. The state trooper asked her to watch her speed and gave her a warning.
Drive around with something really weird in your car. We’re not really recommending this as a strategy, but it’s such an unusual story, we figured we’d offer it up. Autumn O’Bryan, from Salem, New Hampshire, has a pretty unique business. She stages sex toy home parties for women, and a few years ago, as she was leaving one such party, the hostess came running out of the house, flagging O’Bryan down. O’Bryan had left behind one of those toys.
She thanked the hostess, threw it on her passenger seat and drove away, in somewhat of a hurry to meet some girlfriends. “I was speeding and got caught in a speed trap,” says O’Bryan, who vividly recalls the officer walking up to her car with a flashlight and asking for her license and registration. “He asked where I was coming from, and why I was in such a hurry.”
O’Bryan explained that she had just finished working, and that she was on the way out to meet the girls. That’s when he flashed his light on the sex toy, and the officer then stared at O’Bryan for a long moment. Finally, he said, “Be careful and have a good night,” and walked away, shaking his head. He never even took the license or registration.
Know when to keep your mouth shut. One police officer in Virginia emailed in (he didn’t want his name used) and made the observation that “if you get the ticket, you don’t get the lecture. If you start getting the lecture, it usually means no ticket.” That would suggest that if you’re getting a lecture, it would be smart to not be defensive. Try nodding, saying, “you’re right,” and in general, being polite. Being polite to an officer of the law is a good idea in any situation, but seriously, this is not the moment to get argumentative.
COMING SOON: How to minimize the damage if you are going to get a ticket, in “How to Talk Your Way Out of a Speeding Ticket, Part II”
Geoff Williams is a frequent contributor to Aol Small Business. He is also the author of C.C. Pyle’s Amazing Foot Race and co-author of the new book Living Well with Bad Credit. Williams has been pulled over for speeding four times and has never been able to talk his way out of a ticket. His last ticket — knock on wood — was on January 1, 1999.