I made a woman’s day. She walked up to me at a rest area, dripping with sarcasm, and began “I want to apologize for driving too slowly for you.” Then she said something about endangering us both and walked away. She must have been pleased with herself. I didn’t have the heart to tell her I had no idea what she was talking about or who was the intended target of her little speech.
Dave Barry had an idea for sending a more timely and accurate message. Shoot a dart into the car that offended you. If you’re driving a car covered with darts, there’s something wrong with you. I would add, if you use up your dart supply there’s also something wrong with you.
In Massachusetts we have a law saying police are supposed to give you a ticket at the time and the place of the violation. That means they get the right driver and the driver remembers the circumstances well enough to prepare a defense. That’s the theory.
Despite the law, drivers still get tickets meant for somebody else. A Newton police officer had an “all those people look the same” moment and mailed a ticket to a man after watching his wife drive past. Many officers look for a car matching the description of the one that was spotted speeding earlier. Sometimes they are right, and sometimes they don’t understand that there is more than one Volkswagen in Massachusetts. Sometimes one driver is caught dead to rights doing 58 in a 55, but only got the ticket because another driver in a similar car caught the officer’s eye earlier.
Timeliness is one of the problems with ticket cameras. If you have an ordinary memory there is no way to defend yourself against a ticket in the mail based on an alleged incident a few weeks earlier.
It could be longer than weeks. A woman I know asked the judge to dismiss a defective ticket. The officer said he would give her a new ticket for speeding six months ago.
Where traffic tickets are regular misdemeanors, the statute of limitations can be a year or more, even forever if you move out of state. Do you remember what you were doing on August 8, 1985?
Do you have cancelled checks from 1985? Once in a while a court clerk discovers a box of decades-old tickets and enters them into the computer. If the clerk doesn’t find the corresponding receipt saying you paid the ticket thirty years ago, you lose your license. A private judgment against you expires after ten or twenty years. It seems tickets live forever.
I’m open to timely criticism. Literally. When I drive around town I’m usually in a convertible with the top down. If you have a problem with my driving you can tell me so.
I hope the town police officer watched me crawling past his speed trap at well under the speed limit, my face clearly visible surrounded by a halo of law-abidingness.
No need to explain that the slow truck ahead of me had finally turned off and I hadn’t had time to hit the gas.
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