QOTD: First and Best Tickets, Part III – The Ones We Avoided

In 1999, the year after my cluster of traffic tickets, I abruptly put school and everything on hold, packed up my crap, and drove that same red Dodge back to Denver because my father had cancer. I really mean packed up; there were boxes and bags and loose junk most of the way up to the headliner in the back seat, and two of my old bikes on a bumper-and-decklid rack, obscuring the car’s rear licence plate. I’d just crossed into Illinois at about 11:30 pm, and put another CD in the deck as I flew past a SPEED LIMIT 55 sign. The materialisation of a flashy-lit Crown Vic on my tail made me reflexively lift off the accelerator and glance at the speedometer to see it beginning to drift down through 80.

The Illinois cops liked to set up a perimeter to wring money out of those entering and leaving the state, and I’d not been adequately mindful, so surely I was about to get wrung. Right turn signal, pull well off the road, keys on the dashboard, hands atop the wheel. As the officer approached my car, he had to kinda stoop and peer to read my licence plate. Wrung? I was gonna get cooked!

Licence and registration, proof of insurance.

“Yes, sir. Those are in my wallet; may I unbuckle and get them for you?” He took them and went away for awhile, then came back:

Okeh, sir, the reason I stopped you is your car has yellow headlights, and in Illinois white ones are required.

Wait…what? He wants to talk about my headlamps, not my 80+ in a 55? Well…okeh! It was true, I’d put French-spec yellow H4 bulbs in the European headlamps on this car. They weren’t the very ones I’d had in my Volvo 164 when the Colorado State Patrol officer doing its out-of-country-vehicle inspection noticed them and asked where he could get a set for his Audi…but they were the same kind.

I promise I’ll put up a post about yellow headlamps soon.

“I understand, officer, but this car’s registered in Colorado, and the headlamps are legal there.”

I doubt it; that doesn’t sound right to me.

“I do have the card in my wallet here of the Colorado State Patrol officer who inspected and passed these headlight bulbs, though he’s probably asleep right now.”

Yeah? Lemme see that card. I showed it to him; he read it—an ordinary CSP business card with no extra writing on it—and took it from me.

Wait here.

He went back to his car and spent the customary three or four years back there, then returned: Can’t you get white bulbs and install them?

“I’ve looked, but the only ones I’ve found that fit these headlamps are the ones in it now”.

Well, you’re definitely going to have a problem if you move to Illinois or try to register this vehicle here; we require white headlamps. Here’s your stuff back; drive safely.

So yeah, conspicuously nonstandard, questionable vehicle equipment got me out of what would have been at least one expensive ticket—probably several—that night. The can’t-find-white-ones thing was a fib, I admit, but that CSP officer absolutely had asked me for a set of yellow bulbs for his Audi. That’s why I had his card. If it had been approaching noon rather than midnight, the Illinois officer might very well have rung him, and who knows what he might or might not’ve remembered or said.

Okeh, now you go: tell about the times you talked or otherwise manœuvred your way out of a ticket.