By Marv Kohlbeck
Have you ever been stopped for a traffic violation? I have, but my recollection is that I only received $40 in fines from two of seven violations during my driving lifetime.
These thoughts came to me last Saturday when I was traveling with a retired Wood County traffic officer when we met a car with only one headlight functioning. I asked, “When you were on traffic duty and met a car with only one headlight working, what did you do?”
His response was, “Initially, you’d have to quickly analyze the traffic situation. If there was very little traffic, I would turn around to stop and warn him of the safety hazard of only one headlight. I’d issue him a five-day warning ticket. If traffic was heavy, I’d let him continue as I would not want to add to further traffic problems.”
Then my past personal traffic violations passed through my mind.
During my college days at Platteville I was passing through Dodgeville when a city cop stopped me for speeding. He let me go with just a warning when I convinced him that he did not stop the driver that was directly ahead of me.
Years later at UW-Madison, my roommate and I dropped off our college dates at their dormitory, and a few moments afterward a city cop stopped me for traveling 25 in a 15 mph speed zone. I ended up with a $10 speeding ticket.
I decided to challenge it in front of a judge as I felt the traffic officer had a vision problem as he stated my vehicle as a Buick instead of it really being a Pontiac. When the violator in front of me was a person accused of robbing a finance company, I felt that my charge would merely be a “slap on the wrist.” “No,” the judge reminded me, “that’s what rules are for,” and he stuck with the $10 fine but no point reductions.
Next, I was dating my future wife, and we were running late for a dinner engagement with some friends. I do not remember the meal costs, but the Wood County traffic officer handed me a $30 ticket and a loss of three or four points. Knowing that I was guilty, I sent them a check for the $30 instead of going to court.
Another time I volunteered to be the lead car in taking three carloads of children to a Brewers game in Milwaukee. A state trooper stopped me for speeding in the Wisconsin Dells area but only gave me a warning as I was very apologetic and also embarrassed in front of all the youth in our group. To top it off, on the return trip I was stopped in Necedah for having a burned out headlight. That brought out a five-day warning and some more razzing from my youthful passengers.
Then about 20 years ago, a Pittsville officer advised me that I was in violation of a city ordinance by driving on the grassy baseball foul lines in the city park. My reason for driving there was to check on the readiness of the field for tournament play. I informed him that I had driven that same route for probably 30 previous years in preparing the diamond by dragging it for league or tournament play. He never gave me a ticket or warning after I indicated that we do not have access to a helicopter to drag the diamond to make it game ready.
Finally, about 15 years ago, a state trooper stopped me and advised me to have the upper shaded portion of my car windshield removed as it was in violation of a Wisconsin law. I informed him that I had recently purchased the car in Florida and was not aware of the laws from one state to another. He gave me a five-day warning ticket.
Having been on the Wood County Civil Service Committee that interviews candidates interested in becoming future county deputies, I have been reminded of my past violations when the candidates tell of theirs. Surprisingly, very few offer clean slates. Hopefully we all learn from past experiences to follow our laws instead of becoming violators.