I’m Sorry, Officer

| 5/18/2011 12:49:25 PM


As soon as you hear the siren whooping and see the blue and red lights flashing behind your car, you start to feel sorry for yourself. You grudgingly pull over and adopt a pleasant attitude. You may not be sorry that you were going 65 mph in a 25 mph school-zone, but you’re definitely sorry that a police officer was behind you when you did. And now you’re about to get a ticket. A new study called “The Value of Remorse” published in the journal of Law and Human Behavior (abstract only) suggests that you may save a pile of cash if you channel all those sorry feelings and just apologize to the officer.

Infrastructurist’s Eric Jaffe summarizes the paper:

To reach this conclusion, [researchers Martin Day and Michael Ross] asked more than 500 Canadians to recall their most recent speeding violation. The survey participants detailed their speed and fine, as well as the interaction they had with the police officer who stopped them. Generally speaking these interactions fell into the following categories: apology (“I’m sorry”), excuse (“I didn’t realize I was speeding”), justification (“My sister is giving birth”), denial (“I wasn’t speeding”), or silence.

On average, the survey participants had been going 18 miles per hour over the speed limit, leading to a ticket of roughly $130 Canadian. When Day and Ross analyzed the specifics of these episodes, they found that people who apologized to the police officer received, on average, a $33 reduction to their fine.

speeding-graph-jpegJaffe also points out that as the severity of your lead-footed infraction increases (meaning, the faster over the speed limit you were going), the more professed remorse works to your wallet’s advantage. (The graph to the right plots the relationship between speed and ticket cost for those who apologize and those who do not for a sample of Americans interviewed by Day and Ross.)

Source: Infrastructurist, Law and Human Behavior (abstract only)

Image by Casey Serin, licensed under Creative Commons. 

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