Home » My Dad Is Why I’ve Never Gotten A Speeding Ticket

My Dad Is Why I’ve Never Gotten A Speeding Ticket

Speeding Dad
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I think I see it poking above the scraggly, dry brush lining the highway, but it’s hard to tell. The air bends into waves in the Texas heat. I hate being wrong, so I twist the focus on the heavy black binoculars in my small seven-year old hands. Is it a white roof or a mirage behind that prickly-pear cactus? Then I catch the light bar and the telltale black hood. “DR. PEPPER SQUAD” I cry out from the back seat as my dad eases off the gas and taps the brakes. Victory.

I’m now 40 years old and I’ve driven hundreds of cars and crossed tens of thousands of miles. In all this time I’ve never gotten a speeding ticket. Not in a Bugatti. Not in a Lamborghini. Not in a Toyota RAV4. I’m not a speed demon, but there are times when the road is empty and straight where I let the needle climb. More when I was a younger, less often now when my daughter is with me. Still, I’m not going to feign a virtue I don’t have. Sometimes I channel my inner Sammy Hagar.

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There’s no radar/laser detector in my car. No tricky, hidden jammers. Just instinct.

It’s an instinct honed over years of trips with my father. He didn’t fly anywhere. He just drove. A lot of my family is in the multi-modal goods transport business, which is to say there are a lot of truckers, so miles have never fazed him.

When I was five, my father worked as a maintenance man for a small school district adjacent to Corpus Christi’s military base. Because he worked there, I was able to attend kindergarten at what was considered one of the better public elementary schools. It was a much longer drive from our modest house to that school than the primary school in our neighborhood, but I didn’t mind and neither did my dad. It was just more time together.

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There were a lot of cops along the ruler straight South Padre Island Drive and so, perhaps to pass the time, my dad made a game out of me trying to spot them. At some level, I suspect, my dad also really didn’t want a speeding ticket.

When summer came the game went on pause. My mom decided I was a bright kid and there wasn’t enough opportunity for me in our corner of South Texas, let alone for her. So she left my dad a note on the fridge that said we had to move, packed me and my stuffed bear in our Isuzu Impulse, and drove to Suburban Houston where the schools were better and the jobs were more plentiful. It was up to dad to sell the house, find a job, and come join us as fast as he could. In the interim, I’d live with my grandparents.

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We drove back-and-forth a lot. This was back when the speed limit on Highway 59 was an intolerable 55 mph for most of the way between Houston and Corpus Christi. Usually it was in the bright red Isuzu coupe, picked up as a repo and sold to my dad with the astoundingly low interest rate of 13.5%.

My dad also didn’t have a radar detector. It wasn’t a point of pride so much as a matter of thrift. A hard worker his entire life, much of the disposable income he had, on the odd times he had it, was spent on camps, lessons, and learning toys for me. There was no expectation that I did anything with the money other than be happy.

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Ok, there was one expectation. When we’d hit the road, which was fairly often, he’d ask me to help spot cops. In fact, he didn’t have to ask anymore, I’d just do it. Eventually, I got ahold of some oversized binoculars, which gave me a real leg up on the heat. Before I could multiply or divide, I could spot the difference between a Goliad County sheriff’s deputy and a Refugio city cop at two miles distance.

It wasn’t enough to just see a cop, that’s easy. The real sport is in being able to call out exactly what it is first. Was it a “county mountie” or a local “smokie?” On the rare moments I’d see a helicopter I knew it was a “bear in the air,” although I’m fairly certain none of the choppers we saw were actually cops.

My favorite law enforcement officer to find, though, and most common, was the iconic black-white-and-gold of the Texas Department of Public Safety Highway Patrol, aka the DPS, aka the Dr. Pepper Squad, named for the popular prune-inflected soda created in Texas to impress a gal’s dad.

Most often they were Caprices. But on a good day I’d see a glorious Foxbody Mustang.

“Dr. Pepper Squad Mustang” I’d call out from the back seat. Then my dad would slow down and smile a big smile under his mustache–a mustache so thick it made Tom Selleck look like Moby.

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It was a game, more than anything, and I loved it.

And the lessons stuck. The instinct. I haven’t (yet) handed my daughter a pair of binoculars, but I do cue her to where the cops might likely be. It’s almost a tick at this point to call out every police officer I see when I drive. And I see a lot. There’s a pattern to it. The police don’t just post up in random places.

