When you know you’re doing something wrong, and you see those dreaded flashing blue lights in your rearview mirror, do you try to think of a good excuse as you slowly pull over, or are you the planning type, who thinks of a good one ahead of time? Do you always tell the truth, or are you the type of driver who counts on instinct to think of something at the last second?
Whichever category you fall into, I think we have all been in that situation at one time or another, wondering what in the world we can say to a police officer that will prompt him to give us a break. As for me, I normally trust my instinct and can usually think of something when pressure demands. But, of course that doesn’t always get me out of getting a ticket. But it has, on occasion, especially when it (the excuse) is the truth.
Like the time I borrowed my mom’s car when I was eighteen. I was having a good old time, hanging out with my friends, and lost track of the time. I was supposed to pick her up at work at 10PM and realized I’d be about ten minutes late. Well, there was a huge park between where I was and where she worked. It was a very long way around (over a mile) but there was a nice shortcut right through the park that would save me a lot of time. Can you guess which way I went as my friends watched? Yes, I drove right through the park, on a walkway that was just wide enough for the car.
I came out on the other end just in time to see the Chicago Police officer standing in the middle of the street, blocking my way, and pointing to a parking place for me to pull into. I told the officer the truth – that I was late picking up my mom – but he wasn’t buying any of it, and held my drivers license as I followed him to the police station. When we got there at 10:15, I had a good excuse for her now. I asked to use the phone before we got to the paperwork because my mom would be wondering where the heck I was.
He listened as I explained to my mom the reason I was late – I was at the police station getting a ticket. Suddenly, he believed me, and handed my license back and said, “Go pick up your mom.” I’ve gotten breaks before while on the street, but that was the only time I was ever given a break in a police station.
One of the funniest ticket excuse I can think of is Chris Farley in the movie Tommy Boy. He sees the blue lights in the mirror and says to David Spade, “I have an idea, just play along with what I say and do.” As soon as he stops the car, he runs out screaming, “There are bees in my car!” He swipes all around his face, as if to brush them off, still screaming, “They’re everywhere, take cover, bees!” And he continues frantically swiping at his head and body as if trying to brush bees off.
One police officer says to the other, as he steps back, “Hey, I’m allergic to bees, let’s get out of here.” And they leave. Of course, that was only a movie, so that may not work in real life (good luck, if you try it).
Here are some excuses that some truck drivers think will get them off the hook, but probably won’t: I must have been going downhill; my truck doesn’t even go that fast; there wasn’t a scale anywhere around there; I must have marked the wrong time on my logbook on accident; I was looking for a place to stop to take my break; I was just trying to pass someone; I was going to get it fixed at the next truck stop; I just fixed that light; according to my map it’s only X miles; I was just keeping up with traffic; time is money; I had my cruise control set at five over; and, of course, the infamous, I thought it was yellow and the other infamous, my speedometer must not be working.
Then, there are the questions. Was I speeding? My taillights aren’t working? I was? It is? Are you sure? Playing dumb usually doesn’t help. Even though it may be true in some cases, pleading ignorance is not helpful simply because it demonstrates that you don’t know what you’re doing, and that’s the last thing you want the police officer to think about you.
I have a neighbor who is a retired police officer, so I asked him what the most common excuse of all time was. Without a moment of hesitation he answered, “Having to use the bathroom.” He said that most people say they are having a hard time trying to hold it and are desperately looking for a place to relieve themselves. But he also added the fact that he never believed that one.
Of course, most so-called excuses could be true in some cases, but most police officers have heard them all so many times that they tend not to believe any of them. I’ve heard a few people say you can get a break if you think of something they have never heard before or something funny or ridiculous, but I don’t know about that. I still think common sense rules and honesty matters. So my suggestion is, first and most importantly, tell the truth. And be nice. I know it can be very aggravating when you get a ticket, but it’s really not that big of a deal, so keep your cool, smile and be your usual charming self. Then, tell the truth and ask honestly for a break, or for a warning, as you promise never to do “it” again. It (sometimes) works for me.