Tunnel of laughs: Gary Sanders was pulled over for giggling in the Mersey tunnel
When Gary Sanders was pulled over by police he was sure he had done nothing wrong.
The company director was obeying the speed limit and not driving dangerously.
But to his astonishment he was told he had been stopped for excessive laughing.
Mr Sanders had been talking on a hands-free kit and was chuckling at what his friend had said.
But the officer who ordered him to stop at the exit to the Mersey Tunnel told him: ‘Laughing while driving a car can be an offence.’
If that had been the end of the matter then Mr Sanders, 47, would probably have laughed the whole thing off.
But he subjected him to a 35-minute grilling, with questions about everything from his ethnic group to details of distinguishing scars on his body.
And despite not being charged with an offence, he still had to waste a further 90 minutes of his time producing his driving licence and other documents at a police station.
Due to the delay Mr Sanders, the managing director of Liverpool-based Spontex Workwear, missed an important business appointment.
He said: ‘I couldn’t believe it when he told me I’d been pulled over for for laughing. I was driving very safely in the Birkenhead Tunnel and took a call from a friend on my hand-free phone.
‘He said something funny and I was laughing – simple as that. I never took my eyes off the road and was in full control of the car.
‘Then I noticed the police car flashing its lights and the officer signalling me to pull over. I definitely wasn’t speeding so I asked what the problem was and he told me I was laughing too much.
‘The officer accused me of throwing my head back in a dangerous way, which I denied since it is definitely not something I do.
‘I was astonished that he could say that laughing might be an offence. What is the country coming too? I was kept there for 35 minutes answering unrelated questions like what ethnic group I belonged to and if I had any distinguishing marks or scars.
‘It became a bit ridiculous when he wanted to know the colour of my hair as I have alopecia and there isn’t a hair on my head. When I pointed this out he asked “What colour was your hair when you had some?” It went from ludicrous to unbelievable. He definitely had a bee in his bonnet about something and I got the brunt of it.’
Mr Sanders said the officer eventually admitted no law had been broken, but still insisted he should show his documents to be checked.
‘The police should have better things to do than harassing law-abiding people this way. I missed an important meeting and my whole day was messed up and all for nothing. Its was certainly no joke.’
Superintendent Kevin Hagger of the Mersey Tunnels Police said: ‘There is no record of the incident in the system so it seems the gentleman was just spoken to by the officer and the matter not taken any further.’
Solicitor Nick Freeman, dubbed Mr Loophole for his ability to clear celebrities of motoring offences in court, said laughing at the wheel could only be an offence if it caused the motorist to drive dangerously.
‘If the man was swerving all over the road then the officer may have grounds to charge him with driving without due care and attention or dangerous driving,’ he said.
Brian Gregory from the Association of British Drivers said: ‘This is a shocking example of the police harassing innocent motorists simply because they are an easy target. To suggest that a driver could be prosecuted for laughing is ludicrous beyond belief.
‘What next? Can we expect to hear of people being stopped for sneezing or coughing while they are at the wheel? What about the risk of listening to the radio… they might broadcast something that makes a driver laugh. Drivers have to be credited with some common sense.
‘It is a fact that drivers who are happy and smiling are far safer on the roads than anyone uptight and stressed.
‘Since the introduction of on-the-spot fines the police have become judge and jury and it’s time these powers were reigned in a little. We are all human and sometimes we cannot control involuntary things like laughter.’
By Chris Brooke
Last updated at 12:29 AM on 05th March 2009
Source: Daily Mail