Pulled Over: An Erratic Trilogy

There are three lessons to be learned here:

  1. Don’t speed, it’s probably not worth it.

  2. Sometimes good drivers get pulled over while others make legitimate traffic violations.

  3. Hokies are everywhere.

During my time as a license holder in the state of Virginia, I have been pulled over three times, which is embarrassing in part because I have been driving for less than five years. All three incidents occurred within the last year, two were while traveling between school and home, and arguably only one was my fault.

Incident 1: Call for backup

“If you get pulled over, ask the cop to call for backup.”

This is a warning my mother gives me every time I’m driving alone. There are all kinds of horror stories that go along with this warning, including that of a serial killer who would pretend to be a cop and abduct drivers from their cars on the side of the highway. I always agreed that I would, because it’s usually much easier to agree with her than to argue, but in reality I didn’t really know what asking for backup would look like. If the cop were a predator in disguise, would he even give me a chance?

On may way home for Thanksgiving during my freshman year, I got the chance to fulfil my promise to my mother in an incident that will go down in history as my worst treatment of a fellow Hokie ever.

I was driving down I-64 with my sister in the passenger seat. It was dark, we were just outside of Charlottesville and we had our mother’s warning of predators-in-disguise hanging over our heads, so when blue lights started flashing behind my car, I almost had a heart attack.

As I pulled over to the side, my sister and I were both freaking out. I knew I had been going the speed limit, so naturally the only other reason I would be pulled over was that this was not a cop but a serial killer. This fear was further confirmed when the cop came to the passenger window while we were turned, waiting, towards the driver’s side (which in hindsight makes perfect sense as the driver’s side was facing a highway and he could have been hit there.)

He tapped on the window with his flashlight. My sister jumped but blessedly didn’t scream. I clicked the window button, effectively opening the window enough for fingers to fit through but not the rest of a grown man’s hand. This was the extent of my contribution to the situation.

Seeing that I, the driver, had frozen, my sister — a sixteen-year-old who had also never been pulled over — took control.

“Can you please call for backup,” she asked through the paper-thin opening of the window. (I’m paraphrasing, working from memory.)

The cop expressed confusion, asking her if we could open the window any further.

Taking this as a threat, I took action and clicked the window button once again. It was now open enough for a hand to fit through, but definitely not an arm.

“Please call for backup,” my sister repeated.

The now-flustered officer explained that backup was only called for when one party felt threatened.

“Do you feel threatened, ma’am?”

My sister looked at me. I looked at my sister. Which “ma’am” was he talking to? Me, the driver who had remained silent through the entirety of the interaction? Or my sister, the passenger who was practically in the driver’s seat with how far she was leaning away from the “open” window?

“I was just going to tell you you have a taillight out,” the officer continued, in a southern accent that was sounding less and less threatening by the second.

It turned out that this officer was not only not a serial killer, but he was the sweetest cop in the world. He agreed that “Criminal Minds” was a great show when my sister blurted that watching it too much it was why we asked for backup; he helped me locate my car’s registration; when I told him I was going home from Virginia Tech, he shared that he was a lifelong Tech fan and hated being stationed in “Hoo’s territory”.

I didn’t get a ticket that night. My sister and I still feel bad for the way we treated the poor Hokie cop.

Lesson: Hokies are everywhere.

 

Incident 2: My fault

I’m a pretty good driver, in my opinion, most of the time. However, my car doesn’t have cruise control and it is easy to lose track of my speed. This happened on the Monday morning after Fall Break, when I decided to make the 4-ish-hour drive from home to campus before my 11:15 class.

The cop clocked me at a reckless speed on a downward sloped stretch of I-81 as I was accelerating to pass a semi. My fault, technically.

This time I wasn’t worried about serial killers. Fears of court appearances and raised insurance payments were the cause of my increased heart rate and shaking hands. I think it was the shaking hands that got me out of the ticket. I don’t know if this cop was a Hokie, but he was probably an angel.

I made it to my 11:15 on time, and I haven’t gone more than 5 mph over the speed limit since.

Lesson: Don’t speed. It’s not worth the rise in insurance rates.

 

Incident 3: Not my fault

The light was yellow. Unless my eyes decided to freak out on me, the light was definitely yellow when I left the line and was still yellow when I took my eyes off it to look at the cop that pulled a U-turn in the middle of traffic to come after me.

When blue lights came on behind me this time — as I drove alone in the dark, going the speed limit, pretty sure all lights were functioning correctly — I was scared of insurance, court appearances, predators and my parents’ reaction to me being pulled over twice in one month.

This cop wasn’t friendly like the first or fatherly like the second. He shortly asked for my license and registration and told me the light was red.

“And when we were following you back there,” he continued, “we noticed that one of your tail lights was out.”

)*#*#^*[email protected]*! Again???

Despite these two (supposed) traffic violations, he didn’t give me a ticket either. I explained that I had judged the light to be yellow and promised to get the tail light fixed that weekend.

The lack of ticket doesn’t stop me from seething every time someone runs an actual red light on Main Street.

Lesson: Sometimes good drivers get pulled over while others make blatant traffic violations blocks away.

All in all, my record is clean, and I'm so grateful for that. In fact, each experience of being pulled over shaped me into an even safer driver. I stop when the light turns yellow, much to the hatred of other drivers around me. My heart spasms any time I catch myself going mor that 5 mph over the speed limit. I am absolutely positive that all the lights on my car are functioning properly.

If you are behind a small silver car that slams on its breaks for a yellow light around Blacksburg, it's probably me. You're welcome though; I am probably saving you from a ticket.

Image Sources: Cops Cars // Yellow Light