Tuesday, March 09, 2010

It seems like you can't go more than a few miles without the police circling like vultures to give people traffic tickets. I was out yesterday and saw people left and right being pulled over for what looked like routine traffic stops for going a few miles over the speed limit. The limits are so low in our area that if you don't
"speed," you almost get rear-ended. It's a tough choice to decide which one is worse, a ticket or an accident. Has anyone else noticed an increase in cops in your area? I understand that the states and counties need revenue but is this the way to get it? Can citizens fight back?

Update: KPD: "We do not respond to blog postings."

89 Comments:

Blogger TMink said...

My communte involves a stretch of road where the police train rookies. A vet will be back in the car while the rookie pulls people over for minor violations. I got popped for a tail light.

The rookie approaches the car with his hand on his weapon. This was a little frightening, seeing a nervous kid with his hand on his weapon as he approaches my car. The noob asked for my info, then took it back to the car. The real cop came back up to tell me to please get my light fixed, and he was very appologetic when I mentioned the hand on weapon thing.

Trey

9:38 AM, March 09, 2010  
Blogger LPF said...

"Can citizens fight back?"

YES!: If EVERYONE who gets a ticket contests it in court, the judicial system simply can't handle the volume. Right now, only a tiny fraction of citations are contested, even if that tiny fraction merely doubled (a small increase overall) the system would grind to a halt.

Always contest a ticket. (1) you take the chance that the officer won't show and you win by default (2) You deny them any profit: because even if you go in and plead 'no contest' and ask for a reduced fine you eat the judges time, the officers time, the bailiffs time, the court recorders time, etc...

Fight the ticket = deny them the profit.

9:56 AM, March 09, 2010  
Blogger Cham said...

My state has just instituted speed cameras. This is to add to the highest concentration of red light cameras in the country. Basically, what this is is a sin tax, or sin fee, or whatever you want to call it. The revenue generated from the cameras is sent to the state coffer. If you speed or blow a light, you will get a ticket and you will have to pay or you will not be able to register your car.

Now let's talk about "fighting back". We have laws that say that you can be issued a fine for blowing red lights and speeding. If you perform these infractions, regardless of whether you think you are a law-abiding citizen, you are a law-breaker. So one has 3 choices 1) Get the laws changed 2) Pay the fines without complaint 3) Take extra care not to speed or blow red lights.

I've gone with option 3, and it works very well for me. I choose my battles and this isn't going to be one of them.

9:59 AM, March 09, 2010  
Blogger Topher said...

Cham has a really good point - habitual speeding is thumbing one's nose at road safety and just asking for a citation.

But LPF has a point too...over-enforcement of the roads for money, not for correcting serious safety risks, makes people live in fear while going about their business and is close to police state activity. if you feel selective enforcement or martinet activity has ensnared you, use the legitimate legal avenues to contest the ticket.

In California, where I used to live, you can request "trial by written declaration." The key here is that a cop doesn't get paid to fill out his statement for the written trial like he does to appear in court. So TBWD was a way to all but ensure the cop wouldn't "appear in court" with a statement, and your chances of being the only side testifying was high.

In the legal system, you don't get _anything_ you don't ask for. Use the system, that's what it's there for!

10:06 AM, March 09, 2010  
Blogger Kevin M said...

This comment has been removed by the author.

10:11 AM, March 09, 2010  
Blogger SultanOfSuede said...

I drive a few miles up I-75 to Marietta and I see people pulled over everyday. No exaggeration. States are looking to fix deficits through ticketing I guess. The ridiculous speed limits end up being another tax.

Like Dr. Helen, I'm between two bad choices: speed to keep up with the maniacs driving 85 in a 55 zone, or getting rear ended.

Some years ago, people did a video of themselves driving the 285 loop at the posted speed limit. They showed enraged drivers flipping them off, screaming, etc. I've had the same thing happen to me for doing 60 in a 55 zone.

It's amazing to watch civilization collapse. The irrational comes to dominate more and more of even the most trivial aspects of life.

11:01 AM, March 09, 2010  
Blogger Larry J said...

