Police: Save the excuse, we’ve heard it all

Whether an accident or speeding, trying to explain away trouble unlikely

By Bob Albrecht, Columbian Staff Reporter

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Sitting on the side of the road as blue and red lights flash in your rearview mirrors probably isn’t when you’re at your most clearheaded.

So here’s a piece of advice: The excuse you hatched to explain away speeding or your role in a fender bender has almost surely been heard before — and it’s unlikely to get you out of trouble.

“The lady I had the other day was faking her pregnancy,” Officer Scott Neill of the Vancouver Police Department Traffic Unit said of a woman he pulled over for speeding. “She was pregnant, but she was faking her labor pains.

“It’s rare to hear an excuse we haven’t heard before.”

Area traffic officers recently shared some of the most memorable excuses they’ve heard, saying drivers who commit infractions are likely to distort the truth, while those involved in wrecks typically tell it straight.

Neill did arrive at the scene of a wreck recently, however, to hear a unique yarn. A driver in his teens had ran into the back of a moving motorcycle traveling the same direction.

The teen’s explanation? “I think a receipt flew up and hit me in the face,” he told Neill.

A lot of people, though, share honest details of their involvement in a crash. “They say, ‘It was my fault,” Neill said.

Unless … they were on the phone or texting. “Then they won’t admit it,” Neill said. “I’ve even had people drop the phone out the window.”

Sgt. Patrick Johns of VPD said drivers from outside the area more commonly lie about the cause of their gas-powered missteps than locals. “Folks from the city of Vancouver tend to be honest and forthright,” Johns said.

Trooper Steve Schatzel of the Washington State Patrol agreed with his Vancouver police colleagues that people are far more likely to try to lie away a ticket than their responsibility for an accident.

Officers at the scene of wrecks have to gather multiple perspectives on the same incident, leading to some discrepancies between one account and another.

“Generally, the stories line up pretty good,” Schatzel said. “Everybody slants the story a little bit to their favor, but that’s human nature. They’ll word it in a way that they’re not denying what they did or changing it, but they’ll say things like, ‘That car was coming really fast.’”

But back to speeding and other moving vehicle infractions. Oft-used excuses include, according to Schatzel:

• “I was going with the flow of traffic.”

• “I had my cruise control on.”

• “I didn’t realize I was going that fast.”

While candor may not get you out of ticket, police say it is appreciated.

Schatzel stopped a woman going 100 miles per hour in a 70 mile-per-hour-zone. Why were you going so fast? he asked.

“Just out having fun,” she told him.

When he handed her a ticket with a three digit fine, he said, “I hope you had that much fun.”