Thursday, June 23, 2011

Why I Love the Highway Patrol - My Most Amazing Traffic Story

I've occasionally written about traffic safety. It can get pretty weird on the road sometimes. And while it's true that you never know when or how your time will come, I don't want to make my exit on the Interstate.

I've told the story about how I got rid of my Volkswagen Rabbit 25 years ago. I replaced that car with a Honda Prelude. I was at a car show when I saw it out of the corner of my eye, and I had to have it. I had seen that car in my dreams for years. The problem was, it shifted out of second gear so smoothly and so fast that I would accelerate to 80 mph and not even realize it. The Virginia highway patrol realized it, though. They gave me so many tickets that they threatened to take my license away. All that came to a screeching halt when a tornado micro-burst knocked down a big old pine tree next to my house, and it landed on top of the Prelude, squashing it flat. I was heartbroken.

I'll tell you my most amazing highway patrol story, and you'll know why I have so much respect for highway patrolmen.

Back in the '70s, I was driving east on Interstate 70 from Kansas City to St. Louis. I was cruising on the open road when on the horizon I saw what I thought was a human figure. He was standing in the middle of the road, vigorously waving his hat back and forth. I thought the fellow must be in trouble, so as I got closer, I slowed down. He waved at me to pull over on the shoulder, which I did.

When he walked up to the car, he put his hat back on, and I realized he was a Missouri highway patrolman. He knocked on my window.

"Son, you were going too fast. More than 80 mph."

"Yessir, I guess I was."

I gave him my license and registration.

"Why are you in such a hurry?"

"Officer, I know I shouldn't be. My wife and I are on our way to Germany. I'm being reassigned there. We have to take this car to New Jersey to ship it overseas."

He looked at me without saying anything. Then he said, "I'm not going to ticket you. But you gotta slow down. You can't go that fast on our Interstate."

I knew he was being nice to me because he appreciated that I had to go over there and do my part in the Cold War. But here's the thing: I was speeding faster than 80 mph, and he pulled me over on foot--without a car. I am not making this up.

Every since then, I've appreciated what people in law enforcement have to do, and that they do it with so much skill while being courteous to offenders like me. I've learned to think of them as heroes, because they literally risk their lives to make our lives safer. And If you've ever been pulled over, you know it can be a thankless job.

Post by Dennis E. Coates, Ph.D., Copyright 2011. Building Personal Strength . (Permission to use photo purchased from

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