First off, let me just say that I think that this ticket is totally bullshit. It could have been much worse, but there are far more dangerous people on the road than me.
You’re Not From Around Here, Are You?
Ok, here’s the story. I was just leaving the Petro Truckstop in Bordentown, NJ and I was headed for the New Jersey Turnpike / I-95. New Jersey is a crazy place, one like I have never seen before, and the traffic formations can be quite confusing at times. In this particular case, in order to make it from the connecting road to the Turnpike, you had to make a left hand turn onto a major road and then a quick exit to the toll booth access road. Knowing this, I set myself up in the center lane to make the left hand turn. When driving a big truck with a trailer, you want to turn from the outermost lane whenever possible, because it makes clearing the turn much easier. I did what I have done in every other left hand turn I have ever made in my entire life prior to this, leaving the inside lane for faster cars, and the far right lane for cars turning right.
The only problem is that there were THREE LEFT TURN LANES!!! I have never seen three left turn lanes at an intersection in my life. The right lane is ALWAYS for turning right or going straight, and since there was no option of going straight I had assumed that it was a right turn lane only. I should have taken the hint when the far right lane was the most congested, and I probably should have seen the signs that indicate that all three lanes turn left and that to get to the turnpike you need to be in the far right lane.
As soon as I get to the stopping point in the center lane, I realize my mistake. I have two options at this point. Stop and let all of the cars in the left lane go, or hope that one of them stops and lets me in, or continue making my left hand turn on to some unknown road where I might be met with a low bridge or a route not intended for trucks. That’s possibly the most scary situation I could get in, is being lost in New Jersey. No thanks! So I did the safest, most reasonable thing I could think of, and that was to signal to the big truck along side of me that I need to get in his lane. I looked over and made eye contact, and motioned that I would like to get over and he nodded. So when the light turned green, I took my opening.
I made a quick acceleration and began to turn form the center lane onto the road, I had cleared the other big truck by two whole truck lengths and I moved over once I completed the turn and could see that I was clear of him. I signaled him with my flashing marker light that I appreciated his gesture, a move that any trucker knows and is familiar with, and continued on my way.
“Well that was a close one,” I thought to myself. “It could have been much worse and I’m thankful that the other driver was nice enough to let me in like that. I thought people in New Jersey were supposed to be complete assholes. That guy must have been from the Midwest or something.” As soon as that thought completed through my brain, I looked in the mirror and saw flashing red and blue lights. Where the hell did this guy come from? There weren’t any cops around. Well apparently there was, and he nailed me.
He comes up to the car and asks if I saw the three signs indicating that I needed to be in the far right lane to legally make that move. I tell him that I did not, and that where I come from there is no such thing as three left turn lanes. Ignorance is no excuse and I can completely understand his point. I should have been paying attention to the signs.
Cops Doing Favors
He proceeds to point out that he could write me a long list of violations, from reckless driving, to unsafe lane change, changing lanes in an intersection, and a few more that I can’t even remember. Instead, he assures me that he understands that I didn’t mean to do any harm and that he will do me a favor and only give me a ticket for obstructing traffic. This… favor… he says is a non-moving violation, the same ticket I would get if my car stalled in the intersection, and will not incur any points and the fine would be less than $50. It was surely a lot better than the tickets he could have written me, right?
Well in reality, the ticket was for Obstructing Passage of Other Vehicles, a moving violation in the state of New Jersey, and carried a fine of $187 and 3 points on my license. It double my car insurance rate with Progressive, and it went on my DAC, trucking’s version of a permanent record. I’ll have to explain this ticket at every driving job I ever apply for in the rest of my driving career. It’s only silly because nobody got hurt, I communicated my intentions, and even got the blessing of the guy to make the move as safe as possible.
Well, it is what it is, and there’s no hiding from it now. What’s the silliest thing you’ve ever been pulled over for? Hit me up on Twitter @cody_rose and tell me about it.