PEI

Bad-driving excuses that P.E.I. police won't buy

Police officers on P.E.I. hear all kinds of excuses when they pull a driver over for speeding, especially ones about an urgent call of nature. Rarely do they work.

There's no excuse for speeding, police say — even if you do have to pee

Police on P.E.I. can seize a driver's car if they are caught doing more than 60 km/h over the posted speed limit. (Travis Kingdon/CBC)

Police officers hear one almost every time they pull someone over for speeding.

What's the excuse going to be this time? Late for work? Seeing how fast the new car will go? Favourite song came on the radio and lost track of the speed?

Or the one RCMP Const. Jamie Parsons hears most often: "I have to pee."

"At the end of the day, there's just no excuse for speeding," said Parsons, who has heard plenty in his 17 years on the force. (Among other things, he operates the Prince Edward Island RCMP traffic Twitter account, @RCMPPEITraffic.)

"Using excessive speed to get to the washroom is not an excuse."

Police say they are concerned with what appears to be a higher frequency of speeding and other traffic infractions on P.E.I., like what Parsons calls the "famous roll-through" at a stop sign.

Parsons said police have some discretion when they pull a driver over under the Highway Traffic Act, but excessive speeding and holding a cellphone while driving are two infractions that are unlikely to get you any sympathy — let alone get the penalty lowered to a warning.

Parsons spoke to CBC P.E.I. about what happens when they catch a speeder, and what drivers should do and not do when they get pulled over.

What should drivers do when they see the dreaded police lights in the rear-view mirror?

Drivers should use their signal light and safely pull over at the first opportunity, Parsons said. Stay in the vehicle unless instructed by the officer to get out. Keep your hands on the steering wheel and don't move around too much or reach into the glove compartment until it's time to produce your licence, registration and insurance.

Police will inform dispatch and run a check on your licence plate before approaching the window. (CBC)

Why does it take so long for the officer to get out of the police car?

Parsons said they are informing the police dispatcher of the details — the infraction, location, number of passengers in the vehicle, etc.  — as well as running a check on the licence plate.

Can you talk your way out of a ticket?

Rarely, Parsons said. Police do have some discretion, but they also have a good idea when you're fibbing.

"My advice to you when you get pulled over — be polite and courteous. Some people get mad at the police for stopping them for speeding or think that we have nothing better to do, but just remember we have a job to do and we're out there trying to make the roads safer for everyone — including you, who are going over the speed limit."

Keep in mind, too, that you only need to be holding your cellphone, not necessarily talking on it, to get a ticket for that.

"I pulled one lady over before and she said, 'Well, officer, I wasn't using my phone. I was just looking at the time.' 

"I said, 'Ma'am it's 3:30, the time's right there on your dashboard.' It's just an excuse."

RCMP Const. Jamie Parsons says he can usually tell if a driver is being dishonest. (CBC)

Do you see drivers trying to put their seatbelt on without you noticing?

Actually, Parsons said, it happens a lot. 

"Most times if the police car pulls you over and you never had your belt on and now you're putting it on, I mean you're just trying to pull the wool over our eyes."

Same goes for littering, he said. 

"You see a bottle fly out the window and they play dumb when you go up to speak to them.... We're not oblivious to what's going on and we wouldn't have pulled you over if we didn't see it."

Do police have a quota of tickets they need to meet?

"That's absolutely a myth. There are no quotas," Parsons said.

He notes that sometimes at the end of the month, paperwork might be a little lighter and officers are out on patrol more, but that's it.

What is the fine for speeding?

The fines are set under the Highway Traffic Act. The higher the speed, the steeper the fine.

It gets particularly steep for drivers caught going in excess of 60 km/h over the speed limit. They can be fined $10 for each kilometre per hour over the speed limit, along with a $50 surcharge. They will also have their vehicle seized and be on the hook for towing and impoundment fees.

Parsons said he recently stopped a driver who was going 98 km/h over the speed limit. It resulted in a fine of $1,030 — $980 plus the $50 surcharge.

The fines are higher in school zones.

What does it take to get just a warning?

Consider this your warning, Parsons said.

"Police are very concerned about the high speeds we're seeing on the highway and we're out there, and we're going to be enforcing those speed limits, so here's your warning and it's no good to ask for it at the window once you've committed a speeding offence."

More from CBC P.E.I.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Shane Ross is a former newspaper and TV journalist in Halifax, Ottawa and Charlottetown. He joined CBC P.E.I.'s web team in 2016.

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