Shiny buttons


Shutterstock photo - Copyright Shelly Still

“Bonjour,” I said to the Sûreté du Québec officer who had pulled me over on my way into the office last week. “Qu’est ce que j’ai fait?”

Since the beginning of the year, over 85 centimetres of snow have fallen in the Vaudreuil-Soulanges region. Some of it on my car and, by extension, onto the bumper. I have one of those snowbrushes with the telescopic handle that reaches clear across the roof (yay – Petro-Points) but yeah, occasionally I miss a spot in that uniquely Canadian ritual we perform while digging out our vehicles before heading off to work every day.

One of those missed spots was quickly brought to my attention in the form of a $57 ticket for having the digits on my license plate obscured by snow.

“It could’ve been $162,” said the officer, Wal-Marting the price down while justifying the fine with the importance of plate visibility for reasons of safety, photo radar, etc. but by that point, I had honestly stopped listening as my brain tried to process the logic of the piece of paper I’d just been handed.

I’m not an angel behind the wheel. I’m easily seduced by the magic combination of good music, wind, and sunshine through the sunroof that often lures me into going a little faster than the law suggests. Yes I’ve been caught and yes I pay the fine. Any time I’ve been issued a ticket, there’s no doubting I’m guilty as charged and won’t pretend otherwise.

But I’ve also had a number of pleasant exchanges – and re-learnt a few rules under the Highway Safety Code – by officers who’ve exercised discretionary wisdom and taken the time to explain an infraction and issue a warning. The latter not only results in a lesson learnt, it leaves a positive impression and fosters good community/police relations. Enforcing the law for minor infractions should come with a degree of rationality as opposed to a black and white edict with no common-sense wiggle room.

“He sounds like ‘Officer Shiny Buttons’,” said my son when I later told him what happened. A quick Google search revealed the story of an over-zealous English police constable who earned the nickname (as only the British can concoct) after issuing a ticket for littering when a pedestrian dropped some money and once fined a driver for blowing his nose in traffic, citing him for not being in control of his vehicle.

Now, this is an admittedly extreme example, but in a province where snow falls a significant portion of the year, would it not have achieved the same result and left a long-lasting positive impression of the SQ if the officer saw fi t to issue me a warning?

Within a one-week period, I was twice caught on photo-radar on Highway 20 in Pincourt for exceeding the posted 70-kilometre speed limit. The anticipated ticket-in-the-mail never materialized - I figured because my speed was around or under 80 km/hr at the time. But the flashing camera taught me that that section of highway is monitored and, as a result, I obey the speed limit. It’s disconcerting that our electronic speed deterrent system exercises better human judgement than what I experienced from an actual human officer.

If the ticket I was issued meets the mandate ‘To Serve and Protect’ I guess the good people of Vaudreuil-Soulanges East will sleep a little easier at night knowing the middle-aged mom driving a Kia is not only $57 out of pocket but also has an impeccably clean license plate.

Good job.

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