Words: Jon Lewis Photos: Richard Seck
SPEEDING TICKETS – CMG’S LIFE* PLAN TO AVOID THEM
*Learnt It From Experience.
Firstly, we need to get one thing straight – we are not condoning reckless riding, inappropriate speeding, dangerous riding, stunts or any other manifestation of potentially unsafe road behaviour – it’s not big and most certainly not clever.
Now, what we are condoning is the possibility that you may have erred (ever so slightly) above the posted limit, whilst still maintaining a perfectly safe speed, all the while being 100% control of your vehicle and the possible dangers around you. Yes, it happens to the best of us … and sometimes by a little more than what’s posted.
Despite my youthful good looks, I have actually been driving for 20 years now, and riding for 18 of them, most of that time being in the UK. In that time I have consistently travelled at speeds “slightly” above the posted limit and been stopped only twice – and on neither occasion was given anything more than a stern warning. I have never been caught by radar, speed camera, Gatso, or any of the multitude of other devices the UK authorities use to rake in revenue … sorry, I mean catch evil law-breaking speeders.
This leads me to believe that I just may have been doing something right all this time. With that in mind, ‘arris decreed that it was my turn to be the public face of CMG and that a follow-up to Mr. Seck’s OOPSI article would be a suitable sequel, hopefully demonstrating how his ticket could have been avoided in the first place …
Before we go any further, this would seem like a good place for a bit of a disclaimer. Okay, if you don’t already know, speeding is illegal and you really shouldn’t be doing it. CMG Online in no way condones doing anything illegal (especially if it’s fun). Always ride within yours and the roads limits as the faster you go the less time you have for corrective/avoidance actions and the more likely you are to end up in a ditch. Hey, sometimes posted limits are actually there for a reason!
I’ve spent the last week scouring the ‘net and any other related material to come up with the following life list of how to avoid getting stopped. Failing that, we go through the best ways to improve your chances of getting the cop to not actually write you up:
STEP 1 – YOU AND YOUR RIDE
LOOK LIKE GRANDPA
Sad though it is, you are always going to be judged on your appearance. Like it or not, first impressions are based on how you look, not whether you’re a really nice person who loves ‘is mum and spends his free time helping seniors cross the road.
But how does this relate to speeding? In a word, inconspicuity. It’s possible I made that up, but to explain it more fully, the art of being inconspicuous is what you’re aiming for. So, from the top, the helmet – clean and plain is the way to go – the less outlandish the better, so no, the Visigoth-replica helmet, complete with steel spike should be kept exclusively for the Daytona weekend.
Jacket and jeans should again be subtle and conservative – denim cut-off’s may be cool in an I’m-a-no-rules-outlaw-kinda-guy way, but what makes it cool to you also makes the cops nervous. The dead chicken stapled to your jeans after your last club initiation ceremony probably won’t help maintain your low profile.
If your usual attire consists of flip-flops, sneakers, shorts, vests and similar beach wear, though cooling and minimalist, they are unlikely to engender any kind of sympathetic feelings from the cops if you are pulled. What kind of attitude are you presenting if you will happily speed (or whatever other thing you do to get pulled) with absolutely no protective equipment on? Safe and conservative: definitely not – lairy and risk-taking – a big fat affirmative.
DON’T RIDE LIKE AN IDJIT
|Sport-tourer, innocuous riding gear, black lid – perfect.|
I was taught to be assertive when on a bike – take no shit and not to allow yourself to be bullied by other road users. Aggressive behaviour, such as tailgating, light flashing, carving-up and outright abuse is a different story however, and are like a red rag to a bull if you are a police officer – drawing them to you like a cat to a new set of drapes.
Undertaking at a high differential speed is another habit that will get you noticed when perhaps you mayn’t want to be. Lane discipline is also key – sitting in the outside (fast) lane is unnecessary unless overtaking. It also makes you stand out from the general flow of traffic (unless you’re in Quebec, of course) and is the exact spot where the radars are most likely to be focused on.
Also, aggressive riding just isn’t nice – you’re not treating other road users with due respect and ultimately you’re increasing the risks to both them and yourself in the process. Remember, most cagers have a cell phone with them and a quick call to the local plod about that crazed biker eastbound on Highway 123 isn’t going to do you (or any other motorcyclist for that matter) any favours.
You’re also playing an odds game – if you ride everywhere at excessive speed you will eventually get busted. The higher that speed happens to be, the higher the odds as well.
