Tuesday, September 7, 2010


Caught! 2010

Just so you’ll know, you’re in the company of crooks.

After decades of mind-numbingly responsible citizenry, my wife and I have both run afoul of the law.

We haven’t become con artists or serial murderers. We’re not engaging in prostitution or child trafficking or even swimming in the ocean without a bathing suit, though in years past there were times when I wouldn’t have been able to successfully defend myself against that last charge.

No, we’ve become traffic violators. It all started with a letter last week from a firm in Colorado informing me that I’d been caught by one of those “red light running” cameras at an intersection close to my home. The letter even included three photographs of startling quality that showed me…what’s this? Not running the light? Just making a right turn on red? At least that’s what it looked like.

I’m one of those people who applauded the installation of red light running cameras. When my sister was just three years old, she was riding in a convertible with our mother when they were run over by a tractor-trailer hauling frozen vegetables. The truck was being driven by a 16 year-old kid, who ran a red light while the official driver slept in the back. The impact was such that my sister, who was in the back seat, was pushed through the floorboard and down into the sand under the car, where she would have gone unnoticed if a family friend hadn’t driven by and recognized the car. It’s a miracle my mother and sister survived. Both spent months in the hospital and years recovering.

But I hadn’t run the light! The pictures on the letter just showed me making a right turn on red. You can even see my brake lights. I rang up the company in Colorado to protest. A very nice young lady took the call.

“Did you happen to look at the video, Mr. Bonney?” Video? At the bottom of the summons was a link to a video. The young lady suggested I open that page while she stayed on the line. “I believe you’ll find the answer to your question,” she said with the calm assurance of someone who has handled such calls before.

Sure enough, and again with more startling production quality than you’d expect, the web site presented a twenty second-long video of me making a right turn on red (legal), but not coming to a full stop before I turned (illegal).

“You nailed me!” I yelled. The young lady on the phone said most people decide they don’t want to pursue a protest once they’ve seen the video. I thanked her for her help and she directed me to a web site where I could pay my fine without having to go down to the courthouse. Three minutes, a $50 fine and a $1.25 processing fee later, I was adequately chastened and squared up with the General District Court of the City of Virginia Beach.

A few days later, my wife, who has had only one driving infraction in her life and that was thirty years ago, was stopped and ticketed for exceeding the speed limit in an area that has recently been slowed down from 45 mph to 35 mph out of the mistaken belief that slowing the drivers down will prevent the drunks who wander out into the roadway from nearby bars at 2:00 a.m. from getting run over and killed. My wife drives a sporty red convertible. I wouldn't put it past her to try to charm the police officer into believing that the red color only makes it look like it's going faster. He wasn't buying that line, but he did knock a few miles off the official record "out of recognition of her exemplary driving record."

We tried to figure out how to pay that fine online, too. But we kept getting trapped in an increasingly frustrating series of interconnected web sites that despite multiple links for “Paying your fine online” neither tell you what the fine is nor make it possible to pay the fine online. So my wife will have to call them on the phone today when City offices open up after the Labor Day holiday.

I wouldn’t want to be the person she talks to.


  1. Haaa! I had the same thing happen to me not that long ago, and Joe chastised me, telling me I "must not have come to a full stop." Boy, did I learn my lesson. I have blissfully been doing that for years, and never knew it was illegal. Now, I ALWAYS make sure I at least come to a complete stop, but lots of folks behind me have been pissed off enough that they honked at me while I was doing so. I think a lot of folks get caught on this one.

    As for your wife, that sounds like it could be another post--too funny. Unfortunately, a red sporty convertible isn't gonna' go too unnoticed, is it?

  2. My wife insists I'm part of the reason those cameras were installed as I always seems to manage to run one red light each day. I was in VB visiting the day the speed limit dropped on that stretch of road, knew it was coming and didn't realize I had traveled nearly a mile at the old speed limit until I turned on my signal to make a right. Oddly enough, everyone else was traveling at the same speed I was doing. Guess it's a good thing we moved across the state or I'd be paying fines, too.

  3. I am sure you are not the only one that the camera catches for the right turn violation. That's too bad. However I don't feel sorry for anybody who get's caught running red during a left turn onto VA Beach Blvd. That intersection is so wide, that the violator is still clearing the intersection seconds after it's gone green the other way.

    The corner of Great Neck/London Bridge, and VA Beach Blvd always reminds me of a homeless fellow, who used to stand in front of the enormous Hardee's sign, (just east, or left of this photo).

    He'd stand there with his dingy piece of cardboard, oblivious to the "HIRING" sign that was right behind him.

  4. I have a very nice law-abiding friend who glides through red lights intentionally, only in the middle of the night, when the streets are deserted and there is not a car in sight for blocks.... his number is going to be up very very soon!