when in doubt: consult with laura.

Okay, so since my horrible dining experience, it has been a while since something struck my fancy enough to post about- until today.  I’ll start.

On my way to work this morning, I had an inkling that I was supposed to attend traffic court today for a speeding ticket I was given back in January of this year.  I was positive the time was 1pm, so I went to work as usual for 8:30am.  Well, that little feeling in my stomach (I guess it was more my head because that would be strange if my stomach was talking to me) told me it might be in the morning.  So while driving, I waited until the court house was open (8am) and called. I didn’t get through until about 16 minutes later.

(8:16am) me: Hi! I think I have court today, but have no idea what time it is for, do you mind checking?  My name is Katherine Schmidt.

lady who answered the phone: “Katherine Schmidt? Please hold. Yes, I see your name on the list for 8:30am.”

me: Um. I’m in Scarborough at this point (40 minutes from the courthouse) can you tell them I am running late, or like bump me to the next time? (only I would say something like that) Or does it not work like that?

lady: Doesn’t work like that. Do your best to get here.

I walked in the door at 8:45 (yes I understand I probably sped to get to traffic court on time for a speeding ticket, but it was necessary and not ironic at all).  They had not called my name yet.  phew.  I will note- to the rather large guy who made the “great timing” sarcastic comment as I was standing in the hallway- mind your own business.  I digress.

Back story: I started working in Maine while still living in NH, so the hour and a half drive was killing me.  I decided to up my MPH to 85-90 and cut the drive by 30 minutes. I had not received a speeding ticket since I was 20 years old, so it never occurred to me that it was possible.  I mean, I’m driving to work- not trying to break the law.  Well, I got one.  Then another one a week later.  SERIOUSLY?! I decided to slow down, and seek guidance from my brilliant lawyer friend in DC, who HAPPENED to work with traffic related issues.  Can’t hurt to see legal counsel, right?  Laura (my brilliant lawyer friend) proceeded to construct a letter for me to mail to the state of Maine, defending my case. What I received back in my email inbox was nothing short of Pulitzer Prize winning legal jargon!  I immediately put it on my letterhead, and with and stamp and a smile it was in the mail! Ho-ray! I would be saved from the land of increased insurance and silly points on my license!

Fast forward to today. When they called my name, I was to meet with the citing officer. I walked over and immediately remembered how nice he was when he first pulled me over.  Well, as he was reviewing the ticket I see paperwork attached to my name.  I scanned the materials in his hand- until I saw it.  The letter.  OMG.  He has it. I froze.  He was reviewing it with a huge smile on his face.  When he was complete he gives me a look and says, “What would you like me to do?”  I told him I would gladly pay the fine, as long as my record could stay clean.  He agreed (as long as I don’t speed for 6 months). Success! I immediately want to call Laura at this point and express my love for her.

So, as I am waiting to get my final paperwork, I look up.  The officer is reading the letter again off in a corner.  Smiling. I’m telling you- it was an AWESOME letter.  I mean I didn’t even understand half of it to be honest. 🙂

You want to see the letter, don’t you?  Okay, okay- and you’re welcome.

January 4, 2013

To the Great State of Maine:

Please accept this letter as a proclamation of my protest to the moving violation citation #XXXXXX issued to me on the morning of Friday, January 4, 2013.  Setting aside issues of appropriate calibration of the speed detection device used by the citing office, I believe the illustrious and exalted State of Maine should release me from liability associated with the alleged violation of exceeding the posted speed limit on the basis that (i) I was operating my vehicle during rush hour traffic at the rate of speed considered by leading researchers to be optimal for improved highway safety and (ii) I have no history of prior moving violations.

First, Dr. Stephen Johnson of the University of Arkansas Transportation Research Center is the nation’s leading research expert on highway safety, particularly in the area of speed differentials.  Dr. Johnson’s research indicates that the vehicle interaction rate (aka accidents) increases by 227% for every 10 miles per hour speed differential present on rural highways.  Allegedly, (again I am phrasing this in the hypothetical as I do not accept that the citing officer had a properly functioning and calibrated speed detection device) my vehicle was traveling 14 miles per hour above the posted speed limit. Considering this was during heavy rush hour traffic, I was simply operating my vehicle at the rate of speed which was the safest for the conditions at that moment and that was with the flow of traffic.  Should I have slowed the vehicle down to the rate of speed where the officers “gun” would have registered compliance with the posted rate of speed, my chances of being involved in an accident would have exceeded 227%.  Surely, the State of Maine has a history of making exceptions for law violations where common sense are safety are so obvious to reasonably minded folk that it far exceeds the impetus of the underlying law so much so that compliance with the underlying law becomes non-sensical and in fact jeopardizes our collective well-being.  For example, do we support the issuing of citations during a blizzard where the motor vehicle operator has slowed the vehicle far below the minimum speed compliance rules?  Certainly not.  The State recognizes that conditions demand safety to surmount pre-determined speed limitations which are designed to be in operation during usual conditions.  On the morning of January 4, I respectfully submit to you that I was simply operating my vehicle under conditions that any reasonable person would have deemed to be the safest which was the rate of speed with the rest of the heavy flow of traffic.

Secondarily, the State must consider my stellar driving record while operating within its boundaries.  As a frequent, if not daily, traveler of the great state for nearly seventeen years, I am immensely proud of my prior safety record, which fails to include not only any history of moving violations, but any trace of criminal activity whatsoever.  Surely, upstanding citizens with such a dedication to safety, so much so that they are willing to read and cite leading research from one of the most reputable transportation research centers in the world, should be encouraged to continue to travel on the State’s highways and not discouraged.  If I may be so bold I am, in fact, the sort of safe operator the State wishes to embrace.  Therefore, should the State wish to not outright dismiss the citation, I would suggest that we reduce the violation to a warning so that I may reflect upon this as a learning experience and we may all move forward…safely.

I would also like to note that the ticket issuing officer was very professional and kindhearted about the ticket and alerting me to the safety of the cold and its effects on the roads.  I was appreciative and, in return, I would hope the State would provide him with a properly functioning radar gun. It is a shame to have such a nice fellow be continuously wrong on how fast vehicles are traveling.

Thank you and Happy New Year!


Katherine Dawn Schmidt.

My advice to anyone reading this that gets a speeding ticket: fight it with facts, wit and have an attorney (you know, if Laura is unavailable) construct it for you.  A smile won’t get you everywhere (trust me, I tried that first), but a brilliant retort just might.