One thing I can’t emphasize enough is that it’s not a race (or shouldn’t be) – there are no prizes for getting there first. If you want to race, go to a track – it’s far safer for all concerned, legal, and best of all you get to show everybody how damn fast you are.
What you are trying to do on the road, however, is make steady, safe, rapid progress. This translates into maintaining safe distances from other traffic, using lines that give good visibility around corners and BEING OBSERVANT.
Use your mirrors, scan the periphery and adjust your riding to suit. Use your blinkers, perform lifesaver checks before overtaking and all those good things that will keep you from getting dead. By doing this and honing your observation to include all authority-related paraphernalia, you increase your safety in tandem with reducing your chances of getting ticketed.
HOW FAST DOES YOUR BIKE LOOK?
The type of bike you’re riding will also have a bearing on how noticeable you are:
|There may be trouble ahead …|
Cruisers / Dual Sport – whilst perfectly capable of high speeds, they tend to be the slower bikes on the road thanks to their general incompatability with higher speeds (upright seating, wide bars). Unless you have open pipes and an Angels’ patch on your back, or a competition pipe and mud-encrusted license plate (or no plate at all), you’re likely to be able to slip under the police-alert radar.
Rat bikes are sadly likely to only attract attention. Not that there is anything inherently wrong or unsafe about them (or you wouldn’t be riding it would you?) but again, it stands out from the crowd. High speeds and Rat bikes – boy, are you in for it.
Standard / Tourer – bikes such as the ST1300, FJR 1300, VFR 800 and the like are probably as close to the ideal stealth speeding machine as you will ever get, particularly if clean and bog standard. They positively emanate conservatism and sensible middle-agedness, even though they all go like the clappers of hell.
Sport – basically, you’re asking for it. Keep it clean, quiet and don’t ride like a twat and you’ll help your chances. Sorry, but most of the questionable riding I see is done by sportbike riders, and the police know it too.
|Scooters are surprisingly quick, even with the gargantuan ‘arris aboard.|
Scooters – The majority perception of scooters is that they are ridden by either eccentrics or kids, and that they will never be any good at speed, even if they could manage to break a speed limit. Spend a couple of days on a Silver Wing or Burgman, and that notion will soon disappear – those things are quite capable of sustaining very illegal speeds and have all the weather protection and comfort you need to do it safely. This is why the manufacturers are trying to move our perceptions that these scoots are more mini-tourers than mere city runabouts.
AND IT’S CONDITION / APPEARANCE?
|What’re the chances of this passing unnoticed?|
Does your bike look like something that is better suited for the scrap yard than Her Majesty’s highways? An ex-track R6 may make a splendid road-warrior tool but loose, flapping, ill-matched bodywork and an ear-splintering pipe will likely grant you a swift audience with local law enforcement.
Keep it clean and tidy – cleanliness is next to godliness and sends out all the right signals. A cared-for bike implies a thoughtful owner. A goat skull nailed to the handlebars creates a very different impression, not to mention odour.
A set of hard cases on your VFR, with maybe an extended screen will speak volumes – a sensible, mature owner, covering long distances – nicely innocuous and is as unlikely to get pulled as Soccer Mom in a Dodge Caravan.
At the other end of the spectrum, modifications designed to be attention grabbing (sorry sportbike people) very often will be, with the downside that the attention will come from the authorities. Johnny GSX-R, with a Kerker pipe, purple-tinted headlamp cover and “high-profile” riding style may be super-cool but will also be nicely visible (and likely audible too). Need I mention that neons will have a similar effect?
OBSERVE AND SURVIVE
|Handy things, mirrors.|
Make sure your mirrors are clean and adjusted correctly – how else can you tell if that Crown Vic behind with the two well-dressed, moustached gents has nudge bars and a sprinkling of aerials fitted or not? In terms of police vehicles, we all know what our local provincial police drive – likely a Crown Vic, in uniformed or plain clothed spec.
With undercover cars, look out for the non-metallic, single colour paintwork, no hubcaps, wide tires, multiple aerials and concealed lights – sometimes even a spotlight on the passenger side window.
Just why is the car ahead suddenly hitting the brakes? There’s a good chance they they’ve just seen a police trap ahead – now is not a good time to zoom past them on the back wheel!
Favoured observation areas for the police include highway overpasses, median u-turn roads (particularly when screened by a bridge and trees) and pretty much anywhere they can get out of sight until it’s too late. Another that I have noticed recently is on the way into and out of towns, where the limit changes and the local plod don’t have to venture too far away from the local conveniences.
