Can the Right Music Get You Out of a Traffic Ticket?

(Photo: itdp)

(Photo: itdp)

Aaron Pilkington, an officer trainee at Air Force Officer Training School in Montgomery, Ala., writes to say:

I was driving down the road the other day with a fellow trainee, pointing out to him that the particular road along which we were driving always has police officers hiding out and catching people speeding. Just as I said that, sure enough, we saw a police car pull out with lights on and pull someone over.  My friend, Bill, said that he wondered if the song “Sweet Home Alabama” would work in Alabama. I asked him to elaborate.

My friend, who is from Rhode Island, explained that a couple of years ago he was speeding and got pulled over by a police officer.  He said that the song “Sweet Home Alabama” was on the radio and that somehow the officer let him off on a warning.  Some time later, he was pulled over again and had the song on his iPod.  In the time between being pulled over by the police officer and the officer walking up to his window, he pulled the song up on his iPod and left it on loud enough to be heard by the police officer, but not too loud.  Again, success.  He said this happened one more time just a couple of months ago in Florida and that he now always has at the ready a CD with the song “Sweet Home Alabama,” just in case he gets pulled over again.

I don’t know if there is a causal or simply correlation relationship between these two events (“Sweet Home Alabama” in the background and the police officer letting my friend Bill off with warnings).  My friend also mentioned that the officers that pulled him over, and subsequently let him off with warnings, were all white males.

I think this is definitely an experiment worth conducting.  Maybe send out a hundred people to intentionally try and get pulled over and have “Sweet Home Alabama,” or other songs at the ready, and see what the data have to say. 

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  1. Leo Salazar says:

    Classical music. It’s the only reliable remedy. Source: personal experience.

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  2. Tim says:

    First recommendation for an alternate song: I Fought the Law and the Law Won.

    Let’s see how that one goes.

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  3. Matt says:

    I think I’d opt for a citation rather than have to listen to “Sweet Home Alabama”.

    Well-loved. Like or Dislike: Thumb up 36 Thumb down 13
  4. Andrew Morrison says:

    The vast majority of officer contacts results in just a warning–especially for white drivers. This guy is misattributing the song as causing what is already an incredibly likely outcome.

    Hot debate. What do you think? Thumb up 12 Thumb down 12
  5. Henk Timmer says:

    Judas Priest – Breaking the law…

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  6. Serpico says:

    How about a testimonial from an officer?: We are all trained, right out of the academy, to issue warnings to anyone listening to Lynrd Skynrd. However, this is only applicable to white male officers….

    Actually, as a real-life Police Officer, I can tell you that your general demeanor and attitude has vastly more to do with what you leave with.

    If you don’t want a ticket just be honest about your mistake, explain that you are usually a careful and considerate person, and hope that there aren’t mitigating circumstances that necessitate you being issued a charge. It’s not a Pavlovian thing folks; granted we have our non-autonomous types like any other profession. That being said, I always made my mind up after talking with the person that was pulled over. Don’t be condescending our rude, admit to yourself that it probably IS your fault that you got stopped, and accept that it is what it is. That will get you out of a ticket faster than trying to trick me into some subliminal disposition.

    Maybe tell your friend to play “f*** tha police” by NWA and see if that works.

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    • PeacePilgrim says:

      Thanks Serpico. Your post is humorous and honest. I don’t know if your first paragraph was a sarcastic bite at the original post, but its good to know that because I am a Black female who listens to Lynrd Skynrd and who is usually a careful and considerate defensive driver, may have at least a favorable chance to ride away with just a warning during the moment I break the law. An interesting hypothesis to add; whether the music of Led Zepelin, Pink Floyd and Journey works…because I listen to them too.

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    • GenkiDama says:

      So you’re saying we should immediately wave our 5th amendment right, self incriminate ourselves and then hope the officer is in a good mood and gets a good vibe from how we look and sound at the moment? If he is under quota, you just handed him your money by admitting guilt.

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  7. Tyler says:

    I know I was listening to hip-hop in an overwhelmingly white neighborhood when I got pulled over for doing literally nothing one time, so there may be something to this theory, although I was also let off with a warning.

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