Recent Steering You Right articles
By Jordan W. Charness
Peter’s son was growing up: he had reached the age of 10 where he was becoming more responsible for his actions; but he was also testing the limits of his boundaries on a daily basis. During this testing phase he would try to get away with more than he used to.
Peter was trying to instill in him the necessity of owning up to his actions and taking responsibility for his deeds. The current popular song with the refrain “Wasn’t Me” was becoming his son’s motto. This was leading to a certain amount of friction in the house: every time Peter’s son was asked if he had done something, the immediate response was, “Wasn’t me.”
Peter and his son were out driving and discussing this new stage in his son’s life. Peter tried to teach him how important it was for him to both do and say the right thing, and suffer the consequences for his actions. Peter was just in the middle of explaining how even little lies can lead to big trouble when they both heard the sound of a siren behind them.
At first, Peter thought it must be an ambulance that was trying to get by, so he pulled to the side of the road. He then looked in his rearview mirror and saw that the cause of the noise was a police car that was gaining rapidly on him. He continued to slow down feeling certain that the police car would pass them by. He was sure that this time he had done nothing wrong.
To his chagrin the police car pulled up behind him and the police officer motioned for him to stop. As he was pulling over his son asked him what he had done. Peter’s response, “I don’t know but I’m sure we’ll find out,” showed Peters irritation with this turn of events.
Peter waited in his car for the police officer to come and tell him what he had done. All the while both fear and frustration were bubbling through his brain. When the police officer asked for his license and registration Peter was ready with a curt response like, “Don’t you have any real criminals to chase?” Or, “Why are you harassing me? I’ve certainly done nothing wrong?” But just then he realized that is son was in the car with him.
All of a sudden, smartmouthing a police officer did not seem like such a good idea. After all, Peter had spent the last 15 minutes explaining to his son how important it was to take responsibility for your actions and own up to your mistakes.
Peter greeted the policeman with a warm smile and politely asked what the problem was. “I’m sure I wasn’t speeding” said Peter, “I’m really being careful about that.”
“Your speed was not the problem,” came the reply. “However, four blocks ago you kind of ran through a yellow light.”
Peter was just about to reply that he thought it was legal to drive through yellow lights when once again he remembered where he was and with whom. Smiling once again he admitted that he had gone through a yellow light and explained that he did not do it on purpose. The cop was nice enough as he wrote up the ticket and suggested that Peter take up the matter with the judge and plead not guilty if he felt that he did not commit the offence.
As it turned out, it was a good thing that Peter’s son was along with him for the ride. When pulled over by a police officer, it is never, ever a good idea to respond with hostility. The policeman is just doing his job. His job in this case is to stop people who have broken the rules of the road. This keeps the road safer for all drivers and even contributes a few bucks to the city’s coffers in the form of fines.
The police never know who is in the car they stop and whether or not they will be facing an explosive situation. In fact, some major league criminals have been caught because they were pulled over for a traffic offence and a traffic cop found out that an arrest warrant had been issued. The police therefore approach a car with a certain degree of caution and even greater degree of trepidation. Even if you are right, it is not the time for loud and nasty speeches or belligerent behaviour. If you are right, explain your story to the judge and you will be acquitted.
In Peter’s case, it turned out that what he had done was to speed up when he came to the yellow light. According to law, you are allowed to pass through a yellow light if it was impossible for you to safely slow down and stop before coming to the intersection. The law is designed to give a few moments of safety for people who are caught in the intersection as the light changes colour. You are not allowed to increase your speed just to make it through the intersection on the yellow light. This type of action will earn you and Peter an expensive ticket and some demerit points.