Traffic school teachers say one of the most common questions they get from their students--all erring motorists who have been nabbed by the police--is whether you can talk your way out of a ticket. The answer is: sometimes.
California Highway Patrol officer Ken Daily, who teaches a traffic class, says: "If I see you several car lengths up, tailgating so close it looks like the guy is towing you, I wait until I get there so I can see you, which the law requires I do. You see me and drop off, I pull you over and say, 'Don't do it again.' " You have escaped a ticket."
Bob Stansell, a former police officer who is now an investigator for the county district attorney's office and a traffic school teacher, has a different explanation.
"When you go through the (police) academy, they tell you you're supposed to know in your mind when you're going to write a ticket. But someone's attitude can change that.
"A good example is one night, I was working in Inglewood, it was about 6:30 or so. We started work at 5 and were going to 3 in the morning. My partner and I, Chuck, were driving around, and we were heading over to Randy's (coffee shop) to get a cup of coffee and a doughnut."
The stereotype makes the class laugh.
"We're heading over to Randy's. We'd been at work about an hour and a half, so we had to go get a cup of coffee. We're driving by the Forum . . . and they have the 'No Left Turn' sign at Manchester and Prairie.
"Right in front of me . . . it was just like Moses parting the Red Sea. A Cadillac Seville makes a left turn. Right in front of me. And I said . . . 'Chuck, look, a ticket. Here's our scratch for the night, and we're gonna get it early!'
"And he said, 'Hey, forget it, there'll be plenty more, let's go get our coffee, let's get out of here.'
"I say 'No, it's a Cadillac . I want it.'
"He says, 'I don't want to stop.' I said, 'I'm driving, we're stopping.' He says, 'Forget it, I'm not helping you. . . . I want my coffee, let's just forget it and go.' I said, 'No,' I light it up and the car pulls over.
"And as I'm getting out, he says to me, 'I hope he shoots ya.'
"So I approach the car and I walk up and it's two couples, middle-aged couples, very nicely dressed, and the gentleman has his license and registration in his hand and he says, 'Good evening, officer'--and there's a Laker game going on, and obviously that's where this gentleman is going.
"He says, 'Good evening, officer, I'm sorry, I screwed up, I shouldn't have done it. I've had a bad day. Here's my license and registration. I apologize.'
"And I say, 'Okay, I'll be with you in a minute.' And as I walk away I was going to give this guy a ticket. He committed a violation, and I have in my mind this individual is getting a ticket.
"And as I'm walking back to the car, Chuck is now out on the side, hands in his pockets, standing around. The ticket book is on the hood of the car. As I walk back, I'm holding the license, and as I stand there and look at him, he says, 'What's up? . . . There's the book, write your ticket and let's get out of here.'
"And I looked at him and said, 'Do you want to write the ticket?'
"And he shouts, ' I didn't want to stop this guy in the first place. You stopped him! You write the ticket. Why don't you want to write the ticket?'
"(I said,) 'Well, the guy's had a bad day, he's nice, he kind of reminds me of my dad.' . . . And he says, 'Tell you what'--now keep this in mind folks, the gentleman did commit a violation, right, it's not a matter of whether he did or didn't--Chuck says, 'Hey, I'll solve it, and we'll get out of here real quick.'
"He pulls a quarter out and says, 'Heads he gets a ticket and tails he doesn't.' Comes up, the guy doesn't get a ticket. . . . So I walk back to the car and say, 'Here you go sir, here's your license and registration back, have a good evening and enjoy the game.' "