So there I was, driving along a regional road near my home today.
Nice Aqua Marine Blue Porsche Cayman.
More-or-less at the speed limit - at the very least, with the flow of traffic.
I saw a local police cruiser parked on the opposite shoulder, obviously on radar patrol.
As you would, I flashed my high beams to warn other traffic. All in the name of assisting the police in their drive to slow people down, of course.
I guess I should have spotted that the very first car approaching me was a dark gray Ford Crown Victoria.
Sure enough. The windshield-level gumballs flashed on. The big U-Turn. And there we were, parked at the side of the road.
Having gone through a court case with Motoring 2009 host Brad Diamond earlier this year on exactly this issue, I knew there was no Highway Traffic Act prohibition against warning other drivers about radar traps.
However, as Crosby Stills and Nash sang, nothing increases your paranoia like looking in the mirror and seeing a PO-lice car.
I did have my car shut off (no idling; no pollution); my four-ways on; my licence already out the driver's side window.
The conversation went something like this:
"Do you know why I pulled you over?"
"Possibly because I flashed my lights to warn motorists about the radar trap?" I volunteered.
"Well, I might have wanted to make sure you weren't in trouble or anything."
"I'm not, am I? Because there is no Highway Traffic Act prohibition against warning people about radar traps."
I knew I was on pretty firm footing here!
"Well, we are trying to do our job and it might be construed as 'obstructing justice'."
"You know that would never fly! Besides, you're trying to slow people down and that's what flashing my headlights is doing too. We're on the same side here!"
Fortunately, the officer was still smiling.
"Do I recognize you?"
"Um, maybe. I write about cars for the Toronto Star and appear on Motoring 2009 on TSN. That's how I know about flashing high beams and radar traps - the TV show's host was charged with that and we got it thrown out of court earlier this year."
"Well, we are working this road because we get people going 30 - 40 over the limit."
(The limit on this stretch of road is 60 km/h; this was neither the time, the place, nor, frankly, the audience, to discuss building roads that are capable of 80 km/h or more, then assigning a lower limit to them. Want to slow people down? Put one-meter wide and 10 cm deep ditches across the road every 50 metres. Nothing else is going to do it.)
"And we like to be able not to just catch speeders, but talk to them, remind them that this speed is not acceptable along here. Also, it's not like we were hiding the cruiser - it is in plain view. If people don't see it, they aren't paying much attention."
"Can't argue with you there. During the fight against photo radar - Mike Harris once told me personally that I was responsible for getting him elected because he pretty much campaigned on that issue, and I have apologized to the province on more than one occasion since - the only valid argument I ever heard in favour of it was if you couldn't see the van parked at the side of the road, you deserved a ticket."
"Yeah, I didn't like photo radar either because it didn't allow us the chance to actually talk to the drivers; there was no educational component to it."
"Still, when it comes to flashing high beams, you can't really charge people with doing something that isn't illegal!"
My licence was returned with a friendly smile.
"Have a nice day!"
"You too, officer."
I have tried not to identify the officer in any way here because I don't want to get anyone in trouble - no ticket was issued.
But this is how all police-citizen interactions should go...