Since traffic law enforcement has become more about revenue generation than public safety, I've made it a point to be more careful with my speed and driving habits. It is annoying in a way because the traffic lights here are timed so that you have your best chance of making it through an intersection if you're driving 5-10 MPH over the posted speed limit. If you drive over the posted limit, you risk a ticket. If you drive at or below the limit, you get stopped at light after light, wasting gas. Since they charge over 41 cents per gallon for gasoline tax, it seems they have you one way or the other.

11:11 AM, March 09, 2010  
Blogger Todd said...

As stated above "Tax revenue masquerading as law enforcement."

For a example of this in my area, read this: http://justplainenglish.blogspot.com/2009/10/to-protect-and-serve.html

11:41 AM, March 09, 2010  
Blogger Fuckyou said...

"Cham has a really good point - habitual speeding is thumbing one's nose at road safety and just asking for a citation."

That's bloody nonsense. To begin with, it really is possible to drive fast and safely. Anyone who cannot integrate this fact into their outlook is just too stupid to talk to, so get it through your head: speed does not equal "thumbing one's nose at road safety".

And: the people who don't watch what they're doing are the ones who get tapped out there. I've had cops explain this to me over the years, and I'll match my road mile in all fifty states against anyone's here. It's really true. Pay attention to what you're doing with the seriousness that the thing calls for, and you won't get stopped or have a safety problem.

11:55 AM, March 09, 2010  
Blogger Kevin M said...

This comment has been removed by the author.

12:05 PM, March 09, 2010  
Blogger DADvocate said...

It seems cops come out in droves when the weather turns warmer. I guess they have to make up for all the tickets they didn't write when it was too cold to stand outside for 5 minutes.

12:12 PM, March 09, 2010  
Blogger DADvocate said...

It seems cops come out in droves when the weather turns warmer. I guess they have to make up for all the tickets they didn't write when it was too cold to stand outside for 5 minutes.

12:12 PM, March 09, 2010  
Blogger Kevin M said...

This comment has been removed by the author.

12:14 PM, March 09, 2010  
Blogger Cham said...

KevinM: I drive better than everyone else so I don't need to abide by the rules or use common sense.

12:31 PM, March 09, 2010  
Blogger Kevin M said...

This comment has been removed by the author.

12:46 PM, March 09, 2010  
Blogger Jammy Harbin said...

Well, in jolly old England, the poor suckers.. erm drivers have started fighting back.

http://www.speedcam.co.uk/gatso2.htm

Wonder how long it'll be before the cost of replacement cameras is greater than the revenue they generate?

1:17 PM, March 09, 2010  
Blogger Cham said...

I guess you could destroy the speed cameras, but I wouldn't recommend it here in the US. In addition to the highest number of speed and red light cameras we also have the highest concentration of security cameras, both still and video. Although no one has destroyed any of our traffic cameras yet, it is amazing how quickly the police can find out the tag (license) number on the car of anyone who has committed any crime in an area with security cameras. It takes them just a few hours and they often create an airtight case from it. Good luck with that mayhem and destruction policy though.

1:25 PM, March 09, 2010  
Blogger Kevin M said...

This comment has been removed by the author.

1:25 PM, March 09, 2010  
Blogger HMT said...

LPG Said: "Fight the ticket = deny them the profit"

This doesn't work in my state. The "fine" is around $20 with a $100+ "non-wavable court fee" which you pay if you show up or not. So even if you go to court and get the ticket fine tossed out you're still up for the majority of the ticket cost.

Genius!

1:35 PM, March 09, 2010  
Blogger Kevin M said...

This comment has been removed by the author.

2:01 PM, March 09, 2010  
Blogger Topher said...

HMT,

I think the point is that a mass of contested tickets will gum up the system, not that you can get out of the ticket (getting tickets tossed is a hit-or-miss prospect subject to which judge you get, officer involved, etc etc.)

Then again, sometimes you get lucky. Where I live news broke that the police department's BAC analyzer had been mis-calibrated for the part 18 months. That essentially means every DUI conviction using that machine is going to get tossed.

2:14 PM, March 09, 2010  
Blogger HMT said...

Topher,

I could see that possibly working if it were organized. Some kind of "civil disobedience" thing. Without that, it's economically infeasible. The cost to me for spending a day (more if it's bogged down) off-line in waiting at the court house is not worth the $ lost to the ticket.

