KINGMAN - Better you than me is a thought that pops into the minds of many drivers when they come upon a fellow motorist who has been pulled over by law enforcement.
We like to see bad drivers being held to account - except when it's us who get bug-eyed when we see flashing lights in the rear-view mirror.
For the person with the badge and ticket book, there are many reasons to pull drivers over and some of them might surprise people who think they know traffic rules like they know their ABCs.
More than a few of them don't, and if they think they do, it's best to remain mum.
"You can't talk your way out of a ticket, but you sure can talk your way into it," said a local law enforcement officer who commented for this story.
Take your medicine and if you think you got a raw deal, request a court date. "Argue your case at the traffic hearing, not on the side of the road," he said.
The Miner asked sheriff's deputies and Kingman police officers to answer three questions:
- What is the most common reason to pull over a motorist?
- What traffic rules do drivers most misunderstand or are unaware exists?
- What is the strangest or most creative reason a motorist gave you to explain their driving?
Every single deputy and officer said speeding was the most common reason drivers are stopped. Second place goes to people who fail to come to a complete stop at stop signs or turn right at red lights. Faulty equipment and registration violations are also common, but speeders draw law enforcement's attention more than any other infraction.
One said it is a common misconception that it's "OK to speed over the posted limit by 10 or 15 mph."
As for the rules, improper lane usage is a big no-no that a surprising number of people routinely violate.
The center turn lane is just what it says it is, a turning lane. It is not for merging into traffic like it's a freeway on-ramp.
When you turn from one street with more than two lanes to another, stay in the left lane and merge right if that is the lane you need. Don't shoot over to the far lane.
Many people are unaware drivers must treat a sidewalk like they would a stop sign and come to a complete stop before crossing.
Officers also said many motorists don't understand seatbelt or car seat laws.
Breakers of the move over law are a huge pet peeve for law enforcement.
"Nothing makes an officer more upset than a vehicle whipping past them at 65 mph, inches from them. Arizona Statutes state that if there is an available lane they need to move over if it can be done safely. If not, they need to drastically reduce their speed. The law applies to all emergency vehicles with lights on," wrote one deputy.
While most people know it is unlawful to drive on a suspended license, many of them do it anyway and don't realize it is mandatory for law enforcement to tow the vehicle and impound it for 30 days.
"There are no exceptions to this law," said one law enforcement officer. "Please don't beg and plead with the officer as the only result is that you are embarrassing yourself."
Now for the fun part:
Law enforcement officers have heard all kinds of excuses for poor driving. Some are funny, some come from people who lie as badly as they drive and others are just puzzling.
Here's a sampling:
"I didn't see you," from a speeding motorist.
"That shouldn't be illegal," from a person who made an unlawful turn.
"[They said] that they were pregnant. Problem was, that it was a man who told me that."
"My husband just had new bearings put in the truck. It must have made the speedometer incorrect."
"I only had two drinks," from people who passed the two-beer mark about 10 beers earlier.
People involved in collisions commonly tell officers they had to swerve to avoid an animal, "usually a dog, coyote or cow."
"I was running from aliens."
"I was texting and not watching the speedometer."
"His brother got sick in the southern part of Arizona and might be dying. He was coming from Oregon and could not afford to fly so he was speeding - 114 mph in a 65 mph [zone]."
One deputy said nothing he's ever heard is too strange, but the most common is drivers who say they were speeding "because they have to go poop really bad."
And the best of the best:
"I pulled over a younger male with a bunch of 'Star Wars' stickers on his vehicle. I asked him why he was speeding [and] he quoted from 'Star Wars,' 'I am going to Tosche Station to pick up some power converters.'
"I let him go and started laughing in my patrol car because I am a big enough nerd to know what he was talking about."
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