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I Got Pulled Over by the Montana Highway Patrol, and It Was Bizarre

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author photo by Doug DeMuro October 2016

When you drive an Aston Martin clear across the country and back, you might think you'd get pulled over constantly -- either by curious police officers or because you're testing the limits of your car in places where the tallest building in the county is an abandoned grain elevator. But on my 6,522-mile road trip to California and back, I got only one speeding ticket: in rural Montana, going 10 miles per hour over the limit. It was the most bizarre traffic stop I've ever experienced.

Here's how it went down. First, a little background: When you leave Billings, Montana, and head east towards North Dakota, you encounter hours of absolutely nothing. Admittedly, eastern Montana isn't as flat as I thought it would be, but it still houses absolutely nothing. This is the part of the country where they have roadside attractions like World's Largest Stuffed Squirrel and Most Toothpicks in One Public Park.

In this part of the state, you also encounter 80-mph speed limits. So I did what I always do when I see a highway speed limit and a relatively clear highway with good weather: I set my cruise control a few mph over the limit, and I drove. And I drove, and I drove, and I drove.

Then, at one point, I looked in my rearview mirror, and there was a Ford Taurus behind me with its lights flashing.

In retrospect, I should've expected I'd get pulled over. Even though I was only going a few mph over the speed limit, I was the fastest car on the road by a mile. I once read some study that said drivers go as fast as they feel comfortable, regardless of the speed limit, and this certainly rang true here. Virtually every other driver -- and there were only a handful -- wasn't even approaching the 80-mph limit. These people had Super Duty pickups, cowboy boots and nowhere to be.

Me, I felt like I could've safely gone 150 mph without a problem. The whole thing made me long for the now-ended days of Montana's "reasonable and prudent" speed limit, when there was no true speed limit -- you just had to be safe. Driving on these roads, passing one pickup truck every 4 miles, I saw how that could easily work in Montana.

But anyway, I saw the flashing lights behind me, and I pulled over on a rural stretch of Interstate 94, in between miles of gigantic, wide-open fields.

The highway patrolman approached my car on the passenger side and told me he had stopped me for my speed. I asked him how fast I was going when he clocked me, and he said his radar indicated I was going 90 mph in an 80-mph zone. Initially, I was incredulous: 10 miles per hour over the limit? In an 80-mph zone? Worse: 10 over in an 80-mph zone is exceeding the speed limit by just 12.5 percent. That's the same as 39 in a 35 or 28 in a 25. I was getting pulled over... for this?

Then I thought about it: fastest car on the road. Highway patrolman with a radar gun. I probably would've gotten pulled over for going 87 mph.

This is about when the weirdness began.

Here's why: If you were pulled over for going 90 mph anywhere on the East Coast, the police would radio for a K-9 officer, at which point the dog would drag you out of your vehicle by the arm. It's not like that in Montana.

The highway patrolman informed me that the fine for exceeding the speed limit by 10 mph in Montana is a mere $40, and -- this is the best part -- he offered to take my credit card right there on the spot. I'm serious. I'm sitting there on the shoulder of a highway in middle-of-nowhere rural eastern Montana, and I'm about to get Amazon rewards points for a speeding ticket I received 4 minutes earlier.

He then announced one more thing: If I wanted to pay with my credit card, there would be a $5 processing fee. In other words, the credit card processing fee increased the fine by more than 10 percent.

So the highway patrolman took my credit card and went back to his patrol car, and I patiently for him to return, envisioning him sitting there with one of those little Square credit-card readers you plug into an iPad, like a hipster barista with a tattoo of a polar bear on her wrist.

When he came back to my car, printed receipt in hand, he announced: "I've never pulled over an Aston Martin before! And I've pulled over a lot of cars!" This did not surprise me. I was 500 miles from the nearest Aston Martin dealership, and -- not counting my Billings reader meetup -- I hadn't seen a sports car in five states.

I then decided to ask the highway patrolman for a favor: I'm on a giant road trip across the country and back. Can I take a picture of this? He jovially accepted, and that's how I got the image you see above. My only regret is that I couldn't get a photo of us parked next the world's largest stuffed squirrel.

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This image is a stock photo and is not an exact representation of any vehicle offered for sale. Advertised vehicles of this model may have styling, trim levels, colors and optional equipment that differ from the stock photo.
I Got Pulled Over by the Montana Highway Patrol, and It Was Bizarre - Autotrader