Of course, if you've got an organized group large enough to gum up the works at the court house then more direct means is probably more efficient. Lobby, campaign, whatever to get the law changed, chief of police tossed, etc...

3:39 PM, March 09, 2010  
Blogger Memphis Steve said...

Yes, it's been that way for awhile now. It's like living in a police state. I know that phrase is overused, but when you see cops EVERYWHERE you go then it starts to hit home just what that means. And when you consider just how much danger you are actually in when a cop or group of cops pulls you over if he's in a bad mood or doesn't like your attitude, what with cops literally frying men's genitals with their Tasers (I haven't heard of any women having permanent genital damage from Tasers yet) or punching and kicking people in the groin for absolutely nothing and getting away with it, then it can really shake you up. President Clinton promised 100,000 more cops on the streets back in the early '90s when gangs were a major issue. At the time, people thought that was great. Now we see it very differently. We've trade one problem for another one, and this problem virtually cannot be prosecuted for the things they do to us. We've lost a certain necessary balance. Under President Carter it seems like defense attorneys and judges had too much power, while cops had their hands tied behind their backs following the violent 60s and early 70s. Today it's the exact opposite - cops and prosecutors can do virtually anything they want and Heaven help the person they decide to do it to.

7:00 PM, March 09, 2010  
Blogger Joe said...

Makes me glad I live in a state where the highway patrol still has some common sense. They pretty much stay off the freeway during rush hour and seem to mainly concern themselves with cars driving outside the flow of traffic (which is about 75-85.) When there is a problem, they respond quickly and also make sure people with car problems are kept safe.

My only beef is that they don't clear the road fast enough. I figure that if there's an accident and fire/medical isn't needed, just take some video and push the damn car off the road and let traffic flow.

7:23 PM, March 09, 2010  
Blogger Trust said...

Dr. Helen,

Some others have alluded to this, but what is probably a root of the problem is using fines as a revenue stream.

There have been cases where areas weren't making enough money, so they increased fines, reduced speed limits, implemented quotas, etc.

I've long been of the opinion that fines should not be a revenue stream because it gives law enforcement, traffic safety, any other entity, a whole new agenda.

9:50 PM, March 09, 2010  
Blogger Will said...

In NJ, revenue from State Police tickets is a critical portion of the towns income. Back in '05, they stopped writing tickets for several months. As normally occurs, the roads got safer (no, that is not a misprint). But, the towns were going bankrupt!

8:01 AM, March 10, 2010  
Blogger Dr.D said...

"I've long been of the opinion that fines should not be a revenue stream because it gives law enforcement, traffic safety, any other entity, a whole new agenda."

But how do you prevent this from bring a part of the revenue stream? Only by using alternative punishments, such as time in the stocks, public whippings, etc. would you take the profit out of police work.

8:01 AM, March 10, 2010  
Blogger Professor Hale said...

I was on I-95 between Richmond and DC on Saturday and also notice an abundance of state police out writing tickers. I would guess one every 5 miles. The normal driving speed on 95 is 80MPH.

You should never fear getting read ended for driving too slow. It is the resposibility to cars behind you to not drive into you. But you should also not be on the freeway if you are not preparred to drive customary speeds. The truth is, you really want to drive fast. You know you do, so you use the "avoiding an accident" excuse to give yourself permission.

The fact is: speed doesn't kill. Inattention kills. Those unrestricted places on the autobahn in Germany don't have any higher accident rate than anyplace else. Accident happen in merging zones and when inattentive drivers don't see other cars stopped in the road in front of them.

8:58 AM, March 10, 2010  
Blogger Cham said...

The way the Maryland speed camera law works is that it is legal to put speed cameras in road construction zones and within 1/2 mile of a school. There has to be a school or 2 within 1/2 mile of that blessed I-95. What is our state waiting for? The revenue stream that could be generated from 3 I-95 highway cameras could eliminate all our property, income and sales tax. We could pour money into our community pools instead of water.

We break ground on the slots emporiums this year hopefully and I think it is a shame we are leaving money on the table in the form of sugared sodas. Never mind our rather steep "fees" on alcohol, gas and cigarettes.

