Thursday, October 07, 2004

Real Stories of the Highway Patrol

I drive fast. As such, I've been pulled over a few times. I found out yesterday that no matter how many times you've been stopped, seeing those flashing lights in your rearview mirror always causes a rush of adrenaline and a not-so-pleasant feeling of nervousness.

The stretch of Airport Highway that runs past where I work has a speed limit of 55 miles per hour. I was driving on it yesterday shortly after leaving work, when I happened to glance in my rearview mirror to see a highway patrol car behind me. My eyes reflexively went from the mirror to the speedometer, and I was cruising around 59. I didn't think that was too bad, but I dropped down to 55 just to be safe.

At one point the patrol car changed lanes, but shortly thereafter it got right back in behind me. About a block or so later, I had to stop at a red light. When the light turned green and I started to pull through the intersection, that's when the lights started flashing.

There was a parking lot just ahead of where I was, so I put on my turn signal and pulled in there. The patrol car came in right behind me and the officer immediately got out and started walking up to my window, which was already rolled down. I was ready to be irritated if he was going to give me a ticket for going four miles over the speed limit.

Actually, it turned out to be even more irritating than that. He said the reason he had pulled me over was because my license plate frame was covering the part of my plate that says OHIO. He made me show him my registration and proof of insurance, and he took my driver's license back to his car to do whatever it is they do with it when they take it. When he came back a moment later, he said everything checked out and that he was just going to issue a warning.

I pulled out of the parking lot and continued on my way. Shortly thereafter, stopped at another traffic light, I looked over at a car in the other lane, slightly ahead of me. The license plate frame on this car was absolutely enormous, covering much more of the plate than mine does. I glanced in my mirror and, sure enough, the patrolman was still behind me. I gave serious thought to catching his attention and pointing out the egregious lawbreaker next to me, but I decided against it.

I've had the same license plate frame on my car for years with absolutely no problems. Even when I've been pulled over for speeding, the officers haven't mentioned it. I had never heard that it was illegal to cover OHIO on the license plate. I don't doubt that the officer was telling the truth, but I've certainly never heard of anyone else being stopped for it, and now that I'm paying attention I've noticed that there are a LOT of license plate frames out there and almost all of them cover that part of the plate.

I know that often patrol officers will pull cars over for something silly like this just as an excuse to check out the driver and get a look inside the car. I'm just wondering exactly what I did that made me a target for such a check. It turned out to be not a big deal, but it definitely got me pretty worked up for a moment. Oh, and the license plate frame is staying right where it is.

No comments: