Wednesday, February 25, 2009

The bigger picture

The other day I was parked on the sidewalk of a road as cars rounded the corner headed towards a shopping center. I was parked at the location monitoring traffic for seat belt and cell phone violations.

Lo and behold I see this pickup truck round the corner and the driver is talking on his cellular telephone. I rode down the sidewalk, turned on my emergency lights to make a U-turn to catch up to the felonious cell phone violator. We ended up stopping in the parking lot of a bank.

I walked up to the driver and had my typical conversation with him. I asked him if he knew why I had stopped him. He replied honestly (something not seen too often) "Because I was talking on my cell phone."

While he looked for his vehicle registration and a current insurance card, I looked at his driver license and saw that he had a commercial driver license. Had I stopped him for a moving violation such as speeding, running a red light, etc., because of his commercial license he would be ineligible for traffic school to keep the violation and point off of his driving record.

I explained to the driver that a cell phone violation would not affect his driver license, however it would show up on his driving record for tracking purposes like they do with the seat belt violations.

He told me that he had been out of work for about 3 months and had just applied for a truck driver job with a local company and was afraid that a cell phone violation showing up on his driving record may have an adverse affect on his chances of getting hired by the company.

The dispatcher on my channel told me that the truck registration was expired a couple of months. The driver told me it was a choice of putting food on the table for his children or paying his truck registration.

He was not able to find a current insurance card as I told him that unfortunately I would be issuing a ticket. I told him as I walked away from his door that I'd be just a few minutes. I heard him ask as I walked away, "Can't you please give me a break?"

I have a habit of writing my tickets and notes on the back of the ticket looking up once I begin writing in the box. I could see the driver through his driver door exterior mirror place his dejected head on his steering wheel.

I remembered the time I was in between jobs (Military to Civilian) and was raising my at the time 4 year old son. Financially things were tough so I really knew what this driver was feeling and asking.

I decided not to ticket him for the cell phone violation, but did ticket him for the expired registration, and for not having a current insurance card.

I walked back up to the driver's door where I explained to the driver that the registration was a "fix it" ticket and the insurance violation would be made a "fix it" item once he showed his current insurance card to the court. I wrote on the bottom of the violation section of the ticket "Warned CVC 23123(a) - Cell Phone"

The driver began crying as I stood by his driver door and handed him his copy of the ticket. He told me he was embarrassed as the tears flowed down his cheeks. I told him, "You know what that makes you don't you? It makes you human."

I sincerely wished him good luck on the recent job he had applied for as he shook my hand before I walked back to my motor.

There may be some of you out there thinking if I truly had a heart I would have just let him go. Well I like to think of "fix it" tickets as my way of motivating the driver to get those items corrected.