In other news, I watched a video yesterday where some Minnesota schools will be going to a 4 day week. Must suck to be them.

9:34 AM, March 10, 2010  
Blogger Auntie Ann said...

Move to Los Angeles. Despite its massive geographical size, LA has fewer cops than the NYC Transit Police. I'm sure they're thick on the ground in some places, but there are also large parts of town where a cop is a rare sight.

9:36 AM, March 10, 2010  
Blogger blogcomment said...

In addition to radar/laser detectors (I think Valentine is still the best), there is now Trapster, a lovely iPhone app.

Trapster is location-aware and has the locations of redlight and speed cameras and buzzes when you get near one. My personal favorite feature is that Trapster will warn you of live speed traps if another Trapster user has reported them. If you see a live speed trap, you simply pull up Trapster, click a single button and everyone else is warned.

If you're the first one to encounter a live speed trap and get caught, I find that reporting the trap to Trapster while waiting for your ticket is a low-cost and emotionally-satisfying way of sticking it to the man.

11:04 AM, March 10, 2010  
Blogger Quasimodo said...

traffic citations are often not inspired by concern for safety. they set up speed traps where it is easy to set up speed traps not where the accidents due to speeding occur.

11:10 AM, March 10, 2010  
Blogger JB said...

I don't speed, and I don't want to. I stay to the right, and you can go around me. Get off your cell phone, finish your breakfast and personal hygiene before you leave home, and turn your radio down, and you will have no problem paying enough attention to avoid people like me. I like getting better gas mileage, and I feel safer when I obey the law. I got my first and only traffic ticket over three decades ago, as a teenager.

I appreciate and respect the police, they have a difficult job to do, and I am quite certain that none of them got into their career intending to be a tax collector. The department agenda may dictate otherwise, but I'll bet the personal agendas of the vast majority of the policemen themselves is to protect and serve the public. Sure, a lot of them have macho attitudes and big egos; but I imagine it takes a lot of balls to put your life on the line every single day -- some macho and some ego would naturally come along with that.

12:37 PM, March 10, 2010  
Blogger Bernard said...

I took a consulting job in Huntsville AL in August 2007. Every week for a year I traveled back and forth unmolested to my home in Memphis, on the lightly-used Highway 72, generally at speeds in excess of 80 mph, which is an innocuous speed on that nice divided highway.

Then, suddenly, over a six month period, I got three speeding tickets, two in Alabama, one in Mississippi. The timing with the economic downturn could not have been more suspicious.

Now I set my cruise control to the speed limit. I consider this a significantly more hazardous way to drive, since it prevents me from establishing a safe distance to nearby vehicles. I also spend significantly more time in the blind spots of other drivers. And my attention wanders more easily. I don't like this compromise to my safety at all but I feel this is what the government is forcing me to do.

Feeding the coffers of the small towns along Highway 72 is a form of taxation without representation, as well. The system is broken.

Having said that, the patrolmen I dealt with were extremely kind and professional. They are the only heroes in this story.

2:21 PM, March 10, 2010  
Blogger J said...

"I don't speed, and I don't want to"

I don't believe for a minute that if you were on a four lane divided road with no cross streets within a mile and a posted speed limit of 25-30 MPH, you wouldn't at least want to speed.

CA does a lot of stuff wrong, but this is one area they have right. Every state needs a law (like theirs) that says you cannot use electronic means to enforce a speed limit unless a traffic survey on that road has been done, and the posted speed limit is at or above the 85th percentile speed.

A law like TX has that caps the revenue a city can generate from traffic tickets would be nice too.

And as long as we're really dreaming, how about a law that requiring any kind of ticket quota from police officers is, by definition, extortion, with mandatory prison time and unlimited personal liability for supervisors of those police officers.

"But how do you prevent this from bring a part of the revenue stream? Only by using alternative punishments"

No, you prohibit government from keeping fine revenue, ever, ideally by requiring it be rebated to taxpayers, including those outside the jurisdiction if it's below the federal level. This should actually be the law for all fine revenue, not just traffic tickets.

