Life as a bad boy

I got a speeding ticket on Sunday; my first speeding ticket since 1973. That’s not the news. I didn’t get a warning. That’s the news.

Here’s the story: I was looking for an outdoor hockey rink, hidden among the crooked back streets of White Bear Lake. After a half hour of looking, I needed to get back to where I started to try my directions again. I was frustrated that I didn’t know where I was. Anxious to get back to a spot I recognized, I didn’t pay attention to my speed.

I saw the 30 mph speed limit sign and the police car at the same time. I started pulling over, I think, even before the guy put his lights on.

Now, keep in mind that one of the benefits of becoming a senior citizen is you become a more sympathetic character during times like this. I pulled the license out of the wallet even before the officer came to the car. And when he did, I didn’t waste time, admitting I wasn’t paying attention, I was going as fast as however he thought I was going, acknowledging that I deserve a ticket, and — by the way — where’s that hockey rink?

In the old days, that would get you a warning (or at least a lowering of the indicated speed you were going), especially if you’re a senior citizen, and an adorable one at that.

Those days are gone. The officer — one of the few police officers left who is older than I am, I noticed — explained that he doesn’t have a choice these days. “The man” is really on them to write people up, he explained. In the old days, I thought “the man” was the guy in the police car, but I guess that’s changed, too.

But I got his drift. Times are tough. Local government aid is being cut, and guys like me — guilty scofflaws — are a boon to cash-strapped counties and communities.

He went back to his car to write up the ticket and when he came back, he told me — apologetically, it seemed — what I should do to appeal it. “I’m not going to appeal it,” I said. “I’m guilty.”

That’s when he gave me a police escort to the hockey rink, which was almost worth the $131 it cost me. He was a nice guy doing a tough job.

Ironically, MPR just finished a week profiling how tough White Bear Lake has it in this economy, and nowhere was it mentioned that a partial cure for the state budget crisis on communities might be to lower the speed limit by 5 miles per hour, and hope more people get lost in your town.

On MPR’s Midday on Monday, Gov. Tim Pawlenty will join Gary Eichten for a discussion about his proposed budget fix, which he’ll unveil this week. The governor has said there’ll be no new taxes to balance a $5 billion shortfall.

What does that mean to us? It means we should slow down, try not to get lost, and pay attention to the speed limit.

  • Minn Whaler

    Ohhhh, how the mighty have fallen… sniff!

  • Great post Bob… I have a bad feeling about the upcoming budget fight in Minnesota this year.

  • Jim!!!

    Funny story! It must be the cheap gas.

  • LK

    I had a similar no-warning experience in 2003, when local cities were cash-strapped too. I learned then that it’s especially wise during times like now to stay 5 MPH under!

  • Elizabeth T

    Last time I got pulled over was in ’02 for speeding … oops.

    Time before that was ’94 for running a blinking yellow light in the back waters of Michigan. Which resulted in spending the night in jail after getting arrested for being a wanted felon. They finally determined that I wasn’t the right person named Smith. Though they got quite a pretty penny from the several traffic tickets (running the light, speeding, and driving w/o a valid license (this last is a whole different story). The whole long version is a great party story. It impressed my friends that I actually got arrested.

    I didn’t get a police escort anywhere, though.

  • Derek

    I work in White Bear and had a similar experience when I rolled through a stop sign on a side street about a year ago. As I was being handed the ticket the officer said “I don’t want to ruin your day but…”

    If he didn’t want to ruin my day he shouldn’t have given me the ticket was my thought.

  • Lynn

    I received a ticket back in November, and the officer expressed regret when he gave me the ticket. He also indicated there was pressure to write these tickets up instead of giving a warning. It’s been 2 months and my ticket still isn’t in the Ramsey County system – so I can’t pay it even if I wanted to. I finally went to the courthouse and they made a copy of the ticket, said they would track down the officer to see what happened.

  • Paul

    Just another way your tax-cuts can end up biting you in the backside.

  • Traci

    I guess I am a little confused why everyone thinks they should be entitled to a warning. How is that cop supposed to know that you haven’t gotten about 10 “warnings” already. People seem to expect to be able to get out of doing things wrong just because they are older or in a hurry, or for women cause they are pretty. We have become a society of “Poor me’s”. Doesn’t anyone think about how what they are doing is going to effect those around them anymore? I have gotten my fair share of tickets and all of them have been because I was doing something that I shouldn’t have been doing. If you don’t want a ticket don’t do something.

  • Bob Collins

    I’ve checked back and I can find no instance — anywhere — of anyone saying they were entitled to warnings.

    What I’ve seen are people saying that there aren’t any warnings anymore whereas before there was a reasonable expectation of them if the police officer — using his or her judgment — thought that the circumstances were such that it could be used as an option.

    The news is it’s no longer an option THEY have. Judgment.

    So while I respect the opinion you’ve registered irt people who’ve gotten tickets, you’ve registered criticism where none is warranted based on what people have written.

    As I’ve indicated, people need to slow down because public safety is actually is about revenue sources as it is public safety. It’s quite possible we’ll see laws adjusted based on the need for revenue.

  • tiredboomer

    One mile per hour over the limit is speeding, one mile per hour under the limit is obstructing traffic. The pressure is on to write more tickets. Be careful out there, and have a nice day.

  • Mark Gisleson

    Municipalities are increasing ticket writing to compensate for their busted budgets. When governments don’t tax sufficiently, they usually become predators, preying on whichever citizens they can catch and fleece. (Hint: in this country that’s usually the poor and middle class.)

    Given the ENORMOUS disparity in incomes and wealth in this country, fines no longer make any sense. Warnings, license suspensions and revocations are the penalties that hit everyone equally hard.

    And warnings should go into the computer just like the actual tickets, the point being to manage traffic, not to prey on the unwary.

  • daveg

    As I’ve indicated, people need to slow down because public safety is actually {as much} about revenue sources as it is public safety.

    Which, in my opinion, is to a large degree the very reason that speed limits are almost universally ignored.