Avoiding Speeding Tickets | Off Idle

This winter will yield an unprecedented event. I will be ticket-free for the first time since the summer I was licensed to operate a motor vehicle, and that, my friends, was a very long time ago.

Quick, touch wood. I hope I'll be ticket-free anyway.

I know it seems absurd to have collected so many speeding tickets over the years. I can't figure it out myself. I mean, it's one thing when you're young, right? We all have wild oats to sow, and mine are scattered over highways from Mexico to Canada and California to Connecticut. I couldn't not drive cars and ride motorcycles fast in my teens and 20s. Sammy Hagar's "I Can't Drive 55" was my anthem. I was on a first-name basis with the court officials at the local DMV

Not that I'm proud of it. At least not now anyway. Now I shake my fist (and sometimes select digits) at those young people racing through life at breakneck speed and can't believe I used to terrorize other motorists like that. Cutting through the gaps, riding on the edge of traction through corners, asking every available millimeter from my suspension. I still ride fast sometimes-don't think I'm some foot-paddling creeper-but I don't do it as a matter of course. I pick and choose my playtime carefully, and as a result of being that much more cautious, I don't have an adrenaline rush every time I lay my eyes on a trooper.

Well, except for the other day. He pulled me over for speeding: 70 in a 55. I really didn't feel like it was warranted. I mean, the highway was open and straight, and it was the middle of day. But I couldn't deny the numbers. Of course, I was completely freaked because I was so close to a clean record I could almost taste the low insurance premiums. As he walked over to my bike, I coached myself on keeping cool and not making lame excuses. Luckily, I'd just been editing Officer John Morris' little story for this issue on how not to get a ticket, so I had a whole bag of tricks (or non-tricks) to work with.

The guy went through the usual opener. "Do you know why I pulled you over?" Why do they always ask you that? It's impossible not to sound lame. "Ah, yeah, officer, I was blatantly breaking the law," or, "No, I wasn't paying attention." There's no winning. So I put on my best no-nonsense tone and spit it right out: "Yes, officer, I was riding over the speed limit. I'm sorry." I used to try on all the excuses-lies, they were. My favorite was that I was having a bout of diarrhea. That one got me out of a few tickets. But I can't do that anymore-I just can't pull it off. Something in my 30s, I'm guessing it was parenthood, shot me full of morality, and my conscience won't allow such grotesque charades.

He left with my items, going to sit in his air-conditioned cruiser while I baked in the hot sun. This felt too familiar. In my rearview mirrors I thought for sure I could see him writing, never a good sign. After what felt like 20 minutes, he came back over, ticket pad in hand, and started with "The Lecture." "Animals in the road...errant drivers...blind corners...flat tires," all the reasons one shouldn't speed. I'm always polite during this speech, knowing it's my last chance to turn the tide if he's writing me up or the least I can do if he's letting me off.

But I already know these things, have survived all of them in my hundreds of thousands of riding miles and therefore am probably more educated about the risks than he is. I also know I'll never stop speeding, at least not entirely, and I'm sure he realizes this too. I'm shocked when he abruptly hands me back my driver's license, insurance and registration-sans the sinister yellow slip I'm dreading.

Maybe it was my honesty, my maturity. Maybe it was John Morris' advice on body language and passivity...or maybe the guy just had a sudden bout of diarrhea. I'll never know, but I'll probably always care. In a few months, I'll be clean for the first time in my adult life (touch wood one last time)...and that is something to slow down for.

-Jamie Elvidge