Blue light special thoughts

By Mark Stinson

Siler City, NC – I guess it’s easy to assume every cop is out to get you especially when you get pulled and you feel you have received a ticket you didn’t deserve.

cars ahead on road
Photo by Taras Makarenko

I was young and very stupid and I once received a ticket of running in excess of 100 mph over the posted speed limit of 55 in a 1970 GTO Pontiac. Even though I was physically sick on a straight stretch of highway trying to get home I earned that ticket. I paid for that ticket in insurance and court costs. Judge Betz (I hope I spelled that right ) could have thrown me under the jail house but instead listened to the facts and looked at my driving and medical records and gave a fair judgement. I lost my license for 30 days with work driving privileges, court costs, license reinstatement costs and he told me point blank, don’t ever let me see you in my courtroom again. I said “yes sir” and I never saw him in court again.

Years later I was in a Malibu station wagon that didn’t have the power to get out of its own way going past the street that you turn on to go to Jordan-Matthews. As I approached it I made eye contact with a city cop. I glanced down at my speedometer and I was well under the posted speed limit and kept on going. He was stopped at the stop sign and as I looked back he remained there. I went past Quality molded products; no one in the rear view mirror. I was almost to the top of the hill behind the old hosiery mill when I looked back to see a blue light coming up the hill at high speed. There was oncoming traffic so I pulled over in Lynns store parking lot to let him go by. Instead he slid in behind me, stopped and got out to walk up to my car. I asked what was the problem. He related in a somewhat irritated tone I was going 69 in a 35. I knew how fast I was going and after
Judge Betz put the fear of God into me years earlier I was careful not to speed. I didn’t say another word. I took the ticket, turned the car around and went directly to my lawyer’s office and explained. He looked at the ticket, told me what it would cost and not to worry about it. I paid him, he went to court and I got a PJC that didn’t hurt my insurance.

My first ticket I clearly earned and my second I felt I was a bit screwed on. In the years afterwards I was pulled for a bad turn signal. I received a verbal warning that if It wasn’t repaired the next time he saw me I would get a ticket. I said “thank you” and replaced the bulb as soon as I got home.

I was going to Charleston SC in the early 90s on the interstate in a 1989 red Pontiac Firebird amongst a group of vehicles that were all moving near 80 mph in a 65. I glanced into a grove of trees in the median to see a state trooper hiding in the bushes. I looked over at mama and said, “I see a smokey in the bushes.” We were trying to not get run over and were in the middle of the group so mama said hold your speed and we will be fine. About a mile down the road I looked back to see the group start to slow down so I did and from between the cars came a South Carolina state patrol car with lights a flashing. He fell in behind me and I gave mama that look of it’s your fault and told her you can pay this ticket I pulled over and this officer walked up to the car and literally the first thing out of his mouth was, “that’s a pretty Firebird.” I pointed at mama and said its hers. He said everyone is going a little too fast and we are out pulling random vehicles as a visual deterrent to slow traffic down. Your Firebird was easy to spot and you’re it. After a brief conversation with him holding a ticket book writing he said: Everyone passing us thinks I’m writing you a ticket so they will slow down. I’m not writing you a ticket, I’m not writing you a warning. He handed us a blank ticket with a message, “slow down and have a safe trip. Please enjoy our beautiful state of South Carolina.” We said thank you and went on our way.

Now with this said I have been in five auto accidents where five vehicles were totaled. Each time I had an officer help me. There was not one who didn’t make me feel better and was totally committed to helping me. I have not had a ticket in over 25 years. I may get one tomorrow. I hope not, but it can happen.

With all my experiences I learned that troopers and other LEOS are human. There are a very few who may not be so great and many , many more who are awesome human beings. It’s easy to point a finger and criticize them when you get a ticket but you must realize you won’t get stopped for nothing. Do you think they enjoy walking up to a car on a dark road in the middle of the night not knowing if they will be met with a gun in their face or just another normal person. Do you think they like to walk up to a car in a dangerous spot in high traffic just to give you a hard time?

If you don’t want to be pulled, focus on your driving. Be the best driver you can be as it could save your life, someone else’s life and your pocket book. Rolling stops are a pet peeve of most officers. Just stop and make sure it’s safe to proceed. My driver’s ed teacher said stop completely, count 1001 , 1002, 1003, 1004, 1005 and you are good to go. I have done that so many times it is automatic.

And as far as officers focusing on the real dangers, I have seen terrible wrecks in front of me at intersections where someone did a rolling stop and went too soon. It’s better to prevent a wreck than clean it up afterwards and send someone to a morgue. If it takes a traffic stop after you have driven 50 years to help you realize, gee I may not be as focused as I once was maybe I need to try a bit harder to focus better in the future to keep you from getting killed. It’s not a bad thing. You don’t see all the times they stop speeders or chase down drunks on the roads or deal with total a-hole disrespectful drivers when you’re just focused on (Oh poor me I just got pulled) .

It’s easy and lately the norm to put the blame on someone else. Doing so doesn’t solve anything. If you want to make a real difference ask yourself what could I have done differently and quit pointing fingers and shifting the blame. LEOs don’t get paid enough to put up with us in the first place. So play nice, be respectful and responsible and focus on your driving skills.