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A Petty Ticket?

American Government Special Collections Reference Desk

McHenry County, Illinois

A Petty Ticket?

Gus Philpott
Woodstock Advocate
March 9, 2009


Ken Gaylord, of Lakemoor, Illinois, wrote to the Editor of the Northwest Herald about a petty ticket he received in Woodstock on February 28 at 7:08PM. This would have been the last day of the February traffic initiative against dangerous drivers.

Ken wrote that he was in a right-turn demand lane; you know, one of those lanes you get into where you must turn right, according to lane lines, signing and perhaps even a green right-turn arrow.

What was Ken's horrible driving error? He neglected to signal his right turn.

Is it a driving violation? Is it worth a $75 ticket? Not unless he was rude to the officer. And maybe not even then.

When I was doing the Deputy Dawg thing in Colorado, I made a lot of traffic stops. I had the authority to issue a ticket on every one of them. I didn't stop anyone unless he had committed a traffic violation. I also believed that if polite, roadside "counseling" would solve the problem, then I didn't need to write the driver a ticket, which would result in a fine, court costs and a jump in his insurance premium. My experience was that drivers appreciated the encounter with a polite law enforcement officer.

And, if someone talked me into a ticket, I could certainly oblige him. A few did, and I did. I don't remember one that got off when we got to court.

I heard recently that Woodstock Police Chief Lowen believes that his officers are ambassadors of our city. That's a fine concept, but does it happen out on the streets?

My personal experience is that it doesn't make it to the patrol cars. At least, not to all of them. If officers find themselves getting a hard time from citizens or drivers, then they should examine how they are approaching people. Quite often, you get back what you put out.

In this country people are not to fear police officers. Respect them? Yes. And officers are expected to respect the public.

I still remember my only speeding ticket, which I got about two months after getting my driver's license at age 16. I did a stupid kid thing and got stopped. The officer approached my mom's car and said, "Good evening, sir. You have just been clocked by radar at 42MPH in a 30 zone. May I have your license, please?"

Now that was, let's see, 54 years ago and I still remember his words. Did he make an impression on me? Absolutely! And was it a favorable impression? Absolutely. There was no "Hey, Mac. Where's the fire?" or any nonsense like that. I'd even say today that officer played a significant part in my life-long decision to obey traffic laws.

I deserved that ticket. Ken did not.



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