For the life of me I cannot figure out why people do some of the things they do.

I can’t count how many times when I attempted to pull someone over for a minor traffic violation that a chase ensued — and by the time they eventually stopped, it had turned into a major crime.

After a complete investigation and search of the vehicle, the initial minor traffic violation usually would have been the only ticket … had they promptly pulled over.

I have a couple of stories to verify my claim. After each of the following incidents, both parties wished they had used common sense.

Late one night, I was on patrol on China Neck Road in China. I met an oncoming vehicle in a 45-mph zone and radar indicated it was traveling just over 60 mph. Too fast.

As I passed the vehicle, I noted it was a dark-colored pickup. I found a safe place to flip around and then sought to initiate a traffic stop. I accelerated after the vehicle and noticed it seemed way too far ahead to still be traveling at 60 mph.

The suspect vehicle had attempted to “lose” me. As I chased the driver back toward China Village, I needed to gain ground so I could see which direction the driver took at the four-way intersection. My suspect, though, had other ideas. Before getting to the intersection, he turned off his headlights — effectively leaving me in the dark as to which direction he went. “That little bugger,” I thought to myself.

I chose to go straight, as I didn’t see any brake lights activated at the intersection. I chose correctly, and not too far past the intersection, I observed where the suspect had left the road and sideswiped a sign. A debris field was scattered behind the truck that had fled into the night. I did not locate the vehicle or driver that night, as he apparently found a good hiding place and stayed put.

After searching for about an hour, I went back to where the suspect vehicle had struck the sign. I picked up several pieces of the truck — a mid-1980s black Ford pickup in need of a new taillight on the right side.

I put out the word about the little chase and what I was looking for, but that night I came up with a goose egg.

The next afternoon, I was speaking with a friend who operated an area garage. I mentioned the previous night’s chase, and he listened intently. Then I asked, “Anyone call you looking for a taillight for a mid-’80s Ford pickup?”

“Right side?” he asked.

“Why, yes!”

“As a matter of fact, I did get a call from someone this morning for one,” he said.

“You’re kidding me, right?” I queried.

“No, really, someone called this morning,” he insisted.

“Did you get a name?” I asked hopefully.

“I did.”

And with that, I was supplied with the name of the person looking for a right side taillight to a Ford pickup. My friend also knew the people who owned the truck, and he told me it was black.

Armed with that information, I found the suspect at his parents’ home in China. He confessed. The remorseful young man could not explain why he took off and failed to stop for the police.

If he had just stopped, he would have gotten a traffic citation for speeding.

His parents weren’t too happy with him, and I had an idea their punishment was going to be a lot worse than what I was going to do to him.

Sure didn’t make much sense to me.

The second incident occurred in Unity.

I had just transferred from Greenville and was brand new to Waldo County. Back in those days, troopers were on duty 24 hours a day, six days a week so that people would deal with one trooper, unless another was called in to cover on a day off or a day in court.

People who deal with law enforcement personnel on a regular basis usually test a new officer to see if they can get away with something and to see how the new officer reacts in certain situations.

My way of doing things was pretty straightforward. I was firm and fair, and I treated people the way I wanted to be treated.

I was in town a few weeks when the following incident occurred. I had left my residence and was heading toward Belfast. I turned on Route 220 from Route 9 and met a vehicle that turned onto the highway right in front of me.

The driver attempted to spin the vehicle’s tires and accelerate hard, but the big old car had seen better days. As the vehicle passed by, I noticed the inspection sticker had expired months ago. The driver was alone.

I pulled over to make a U-turn and pursue the suspect vehicle. The guy was taking off, and it looked like there was going to be a chase.

But not even a half-mile back at the Route 9 intersection, one lone brake mark led toward a puff of dust at the bottom of a huge pine tree. I knew my suspect vehicle was somewhere in the cloud.

The dust dissipated and there it was — the large old car embedded in the towering tree. The hood was folded up almost to the front seat, and the driver was still seated behind the wheel. I ran to the wreck and checked on the operator. Physically, he was fine, but his pride was severely crumpled.

Once I knew he was not injured, I couldn’t help but crack a little joke.

“Could you do that again? I didn’t quite see the crash!”

We both had a good laugh, and I don’t think he’d ever felt so stupid in his life.

After a search and investigation, the only violation would have been the expired inspection sticker — about a $35 fine in those days.

But rather than pay just a $35 fine, he wrecked his car, injured his pride, and had to cough up more money for insurance and to finance some hefty wrecker fees and court fines.

I just can’t figure why people do some of the things they do.

Just another day in the life.

Mark Nickerson is a retired Maine State Police trooper. The 28-year veteran lives in Unity. The award-winning columnist may be reached at