I came extremely close to getting a hefty ticket this afternoon, and it’s only sheer luck – and the kindness of the officer I dealt with – that I don’t have a huge fee to pay right now.
Here’s what happened…I had pulled up to a red light – one that I’m very familiar with – that takes forever to change. So instinctively, I reached into the front pocket of my purse, and I looked at my phone to see if I had any new messages. Out of my peripheral vision, I saw a police car pull up to the light in the lane beside me. Crap.
Immediately, I put down the phone. My hands went right into the 10 o’clock and two o’clock position; I looked straight ahead as I waited for the light to turn green. Please don’t let him have seen me…I would have crossed my toes inside my shoes if I had that unique talent.
The light turned green, and I followed the line of traffic through the light. After the light, the right lane merges into the left, so I slowed down to allow the cop to merge in. Instead of merging, he slowed waaay down, almost stopping completely in the right lane. So I was forced to move ahead of him. Pulling smoothly behind me, he turned on his lights. Damn.
I pulled over on to the shoulder right away and roll down my window. I’m nervous. The last thing I need – right before Christmas – is a big, fat ticket for driving like an idiot. Why did I even touch my phone? There was no emergency, it was just a knee-jerk reaction to being bored at a light. Stuuupid.
He came over and explained that he saw me texting at a red light, and was I aware that it’s illegal to use your hand-held device while driving? I assured him that I was aware, and that the only reason I touched my phone was because I had come to a full stop at a red light (I never use a hand-held or text while the car is moving). Stone faced, he asked for my license and registration and went back to his squad car.
My heart sunk when I saw him coming back in my side mirror, holding several pieces of paper. Crap, crap, crap. Here we go.
But that’s when my luck changed for the better. “I’m going to cut you a break today,” he said. “OK, thanks,” I said a bit uncertainly. What did that mean? Half the fee? I was still looking at all the paperwork in his hand.
“I could fine you $185 today, but since you were stopped at a red light I’m going to be lenient today – you don’t owe anything.” He went on to explain that an officer could technically ticket me for even touching my phone – let alone using it while driving – and that other officers might not be so lenient.
I thanked him and drove away feeling extremely lucky. Lucky to not have to pay a ticket, but perhaps luckier still for the reminder that it’s SO not worth the risk – no matter how small I think it might be – to use a phone while sitting behind the wheel.