2:35 PM, March 10, 2010  
Blogger PP said...

I have an idea. Why don't we all slow down, so there is nobody to ticket (take money from) anymore. Then this whole thing comes crashing down....

3:09 PM, March 10, 2010  
Blogger PP said...

And yes, I have seen more enforcement in certain areas. Truthfully, though, the areas are prety obvious, and, as someone already pointed out, easy to spot and avoid tickets. Pay attention.

"National Follow The Speed Limit Day". Think about it. How about over Memorial Day weekend. Take the money away from the system.

3:11 PM, March 10, 2010  
Blogger Rick said...

why do they call it a speed limit when it's really a speed minimum. If the posted speed is 60 and you go 55, you are a very bad person and others will make sure you know.

I like driving within the posted speed limit and while that doesn't incur fines, but it's definitely not allowed.

3:36 PM, March 10, 2010  
Blogger Micha Elyi said...

Bernard said...
"...suddenly, over a six month period, I got three speeding tickets, two in Alabama, one in Mississippi. The timing with the economic downturn could not have been more suspicious."

Ha ha, as if governments aren't always on the lookout for new revenue during uptimes and downturns both, eh?

Did it ever occur to you that some of your fellow 80-mph scofflaws wrecked cars and killed somebody on that stretch of highway around that time? Traffic fatalaties and citizen complaints about speeders motivate most traffic enforcement crackdowns.

"Now I set my cruise control to the speed limit. I consider this a significantly more hazardous way to drive, since it prevents me from establishing a safe distance to nearby vehicles."

False. Your vehicle is also equipped with brakes. Use them before you get too close to the vehicle ahead of you or when you're encroaching on the blind spot of a driver in another lane.

"...I feel this is what the government is forcing me to do.

That's the point of speed laws, Bernard. The government seeks to force you to travel no faster than a safe and legal speed. Why does the government do that? Because your fellow citizens don't trust you to be a responsible driver on your own, Bernard, and to read your story I can see that they're right.

"Feeding the coffers of the small towns along Highway 72 is a form of taxation without representation, as well. The system is broken."

False again. If the fines you incur really were "taxation without representation" as (for example) hotel occupancy taxes are, then instead of a costly system of patrolling for scofflaws and ticketing the ones who are caught we'd see every driver on that stretch of highway get sent a bill.

A lot of abuse and the appearance of abuse of traffic enforcement fines goes away when states follow California's lead in having most of the money collected in fines go to the state general fund instead being kept by localities or the state patrol.
 

3:56 PM, March 10, 2010  
Blogger A_R said...

Kind of like Montana(I may be wrong..) where the speed limit is unlimited, and one pays a charge when entering the state to go Bat-crap crazy driving fast.

I had a buddy stationed up there, who said you always stay to the right, since the left lane is for the rockets, just like in Germany on the Autobahn. He had a Mustang 5.0, and was constantly blown away by the fast-movers...


Maybe some sort of "speeding tag" that lets you drive faster, but eludes the fine - sort of a get out of jail card...

3:57 PM, March 10, 2010  
Blogger jayemarr said...

I don't have any answers for you, only observations. Yes, I've noticed an uptick in ticketing. I got a speeding ticket for 50 in a 35 last summer. The usual procedure for being 15 over is a verbal warning, most likely followed by a written citation for going somewhat less fast.

No warning this time though. The cop efficiently wrote me a ticket for doing 50 in a 35 -- he'd been lurking in bushes at the bottom of a hill (on a very wide road with good visibility) to catch me doing it.

I commented on his location and the general layout of the road, and he angrily replied that I should use my brake next time. I nodded and told him to have a nice day.

I hired a traffic attorney to contest the charge. From what I gather, they generally appear at every court date and stall; eventually the cop fails to show up and the charge is dropped. Except in my town, the courthouse is located next to the police station, so this didn't work.

After the 4th or 5th continuance, I gather (I was not present) that the judge got angry, and decided that I would be required to have no further offenses for a year (or I'd be convicted of the original offense), but that if I managed not to get any citations it would drop off my record. That part was fine really.

The catch: I was also assessed "court costs", which coincidentally were the exact value of the ticket.

