Massachusetts Speed Trap

When I’m wrong, no matter how hard it is, I admit it. If I deserve a consequence, I accept it. I have been known to be stubborn in some situations, but I eventually fall on the side of truth and justice, even if I didn’t start out that way.

After a few weeks of reflection, I am confident I don’t deserve the consequence of paying a $150 speeding ticket. What else can a writer do, but write about it? Here’s my situation:

On July 24, 2013, I was driving from Rochester, NY to Portsmouth, NH to see my daughters. My 8-year-old son and my elderly mother were in the car with me. We were driving my mother’s New-York-State-registered car on Thruway 90.

Charlton Map

Because my mother gets nervous driving in unfamiliar areas, I drove the whole 8 hours. For the majority of the trip I used the cruise control, setting my speed at 70 mph in a 65 mph zone. There were people going faster and slower than I was for the entire trip. I stayed in the right lane when I could and passed people on the left. In heavier traffic I matched the flow of traffic in the left lane.

About six hours into the drive, approximately 2 pm, I hit heavy truck-traffic in Charlton, Massachusetts. A steady stream of trucks were in the right lane. I joined the other cars passing the trucks in the left lane. I maintained my 70 mph in the left, even though there was at least 5 car lengths between me and the car in front of me, following proper driving protocol for speed and distance between cars. I felt no need to speed up until I looked in my rearview mirror and saw that a car was so close to me that I couldn’t see the car’s license plate. Tailgating and aggressive drivers make me nervous; they have anger issues and cause a majority of accidents on the road.

I stepped on the gas a little to put distance between us. Just then a truck from the right lane moved into the left lane with little warning and very little room between the two cars. The three of us behind the truck had to step on the breaks suddenly. I looked in the rearview mirror and the blue car behind me was still tight on the rear of my car. When the truck moved back to the right lane, the other cars in front of me passed the truck and fell in line in front of it. Every time I looked in my rearview mirror, the aggressive driver behind me would not let up, no matter what kind of distance I tried to put between us. He was tailgating so close I still couldn’t see his license plate. So I sped up, wanting to get to a point where I could move to the right to let this car pass me–whatever his hurry may have been.

Mass State PatrolAs soon as I had a break in traffic to get to the right, I put my blinker on and the car behind me turned his lights on. The aggressive, tailgating driver who was scaring me was a Massachusetts State Patrolman. When I tried to tell him how scared I was that he was so close to me, he started yelling at me that I should have moved over to the right. I told him I moved over as soon as I could. He became angrier that I was trying to explain myself. He said I was going 80 mph and there was no reason for that. I told him I was scared because of his aggressive behavior, and that I had no idea he was a police officer because he was so close to me in an unmarked vehicle. He then started yelling at me that the left lane is for passing only. I said that’s what I was trying to do. He yelled at me again about how fast I was going. At that point I was close to tears and knew that I was trying to fight a losing battle. I stopped talking and handed over my license and registration.

I now have a ticket for $150, which I will pay, because I live in Colorado and I can’t go back to Massachusetts to fight it.

Was I speeding? Yes. Would I have been speeding if the car behind me obeyed the driving laws and kept a safe distance between us? No.

I guess in hindsight, I could’ve maintained my safer speed, but I have had some scary situations with aggressive drivers, one of which was when I was in my twenties: I was passing a car on the left when an aggressive driver came up behind me and was dangerously close to me, just like the patrolman was. I did not speed up; I just continued the speed at which I was driving. When I moved over to the right lane, the aggressive driver swerved into my lane almost running me off the road. I can only assume he was angry that I didn’t drive fast enough for him while I was in the left lane. Since that scary day, I just try to get out of the way as soon as possible.

So why am I making this public on my blog? I’d like the officer to be reprimanded for his behavior.  I wrote a letter to the Massachusetts State Patrol office, relaying what I have shared here and letting them know that I am posting this story on my blog (click here for the actual letter Massachusetts State Patrol). If my readers believe he should be reprimanded as well, please share those thoughts. There is strength in numbers; we can demand justice together and stop this from happening to anyone else.

I also believe that as U.S. citizens, we have the right to protest the unfair treatment by those in power over us. This officer was an overly aggressive driver, creating a dangerous and scary situation for me and my family. Then, instead of listening to my fears over his behavior, he used his position to shut me down, abusing his power. His behavior after pulling me over scared my mom and my son. I can’t accept this type of behavior from someone who was sworn into a position as a protector of U.S. citizens; I hope my readers can’t accept it either.

Not only would I love to hear your thoughts, but I’d love for this story to be shared, sending a message to this officer and the Massachusetts State Patrol that they too need to obey driving laws and cannot abuse their power.

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2 Responses to Massachusetts Speed Trap

  1. Siobhan says:

    I’ve come across your blog due to your recent resignation letter (and as a public school teacher, I couldn’t stop reading every post you have written! I’m hooked!) Once I got to this one I had to share: I grew up in Southbridge, MA, about 15 minutes from Charlton. I found driving on the Mass Pike (or I-90) was the fastest and quite common route to get, well, anywhere. While with a friend driving to her step daughter’s birthday party in Springfield, we found ourselves in quite a similar situation. Going just about 70 mph in the left lane trying to pass a truck, a blue car was tailgating us just as closely as he was you. Instead of speeding up, my friend decided to actually slow down. She took her foot off the gas and let her car slow to about 50mph before the blue lights came on and we were pulled over and given almost the exact same speech and a warning for being unsafe.
    It’s terrible how a uniform can change a human being’s ways of interacting with others… I’ll always just grin and bear it and know I am being the kind person I was raised to be.

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