July 9, 2010


At my job as shuttle driver for international students, the #1 question I'm asked about driving is, "Why do you have to stop at stop signs if there aren't any other cars around?" My answer is simply, "It's the law and cops might be hiding and waiting to catch you if you don't obey the law."

And now I know how right I am.

Coming back from Sea World kind of late recently, I'm at a stop sign a few blocks from home. This intersection doesn't require all ways to stop and is partially a blind curve, so I always stop long enough to make sure no other cars/pedestrians are around before deciding it's safe to continue. Plus, the back of my mind is always on cop alert (Crown Victoria's are all too easy to spot, and I'll even get antsy when an occupied taxi is behind me). So I continue on, satisfied that no other vehicles were around.

Imagine my confusion when all of a sudden some very angry lights and sirens come up behind me. Earlier that day, while working, a cop had come up very quickly with all lights on while I was doing 68ish in the fast lane. I got in the #2 lane, very confused, hoping it wasn't because the French students in the van were making faces or something, but the cop sped on past me, scaring and confusing the cars in front of me. This time, unfortunately, the cop was indeed targeting me.

The guy sits with his searingly bright search lights trained on my little car for a few seconds before turning them off and getting out. Little unnecessary, I thought.
Me: Hi...?
Cop: I pulled you over for running that stop sign. License, insurance and registration, please.
Me: What? I stopped. *Get wallet, fish through glove box*
Cop: This is a AAA card.
Me: Oh... here. *Get insurance card*
Cop: *Writes down some stuff, takes my license and leaves.*
Me: *Annoyed.*
Cop: *Comes back with a ticket* You were going 10 MPH through the stop sign. I saw 3 cars ahead of you come to a complete stop. I look for the tires to stop moving. Yours didn't.
Me: Well that's not true.
Cop: You were going 5 MPH, maybe even as fast as 10 MPH. Sign here. It doesn't mean you admit guilt, just that you'll take care of it.
Me: *Grumble. Sign the damn thing.*
Cop: You're free to go. *Turns on his heel with an angry face.*

If the cop was visible, like they're supposed to be when running traps, I would have seen him, with his yellow lights on, and would have made sure to wait at the stop sign for a few seconds just to be safe. But I looked around and saw no one. Plus, when I drove by there later I didn't see anywhere he could have been that was visible, where he could see my tires, and still where I wouldn't have seen him (assuming his lights were on... if they weren't I obviously would have missed him).

I'm just glad I had someone in the car with me to share in my experience. Awesome. Turns out cops are targeting my neighborhood. My friend saw another cop pulling someone else over as he left, and the next morning I saw a motorcycle cop lying in wait on a sidewalk trying to catch people, and then I saw 2 more cops in the area later. Are they systematically going through San Diego neighborhoods with traps? Is it because Pride is coming up? Are they getting a jump start on their quotas? Are their a bunch of new recruits out there eager to slap around the public? Are they trying to help California's deficit with tickets? Whatever the reason, seeing an influx of cops around doesn't ease my fears, it makes me think I'm doing something wrong, even if I'm not. Are they going to get me for going 66 MPH? Has the duct tape on my tail light come off? Could he see me change the music station and get me for distracted driving? I'm a safe person and a very safe driver- having cops around only makes me more anxious.

Good luck to all you drivers out there!

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