  • Town entrances: Whether a statie or a local, law enforcement loves to set up in the liminal speed zones where the speed limit dramatically drops.
  • Over rises: This is a no-brainer, but the element of surprise only works when you’re surprised. Especially in the plains, these little rises afford a bit of cover.
  • Forest breaks: The absence of something is often more revealing than its presence. As you look down the road and see the trees thin out that’s a good sign of a little side road where a cruiser could pop its nose out.
  • Behind shrubs: Especially as it gets flatter, cover is hard to come by, a shrub or a small mesquite is better than nothing.
  • Past Underpasses: I’m sure that there are police officers somewhere who set up under overpasses, but in my experience they tend to post up well past to grab people who don’t see them on the other side.
  • Feeder Roads: This is somewhat unique to Texas, but the highways and byways of the Lone Star State feature long, parallel roads with numerous onramps. Why hide on the road when you can hide one road over?

Now when I drive I find myself laying off the gas ahead of these, and similar, obstacles. The longer I drive the more I get into the rhythm of it. Speeding up a little where I know it’s safe and then backing off when the hairs stand up on the back of my neck.

Sure, I can use Waze, and sometimes I do, but it takes the fun out of it. The roads are long and full of predators and using Waze is like fishing with dynamite. That’s not how I was raised.

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Happy Father’s Day, Dad!

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Danny Zabolotny
Danny Zabolotny
11 months ago

I used to average 1-2 speeding tickets a year because I’m oblivious, so I got a radar detector and Waze and it’s been several years without a speeding ticket despite me not changing any of my driving habits.

The other nice thing is that Arizona allows you to take a “defensive driving course” every 12 months, which negates any points/insurance penalties from a speeding ticket. That course is usually taken online and can be done at work, while watching a movie, or while driving (yes), so it really does feel like a freebie. I’ve used the same online school each time and have most of the material memorized at this point. I guess it accomplished the goal? Well, I still speed everywhere, so not really, I guess.

Stef Schrader
Stef Schrader
11 months ago

I…have gotten pulled over. Too much.

It’s also why I drove to Mom’s today via 35 and 31. I know allllllll the speedtraps on that route.

Do You Have a Moment To Talk About Renaults?
Do You Have a Moment To Talk About Renaults?
11 months ago

This is a beautiful article that makes me feel a tiny bit of envy. It’s kinda sad but I mostly have bittersweet memories of my dad’s relationship with cars. He wasn’t a car guy but had the mind of an engineer, and did his own maintenance and repairs to the best of his ability, by taking things apart and trying to learn how they worked, then putting them back together. I found that amazing and always hoped we could bond over it but my father would always decline my help and say stuff like I’d be in the way instead of helping (in more colourful language). I also became a life-long Renault fan because we had a 1980 Renault 4 when I was born in 82 – the second one my father owned after having gotten his first one in 1970, which got traded in for the 1980 – and 3 years later he got a used 1977 Renault 12 break. My first memory that I’m sure is real is the day my father lead us all into the garage and there was a second, bigger Renault in the exact same shade of dark blue as the Quatrelle parked right behind it. I get goosebumps just writing about this, because it’s such a vivid memory, and I don’t have any other memories of when I was 3.

Then in 1990 I felt betrayed when he decided to trade-in the Quatrelle for a new subcompact. He went with a Ford Fiesta MK3 which I thought was hurtful because by then I was already obsessed with Renaults, but what really got me mad was when it dawned on me, as an adult, that in 1990 my dad could’ve just bought a brand new Renault 4 for a lot less than what a new Fiesta cost.

I have a feeling that if he was alive back when I bought my own Quatrelle, he’d have some colourful words about what a dumbass I was.

Last edited 11 months ago by Do You Have a Moment To Talk About Renaults?
Do You Have a Moment To Talk About Renaults?
Do You Have a Moment To Talk About Renaults?
11 months ago

Oh, my dad also used us to spot cops! Almost forgot about this: he’d park like a complete idiot and tell the kids in the car to let any policemen that came by know he’d be back in a minute, that he had to go take care of something urgent nearby (more often than not a total lie).

Is Travis
Is Travis
11 months ago

I was a stoner in high school, we had systems down for watching for cops at all times as passengers.

Fred Seelig
Fred Seelig
11 months ago

More stories like this, please.

