Has anyone out there ever stopped at a red light; waited what seemed like an eternity; noticed absolutely no one else on the road and then carefully proceeded across the intersection?
In June of last year I spent the night on my boat in a marina in Long Beach, CA. I awoke about 5:30 a.m. and noticed that I was completely out of coffee. I hopped in my truck and proceeded to make the short, short trip to the local 24 hour market. This market is called "Ralph's" and is located in a shopping mall adjacent to the marina. The main drag in this part of town is the Pacific Coast Highway and I am sure most readers have at least heard of this road and probably most have spent some time traveling on it. To get to the market, I made a left turn onto PCH and proceeded to the entrance of the mall.
Okay, it is 6:00 a.m. on a Thursday morning and there are no other cars on the road. This is Los Angeles County territory so that in itself is highly unusual. To get into the mall you have to make a left hand turn into the parking lot and there is a signal involved. I pulled into the left hand turn lane and waited for the arrow to turn green. This is not an intersection by normal definitions. Imagine, if you will, a "T". You can turn left into a parking lot and people in the parking lot can turn either left or right on PCH. I waited, and waited, and waited.
It was still dark; the weather was crystal clear; visibility was unlimited. I watched the roadway ahead and the roadway behind in my rear view mirror. There were no visible head lights or tail lights. I had an unobstructed view for more than a mile in each direction. Remember, it is dark so the vehicle lights are incredibly visible! After what I thought was about 3 minutes I checked once more, and once again, no lights were visible! I turned left when the arrow was still red.
I got into the parking lot and proceeded to the market. I had no one to high five but inside I was celebrating the fact that I got away with my "criminal" enterprise. The red and blue lights in my rear view mirror announced that my celebration was premature!
A very nice officer came to my window and asked me why I didn't wait for the light to change. I said, "I waited over 3 minutes and I thought the signal must be malfunctioning". He said, "It may have seemed like 3 minutes but that light turns green 1 minute and 20 seconds after it is tripped. The light actually turned green less than 5 seconds after you turned". Do you think it is possible that this officer has written similar tickets before?
Remember, I checked traffic in both directions and there is no way he was behind me or approaching me on Pacific Coast Highway. He must have been in the parking lot waiting for a fool such as I. I was polite; he was polite. I went back to the boat with citation in hand and had an expensive cup of coffee.
I did not know how expensive until this afternoon when I went to traffic court. When my turn came, I explained to the judge that I had run the red light but would like to explain. I carefully described the situation (much as I have explained here) and the judge said, "So you plead guilty?". I said yes and he indicated he would give me a break.
The "break" was a fine of $655.00. I hate to think what the fine would have been without the sympathy of the court. I know California is short of funds; so is the County of Los Angeles and the City of Long Beach; I just didn't think that my share of the deficit would be this large!
I wish I was still living in Mexico where I could just hand the cop 20 dollars U.S. and be on my way!