Editor’s note: Mr. Roadshow wanted to share some of his favorite columns and stories from more than 30 years of informing, entertaining and getting things changed for Bay Area (and beyond) drivers. He’ll be back on the road with new material soon. In the meantime, please keep sending Mr. Roadshow your comments or questions to firstname.lastname@example.org.
This story originally was published on July 24, 2009.
The two French tourists were flying down Highway 101 through Sunnyvale in their rented Ford Taurus, hitting 100 mph.
That got the attention of California Highway Patrol Officer Dave Barnett — as did their unusual excuse.
The two men in their 20s said they had studied U.S. traffic laws before heading to the United States and were told that speed limit signs here are black and white — like the signs that read “101” along the freeway.
Wasn’t that, they asked, the speed limit?
“I let them go,” Barnett said, “and told them to make sure the sign also said ‘Speed Limit.’ ”
Drivers offer the darnedest excuses when pulled over by cops, from wild to lame to brutally honest. Many tales have been heard countless times and seldom work. Others are so unusual they can get you out of a ticket.
“The excuses are never-ending,” said Bruce Raye, a San Jose traffic cop for 10 years who now works for the Santa Clara County District Attorney’s Office. “I’m not surprised by any excuse.”
Not any excuse? Well “…
“I stopped one guy for speeding on Hillsdale Avenue who said that he was guilty and that he was speeding because he was mad,” Raye said. “He had just left from his house, where he had just caught his wife in bed with another guy. I didn’t give him a ticket.”
Marital excuses sometimes work. Barnett stopped a speeder on Highway 17 who said he was getting married the next day but was having second thoughts.
“He said he was trying to get out of town before anyone noticed,” Barnett said. “I let him go.”
Then there was the young, beaming guy driving too fast on Monterey Highway. Boy, was he beaming.
He told San Jose officer Steven Jeffrey that he was speeding because “he had just completed his first sexual experience with his girlfriend and was all jazzed about it. I did write him a ticket. His driving was pretty bad.”
So was the driving of a woman on Los Gatos-Almaden Road, clocked at 65 mph in the pouring rain by Los Gatos officer James Wiens.
Wiens said the woman told him she was in a hurry to get home “because I just had my breast implants done and they hurt.”
Ouch. So did the ticket Wiens handed her.
“She was very unhappy about it,” he said.
Then there was the driver officer Grant Clark pulled over in Newark for going too fast.
“He told me that he had to go to the bathroom,” Clark said, a common excuse among speeders. “I asked where he was coming from, and once he told me I was able to count the number of bathrooms open to the public along the way.
“When I returned with his citation he pointed to his crotch and showed me the large wet spot on the front of his pants. ‘Happy now?’ the driver asked.”
No mercy! He still got a ticket.
Medical excuses are another common refrain. Barnett once pulled over a Highway 17 speeder who said he was having a heart attack.
“So I called an ambulance, toted him off to the emergency room, only to have the doctor tell me he could find nothing wrong with him,” Barnett said. “In fact, he was in great shape. I had him sign his citation while he was lying on the bed in the emergency room.”
Then there is the kid excuse. I’m late getting them to school. I need to pick them up from day care. There is a Little League game and my kid is pitching. The screaming baby in the car seat is hungry and I need to get home to feed him.
“The kids excuse is used all the time,” Jeffrey said. “If all else fails, ‘blame the kids’ seems to be a lot of drivers’ motto.”
Cops may be more sympathetic in these tough economic times. Several report drivers breaking into tears when pulled over, saying they’ve just lost their job, or even their home.
“Many beg for a warning because they can’t afford the high cost associated with tickets now,” said San Jose officer Camille Giuliodibari. “I can empathize with their dilemma and I will give some warnings, but those drivers really are not paying attention to their driving. I tell them I hope the ticket I give them will be their last.”
These many stories don’t end when the patrol car pulls away. CHP officer Hugo Mendoza writes every excuse he hears in his ticket book “in case they take me to court, so the judge can get a kick out of it as well.”
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