Don Mynack
Don Mynack
11 months ago

Dad taught me the “front door” method. Drive the speed limit, wait until somebody passes you, match their speed from a safe distance, let them attract the radar. Never been caught using this method. My speeding tickets were from my own stupidity, sadly.

TriangleRAD
TriangleRAD
11 months ago
Reply to  Don Mynack

Back in my heavy foot-down road-tripping days, I referred to this as “finding a patsy.” The best example I remember is having a late ’90s Camry blow by me on I-40 near Oak Ridge, Tennessee, slotting in a ways behind, and following him most of the way to Nashville at 105.

Mr. Canoehead
Mr. Canoehead
11 months ago
Reply to  Don Mynack

We used to call those people “Radar Rabbits”

SNL-LOL Jr
SNL-LOL Jr
11 months ago
Reply to  Mr. Canoehead

Which is pretty much the only way to have a chance against laser enforcement.

Phantom Pedal Syndrome
Phantom Pedal Syndrome
11 months ago
Reply to  Mr. Canoehead

I do this too, I always say “run rabbit” as they pass me.

Slower Louder
Slower Louder
11 months ago

Another Updike fan…

Turkina
Turkina
11 months ago
Reply to  Don Mynack

I do this as well sometimes. But I despise it when you’re in front, and the driver behind you decides to tailgate to get you to push the pace. And when you smartly decide to let them go by… they pass, say “Nah, I’m good, fam,” and drop below the speed they were pushing you to go. They’re not paying me to be cop bait.

Yes I Drive A 240
Yes I Drive A 240
11 months ago

Yep, I’ve got the same instinct. My awareness increased substantially during my days driving highly modified cars that weren’t exactly “legal”. I received one speeding ticket but… it was 100% bullshit and the cop was just fishing for a reason to give an 18 year old kid a ticket because he was unhappy I was driving around at 3am. I fought it, and won, so it doesn’t really count.

Clark B
Clark B
11 months ago

Your dad sounds a lot like my dad. His motto was “it’s only speeding if you get caught.” And my job as a kid was also to help him spot cop cars. He was the worst influence on my driving as a teenager. First day with my learners permit I’m going 55 in a 55 zone on a two lane highway. Someone passed me, and he said “that prick! Clark, catch him!” Totally legal move from the other car, passed on a dashed yellow line and everything. I think it hurt my dad’s pride lol. First time I hit triple digits he was there in the passenger seat encouraging me and of course, watching for cops.

We do track driving but that still hasn’t cooled him off. On the way home from the track last time, he wound his Macan GTS up to 140 on an empty stretch of highway. And encouraged me to do the same when I was driving his 911. Absolutely nuts. He drives like a goddamn teenager and he’s almost 60. He’s only had one or two tickets in his life, and has only ever had one very minor low speed accident.

Do You Have a Moment To Talk About Renaults?
Do You Have a Moment To Talk About Renaults?
11 months ago
Reply to  Clark B

Your dad sounds fun!

Dustin Fowler
Dustin Fowler
11 months ago

Good stuff sir…

Chronometric
Chronometric
11 months ago

A few years ago I got nicked for triple digits in a ’64 Austin Healey on a rural road in South Carolina. The lone officer was a wizened black man who you knew had just seen it all. While I pondered the improbability of this 60 year old officer in the equivalent of Hazzard County, he expressed no sense of wonderment at a 60 year old British roadster doing that kind of speed on a deserted 2 lane.

You see, he had survived the good ol’ boy network for so many years by being absolutely by the book. He did not allow himself any scorn, wonder, or amusement. He ran my plates, examined my license and insurance, issued me the ticket, and went back to his job. Despite my anger, fear, and self-recrimination for what was to come, I pulled back on the road with nothing but respect for that man.

Vetatur Fumare
Vetatur Fumare
11 months ago
Reply to  Chronometric

I got pulled over doing 103 in a 55, in a three-cylinder, 70hp Chevrolet Turbo Sprint no less, heading to the airport to pick up my parents. Peña Boulevard in the ’90s is all any Denverite needs to know. The cop said that he would have to impound my car and take me to jail, or he could just let me go with a warning, and which one did I prefer.
I was rather frightened and did not want to accidentally trigger him so I was just quiet, figuring this was a rhetorical question. He took off his sunglasses and barked “well, which one do you want, son!?!?” I chose no ticket and no jail.

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