Which supports the argument, in my view, that this is really just another tax.

But as someone pointed out: if everyone did this, it would not be profitable for them, or not nearly AS profitable. Most people simply mail them a check.

4:02 PM, March 10, 2010  
Blogger Patrick said...

I once dated a women who demanded a jury trial after getting a ticket for doing 62 MPH in a 45 MPH zone. She got two days in jail, a $1200 fine, and community service. In addition, the judge, Denise Majette, gave her a tongue lashing for, as I think she put it, "wasting the court's time."

So, I'd be inclined to avoid contesting the ticket, well, at least to the point of a jusry trial.

I live in Chamblee, GA, and work in Alpharetta, GA. So, I use GA 400 - the Alpharetta Autobahn - to get to work. I swear, if you're not doing 75 MPH+ on htat road in the morning, people will be crawling over you. I regularly have moments where I think someone's going to ram me.

The Doraville, Sandy Springs, and Roswell police are regularly out on I-285 and GA-400 at rush hour, picking people off. I'm absolutely convinced it's to raise revenue. To add insult to injury, the GA legislature has just passed a "super speeder" law that adds increased fines, just for going with what is the normal flow of traffic on GA 400.

So, what to do? Well, a Valentine One will pay for itself in a couple of tickets. A Bearcat 72 frequency scanner will give you extra information about the location of speed traps. In addition, there are websites that show the locations of speed traps in close to real time.

As far as my overall attitude to speeding, well, if you're going with the flow, no biggy. If you're weaving in and out of traffic, I hope you get a ticket.

In the immortal words of Newt Gingrich, speeding laws are really benchmarks of opportunity.

4:08 PM, March 10, 2010  
Blogger Helen said...

Professor Hale,

No, I am not looking to speed and blaming "having an accident." People who are impulsive, have no insurance, no forwarding address and don't give a rat's ass if they hit you get behind you and tail-gate. I have had this experience and know others who have also.

4:11 PM, March 10, 2010  
Blogger Micha Elyi said...

J said...
"...as long as we're really dreaming, how about a law that requiring any kind of ticket quota from police officers is, by definition, extortion, with mandatory prison time and unlimited personal liability for supervisors of those police officers."

In California, it's already illegal to impose ticket quotas on police officers although the consequences for violating that law aren't as severe as J would like. IIRC, San Francisco got outed some years ago for trying to sneak ticket writing quotas for their parking enforcement officers into their city budget.

As for the traffic survey requirement in California to set the posted speed limits that J mentioned, it's not only electronic (I assume J's talking about officers using radar because California doesn't allow photo enforcement for anything but required stops* - a.k.a. red light cameras) enforcement but eyeball enforcement of exceeding the posted speed is disallowed too. Of course, the officer could choose to write the driver up for driving faster than is safe (a different section of the CA V.C.) instead of exceeding the posted limit. However, in court the officer who wrote that faster-than-safe ticket could be asked to explain why the driver's speed was unsafe on that particular stretch of road.
 

*As is for anything else governmental however, eternal vigilance is the price of freedom.

4:31 PM, March 10, 2010  
Blogger Cham said...

My state also has technology that can identify your tag number and cross reference it with the state stolen vehicle database and unregistered vehicle database. I suppose it wouldn't be that much of a stretch to also have it identify uninsured vehicles, or maybe it does so already I don't know. That would solve the no insurance problem. All I know is that if you fail to register your car the police seem to pull you over relatively quickly and issue you a ticket around here due to the spying.

4:37 PM, March 10, 2010  
Blogger Cham said...

Rick says:

If the posted speed is 60 and you go 55, you are a very bad person and others will make sure you know. I like driving within the posted speed limit and while that doesn't incur fines, but it's definitely not allowed.

Why is it not allowed? Why do you care what any one else thinks?

4:44 PM, March 10, 2010  
Blogger NewHam said...

""We do not respond to blog postings."

Oh no he dint.

I bet by the time this is over they respond to blog postings.

4:48 PM, March 10, 2010  
Blogger pktomahawk said...

I have been ranting on this for weeks. It's as if the local police departments received their orders to rape and pillage the local populace to make up the budget shortfall. Your post is right on point. It's a feeding frenzy.

