It was 11:00pm, lightly snowing and I was driving home. On a long deserted stretch of route 30 in the West River valley I drove past a Vermont state trooper’s car parked off of the shoulder of the oncoming lane.
My reaction to seeing the car was to immediately take my foot off of the gas, but I was already doing 5 mph below the speed limit, so I drove on. It was then that I saw him pull out behind me and I had that sinking feeling….
He followed me for 2 or 3 miles and then the blue lights flashed. I pulled over hoping he would go by me , but no such luck. It occurred to me in that moment that I was wearing a black coat, a black hat, and black gloves. Even in Vermont black motorists are stopped more frequently per capita than white drivers. I quickly pulled off my gloves and put my hands visibly on the steering wheel…I wanted no misunderstandings.
Was it odd that I should feel fear after all of the shootings in the news? Was I being irrational after hearing about traffic stops gone wrong?
The trooper walked up to my window with his flashlight shining on me asking questions; where was I coming from and going to and why? He then asked for my license and documents. I had my license ready but my registration and insurance card were in the glovebox. I clearly stated that I needed to reach into the glovebox to get them and waited for his permission and the flashlight to shine over me to reach for them.
The police officer then stated that my license plate light was out. Oh…..
Are you aware that every state police car in Vermont (and many other states) are equipped with license plate readers? Every car that goes by has its plate automatically read and the date, time and location noted in a digital file. All of this data is stored on central servers for 6 months. Just going about your business you are being tracked by the state. We law abiding citizens are under surveillance without our knowledge.. or approval.
I now figure that this is why in the in the middle of nowhere, in a snowstorm, in the darkness, I was stopped. The computer could not read my plate number. Or was it another kind of darkness that prompted the stop?
As a disclaimer, the police officer was professional and polite, doing a public service job that is not easy under the best of circumstances. He only gave me a warning and told me to drive safely. I found myself saying thank you…