I have never liked speed limits on the open road. They require you to constantly check your speedometer to make sure you’re obeying the law. You could be drive perfectly safely well above the limit and yet be forced to pay a penalty for unsafe driving.
And this constant checking of your dashboard prevents you from keeping your eyes on the road (where they should be).
Yesterday I was pulled over in western Illinois, just a few miles east of the Mississippi after crossing over from Iowa. The cop, very polite, told me I had been driving a few miles over the speed limit; I got a warning, not a ticket, but the whole experience was, well, passing strange. And I think his decision to pull me over had more to do with my California license plate than the velocity of my car.
You see, even when I first spotted the car, people were passing me. Indeed, the oddest thing about the whole experience is that I noted the cop car when he first passed me (which I then saw as a relief). As if we were bound up together.
I recall delaying a cell phone call; the cop car prompted me to wonder what was Illinois’ laws on driving while on the phone Could I dial a cell phone to make a call where I would speak through the blue tooth.
Not long after considering these questions, I saw the police car which had passed me pull over. Now, I was ahead of him. I gradually decelerated, staying in the right lane, maintaining a speed of less than 65. He wasn’t going to pass me again as I hoped. I sensed I was in his sights.
Now, the cop was behind me. I kept checking the Speedometer. Needle just above 60. His flashers went on. No siren. I pulled over, not panicked, but befuddled. I expressed as much when he came to my window. He said I had been going “a few miles over” the speed limit. He asked me if I were traveling with anyone, mentioning something about a “white car” that he had seen pass by.
(Given my nature, in retrospect, I was surprised how calm I was.)
I told him I was traveling alone, also that I had been checking constantly and making sure the needle was below 70.
He said, well, the speed limit in Illinois is 65. I pointed out that I hadn’t seen any signs advertising that and recalled the last sign I had seen was in Iowa (where the speed limit) is 70. (Maybe there were no signs because we had to detour on the 280, the 80 bridge being closed.) Then, oddly, he asked me if I had any contraband in the car, firearms, alcoholic beverages or “dead bodies.” Yes, he really did say that last expression.
No, I replied, would you like to check the trunk? He would. Normally, I wouldn’t volunteer that, but I also didn’t want to be called into police headquarters. (I had to get out of the car to open it as the button which pops it from the interior doesn’t work.) He prodded around a bit, but let me go.
Through it all, the state trooper was a nice guy, never rude, always patient. And as I noted above, he gave me a warning, not a ticket. Still, the whole experience left me with a strange feeling and further delayed my arrival in Chicago. I was constantly checking my speed.
My conclusion: there must have been a report of a suspicious white car with out-of-state plates, or perhaps more specifically, California plates. He saw my plates and wondered if maybe there was some connection. He used the fact that I was traveling a few miles above the speed limit to pull me over–even if my car did not match the description of the one they were looking for, save in out-of-state plate.
The speed limit helped empower an official of the state.
Two more points to note: Not until I reached the 57 mile-marker on I-80 East did I see a speed limit sign. Nearly every license plate I saw in Illinois was in-state or from a neighboring state (Iowa or Wisconsin). Indeed, once in the City of Chicago, I saw only Illinois plates.
That latter fact helped me come to my conclusion.
Has anybody else had a similar experience? Been pulled over for driving only a few miles above the speed limit? Or had a state trooper ask you if you were traveling with another car?