Coming into town it generally drops from 80 to 50 Km/h and not always in the most logical of spots. On the way out, it’s the opposite, but it may not actually happen until Smallville is a few km behind you – just be careful of opening the throttle too quickly.
Talking of radar, its use is widespread, but having relied on keen observation to spot the radar operator, I have never employed a particular strategy for avoiding it. There are many methods documented, some advocating tagging-on behind another speeder, so he/she gets the zap, others suggesting following trucks (as they have CB to inform fellow truckers of a radar trap). I’m not going to advocate or condemn these strategies, but having never employed them and remained ticket-free, I would maintain that they are not essential, especially if you are being observant in the first place.
STEP 2 – DO NOTS …
|Watch your speed near playgrounds – kids are prone to do stupid stuff.|
1. … drink and ride. I’m not going to explain it – it’s obvious.
2. … exceed the speed limit in built-up, residential areas or around schools. This is the area where you’re most likely to have something happen at short notice and with devastating consequences. It might be a car pulling out, or a kid running from between parked cars. The faster you go, the less time you have to react.
3. … exceed the speed limit in construction areas – the limits are there because are people working close-by with some heavy equipment. Weird stuff sometimes happens there – ever been hosed-down with a cement/water mix at 80 km/h? I’m just glad I was in my car.
4. … race your mates. Baaaad idea.
5. … try to evade police when they are chasing you – no bike is faster than a radio and when they do catch you, the speeding ticket is the least of your problems.
|Steer clear of the beaten-track.|
6. … allow yourself to rely on another rider’s judgement during a group ride – think independently and make decisions based on what you see and feel.
7. … accuse the officer of racial prejudice / victimisation / hatred of motorcyclists – it won’t help matters either way, even if you are a black lesbian with an Hells Angels’ patch on your back.
8. … ride like a demon over the long-weekends – Police are red-hot as so many of us are out on their bikes.
9. … ride with excessive speed on the well-trodden path – Police know where these roads are and are likely to patrol them more intensively. The more remote you are the better the chance that the police aren’t there. Of course, if you get a dualie and go for gravel roads, then the chance of being busted is almost nill. That moose that jumps out in front of you is a different matter …
STEP 3 – DAMN, I JUST GOT PULLED BY THE FUZZ. WHAT NEXT?
Sometimes it’s inevitable – your concentration wanders, an alternate route needs swift planning in your head and there it is; The cherries are flashing in your rear-view or there’s an officer in the road ahead signalling for you to stop. Don’t panic, there’s still hope yet.
1. Find a suitable location to stop. A substantial number of police injuries occur whilst writing tickets by the roadside (200 deaths in the U.S. so far), so give them due consideration. If there is an overpass close by and it’s raining, you might want to stop under it.
2. Dismount, put your bike on its stand and turn it off.
3. Remove your helmet, sunglasses and wait for the officer to approach.
4. With the rise in handgun crime, it is advised that if your documents (which you are obviously carrying) are out of sight (inside your jacket or pannier, for instance) then you inform the officer what you’re doing first rather than just whipping them out – you don’t want him to feel like he’s dealing with an edgy, erratic, crystal-meth-toking loon. Even if you are.
|Always know the applicable speed limit.|
5. Address them as “Officer”. Treat male and female police alike. Be polite and pleasant in equal measure (very important this one).
6. Do not immediately blah on at him, admitting your felonous act. He doesn’t need to hear that.
7. If you were speeding and he does ask you why you think you were stopped, state that you think that you may have been exceeding the speed limit – what good will it do you to state that you had no idea – what else might you have no idea about – like how to ride safely? A half-aware rider should know pretty accurately how fast they are going at any given time, and the applicable speed limit to boot.
8. If he insists on writing you up, despite your polite and reasoned arguments, accept the ticket with good grace – asking for badge numbers / saying you’ll see him in court / getting all bent out of shape WILL NOT do you any good. In fact it may actually serve to make a subsequent court hearing less successful as the booking officer will remember you and your ranting – not very useful, is it?
9. Learn from getting caught – what could you have done differently that would have avoided the pulling-over in the first place?
For the official word from the Toronto police on what to do if you’re stopped (in a car, that is) click here .
We had hoped to add a full rundown of the various demerit points from the most relevant states and provinces. I say hoped because the more we dug, the more complex, convoluted and difficult it became, with the final straw being a rumour surfacing that Canada could be adopting a provinces-wide system.
Rest assured, as soon as we have made sense of it all, we’ll let you know.