'I came as fast as I could' and other doozies

COFFEE WITH WARREN, with Warren Harbeck
Cochrane Eagle, August 27, 2003

With the September long weekend upon us and a lot of driving to squeeze in before school resumes, Cochrane RCMP Const. Tracy Brennan and Const. Fred Martens and I were chuckling over excuses people give for breaking highway traffic laws.

Most of them fall into the category of "we've heard it all before."

Guys, if Brennan pulls you over and asks why you're not wearing your seat-belt, forget about answering, "Because I'm a man." (No seat-belt: $115.)

Stopped for speeding? If Martens smiles through your window, don't even think of justifying yourself with "I'm late for the airport."

"I wasn't paying attention," "My speedometer must be broken," and "How come you're not at the donut shop?" aren't likely to cut it, either.

Speeding really isn't very funny. "It's not uncommon to pick up vehicles going 40, 50 and 60 km/h over the limit along the Trans-Canada," Brennan told me. (Fifty over the limit means a $351 fine and four points off your license.)

She once clocked a fellow on a motorcycle going well over 210 km/h, she said. When she finally got him stopped, she described for him the not-so-funny scenario if he ever lost control at that speed:

"The tow truck will pick up pieces of your motorcycle for the next kilometre and they'll carry away what remains of your body in your helmet."

At Brennan's suggestion, I approached some of the other local RCMP members for excuses on a more lighthearted note.

Const. Tim MacDonald still remembers the speeder who told him: "Haven't you got better things to do than stopping me when there are so many crooks out there?"

A favorite of Const. Chad Cormier's is the one about the officer on radar detail who pulled over a speeder and said: "I've been waiting here all day for you." To which the speeder replied: "Well, I came as fast as I could!"

By the way, Cormier really values honesty among speeders. Not long ago he stopped a car along the Trans-Canada Highway and asked: "Do you know how fast you were going?"

The driver responded sheepishly, "145?" But Cormier wrote out a ticket for only 138 km/h, which was what he'd actually clocked the driver at. (This was a $53 saving compared to the driver's own estimate.)

Talking about honesty, its opposite definitely wins no favors from Cpl. Jennifer Bonzer.

She pulled over a guy once for a stop sign violation. He appeared to have been drinking, but as she pursued the matter, he explained that, only minutes earlier, he'd been informed that his mother had just passed away after surgery at a local hospital and he was told to come right away.

While he continued his long tale of woe, Bonzer was punching in the hospital number on her phone to confirm the story. Before the hospital could release any information, the voice at the other end said, they needed the permission of the son with whom the officer was speaking. He got on the phone, gave his permission, and the hospital responded: "We've never had a woman by that name here!" The driver had the book thrown at him.

(Failure to obey a stop sign can cost a driver $287. And that's entirely aside from any charges that might be laid for impaired driving.)

Impaired driving? Cpl. Perry Bielert told me about the time he saw a man walking home who normally would have been driving. Bielert pulled over and asked him if everything was okay. "I've had too many drinks to drive safely," the man replied.

But a while later, a carelessly driven car forced Bielert's vehicle into the ditch. He recognized the driver as the same man he'd spoken with earlier and asked him what was going on. "I needed to go to the store for some cigarettes," the man said, "and I was too drunk to walk, so I thought I'd drive."

Then there's the time Bielert was on seat-belt patrol in Central Alberta. He pulled a woman driver over and asked her why she wasn't wearing her seat-belt. Without missing a beat, she flipped up her blouse and said, "Because I'm just coming back from a breast reduction!"

Bielert didn't say whether he issued a ticket.

© 2003 Warren Harbeck

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