Uh oh. Those flashing red lights behind you on the highway mean it's time to slow down, pull the car over to the side of the road and face the consequences.
What can you say to the state trooper sauntering to your window that will give you the best shot of avoiding a ticket?a. "I was just going with traffic."
b. "My speedometer is broken."
c. "I'm a police officer in the next town over, and I'm late for work."
d. "I'm a minister, and I'm late for a funeral."
James Eagan knows the correct answer, and he's only too happy to share it with you. That hasn't made the retired New York state police trooper a popular man among his former employers.
Eagan, who retired last year after 20 years watching the roads, has written a 150-page book on how to get away with speeding.
"A Speeder's Guide to Avoiding Tickets" gives hints oneverything from excuses that cops might buy (an urgent need to visit the bathroom often works) to what bumper stickers to avoid (keep your appreciation for the Grateful Dead to yourself).
"If they're going to do it - and they ARE going to do it - at least they should use common sense about it," said the 44-year-old Eagan.
Eagan said he's not trying to encourage unsafe driving. But he's firm in his belief that the 55 mph speed limit is a charade that only serves to keep money flowing into depleted state coffers.
"No law is broken more than a speeding law," he said. "The will of the people is supposed to govern what is the law of the people. It's very obvious that the will of the country is that people don't want to go 55.
"Everyone should use a speed that is reasonable and prudent," he said. "But I think 55 on Interstate 90 is well below reasonable and prudent on a summer day."
New York state police Maj. Raymond Dutcher dismissed Eagan's book, saying "I don't see it as a big issue." He said such guides have been attempted before, and there's no action the police can take against its former employee, now a private citizen with a right to write.
But it's obvious Eagan is getting under some people's skin. A day after the Albany Times Union printed an article about Eagan's book, Gov. Mario Cuomo issued a news release praising the state police's efforts at enforcing the 55 mph limit. The same day, state Senate Transportation Committee Chairman Norman Levy issued a statement saying that raising the state speed limit to 65 mph would increase traffic deaths.
Eagan said one acquaintance to whom he mailed an advertisement for his book shredded the offer and returned the scraps of paper.
His book, written with the sarcastic humor common to police officers, notes the hypocrisy of cops who speed. His advice for spotting unmarked cars driven by police brass: "Be especially watchful for multiple antennae on American luxury cars, driven by middle-aged males, who are ignoring the speed limit."
Still, "much of what I say in the book is exactly what a police officer would want you to do," he said.
In trying to convince an officer not to give you a ticket, Eagan said motorists should be aware of the two emotions that drive police officers - ego and fear.
A motorist who's been pulled over should make it abundantly clear through body language that he represents no danger to the cop, he said.
He advises motorists to look the officer in the eye and initiate a conversation. Be respectful, but don't grovel, he said.
"You have to become a human being to him," he said. "All cops let people off."
Excuses need to be imaginative but not far-fetched, he said.
In the example above, Eagan notes that cops have heard lines like "I was just going with traffic" and "my speedometer is broken" too many times before.
While police are lenient with fellow officers, Eagan said this ploy could backfire into a ticket for impersonating an officer. But imitating a member of the clergy, particularly if accompanied with extras like a front-seat Bible and a "clergy" bumper sticker, often works.
Eagan said he was once conned by a woman impersonating a nun who said she was rushing to an airport to pick up two fellow sisters. He became suspicious when a colleague told the same story. When Eagan stopped her again for speeding a few weeks later, she told the same story a third time - and got a ticket.
All officers have a "tolerance level" for speeders, he said. What that level is depends on a lot of factors such as the weather, mood and whether the officer was chewed out by a superior for not writing enough tickets, he said.
"The officers push the line that there is no tolerance level," he said. "But you don't know anybody who's ever gotten a ticket for going 59 in a 55 mph zone."
Eagan is publishing the book on his own and hunting for a publisher for national distribution. He said he sold 4,000 copies in March, the first month the book was available.
And he said his conscience is clear.
"If I've done something wrong," he said, "I've done something wrong that the majority of people want me to do."