"My GPS told me to do it." That's one of the top excuses offered by drivers who get pulled over for a moving violation, according to a new study. Other favorites: I'm lost; I spilled a hot drink in my lap; I'm on my way to an emergency.
According to the survey by Insurance.com, which polled 500 drivers over the age of 18, women are more likely to plead ignorance, such as being lost (65 percent) or unknowingly having broken equipment. Men, on the other hand, are more likely to claim an emergency situation (67 percent) or that everyone else was doing it, so what's the harm? Men also accounted for a whopping 82 percent of the respondents who blamed the voice in the dash.
The overall most-cited excuse by everyone: "I couldn't see the sign telling me not to do it," followed closely by "I'm lost and unfamiliar with the roads."
"By now, police officers can probably finish people's sentences," said Michelle Megna, managing editor of Insurance.com. "I wonder if they wouldn't appreciate a little dog-ate-my-homework creativity."
What's That Gonna Cost?
If you do get pulled over, the first thing you're likely to worry about is the effect of a moving violation on your car insurance premium. Insurance.com's Uh-Oh! Calculator offers an estimate of possible insurance hikes following a minor traffic infraction.
But not to worry: A study by competitor InsuranceQuotes.com (a Bankrate company) found in February that most drivers won't pay additional premiums as a result of a minor moving violation. That study found that only 31 percent of Americans who received a traffic ticket in the past five years had a rate increase as a result, and those who did have an increase paid less than $100 more a year. Younger drivers were more likely to have a premium increase as a result of a ticket; repeat offenders and drivers with serious violations like driving under the influence or leaving the scene of an accident, almost always saw higher premiums.
What to Do If You're Pulled Over
Regardless of the reason, drivers who see flashing lights in the rearview mirror should throw on their turn signal and pull over as soon as it's safe to do so. Don't make any calls (even with a headset) and keep hands in sight on the top of the steering wheel. Wait to reach into the glove box for an insurance card until asked by the officer.
Exercise caution, particularly if the car that's pulling you over is unmarked. On several occasions in the past few months in the U.S. and Canada, young women have reported being pulled over by police impersonators.
Police in Pennsylvania offer this tip: "If you are being signaled to stop by an unmarked vehicle that you believe may not be a police vehicle you may continue to drive at a slow speed to a safe, well-lit, populated area before pulling over. You may call 911 and advise them that you are being stopped by a vehicle that you believe may not be a police vehicle and the dispatcher may advise the officer of the reason that you are not stopping. Once you have stopped for an officer in an unmarked car, you may request that a marked police unit respond, as well, to confirm that the unmarked police vehicle is legitimate."
But if you're pulled over by a legitimate officer for an actual driving violation, excuses will do you less good than simply admitting the violation. "In the end, the excuses don't matter. Your driving record doesn't have asterisks and footnotes," says Megna.