5:25 PM, March 10, 2010  
Blogger Topher said...

Cham,

I was the passenger in a buddy's car in northern CA when he got hit with a $281 ticket for a rolling stop through a stop sign. I full-stop at EVERY stop sign now!

5:36 PM, March 10, 2010  
Blogger pktomahawk said...

Topher - my wife was hit with a $110 ticket for rolling through a stop sign. She's over 40, and it's her first ticket ever. Plus - an identical story from a friend of ours. For the trifecta, our friends husband got a ticket for overly tinted windows. All within the last 6 weeks. It's beyond ridiculous.

5:46 PM, March 10, 2010  
Blogger JB said...

In Dallas last year, they faced a different problem with stoplight cameras. Evidently, the fines they were collecting were not enough to pay for the technology of the cameras -- the cameras could not even pay for themselves, much less contribute to the tax coffers.

I suppose the cameras were TOO GOOD at convincing people to stop.

What a dilemma for the City of Dallas: they fully believed that the stoplight cameras had cut down on accidents, but now the entire camera concept had become a cost center, rather than a revenue stream.

6:29 PM, March 10, 2010  
Blogger Holmes said...

I live in a small town in West Virginia and the police have been very active. It just happens to coincide with a budget shortage.

8:28 PM, March 10, 2010  
Blogger Becky said...

I live in Michigan, and it's not just speeding, we get to have gangs of police out on seat belt patrol.
According to the Police ads, evil non seat belt wearers are their number one enemy.

9:44 PM, March 10, 2010  
Blogger Wayne said...

A couple of observations:

1) It could very well be that not all the stops people have been observing were for speeding. An infamous cop quote is, "No one can drive more than three blocks without violating SOME traffic law".

2) Stop light cameras have been shown in Virginia and elsewhere to INCREASE rear-end accidents by causing drivers to stand on the brakes whenever they see the light turn Yellow. Additionally, some places have been known to shorten Yellow light times in order to increase ticketing rates.

3) Coincidentally, one of my Facebook friends posted this link after I had read Helen's post, but before I came back to comment: http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/virginia-state-police-help-with-budget-crunch/

10:57 PM, March 10, 2010  
Blogger Will said...

The gov's own statistics says that when the police stop writing speeding tickets, and the people become aware of it, the accident and fatality rate goes down. Every time! This has been tracked for at least 40 years. Their claim that they are needed to keep the roads safe are proven to be bogus. It is simply a revenue generating gov't dept that can't be downsized. The more cops, the more tickets they have to write.
For the claim that there is no quota for tickets, I've got a bridge in NYC I'd like to sell that person. It is never written down, but if you don't write as many as is typical for your beat, the bosses will make life more difficult for you. Transfers, shift changes, etc.
Back in the 90's, a good radar gun cost about $7 k. They would normally pay it off in 6 weeks. The administrators refer to radar guns as "revenue enhancement". Funny thing is, a radar ticket is the easiest one to beat, but you generally have to hire a traffic lawyer to get the judge to listen. Using it on a freeway with 4 lanes in both directions is totally bogus. Because of beam divergence, it will rapidly expand to cover the entire roadway. They always use it against vehicles coming toward them, but it is almost guaranteed that it will lock on a vehicle going away from them. And it will not tell them this. The reason is the shape of cars today. the back end is very blunt, or flat. For aerodynamic reasons. The front is nice and sharp or tapered or rounded. This is bad for signal bounce to return to the gun. It's like a stealth plane. The gun locks on the strongest return signal, using some sort of algorithum that looks at speed and size of return. Won't always lock on the fastest thing out there. Distance is a factor in the strength of the reflected signal. Bikes have to be very close, cars not as much, and big rigs will give the strongest return of all, at a considerable distance.
Years ago, I talked with a guy who was involved in the design of radar systems for the military. His comment was that the radar gun makers made claims that multi-million dollar defense systems couldn't meet. He also said that his speeding tickets always got dismissed when he contested them, due to his expertise in the radar field. He could make the cops, and their radar techs, look like lying fools, because they could not back up their claims. I doubt that hand held radar has gotten any more competent since.

11:38 PM, March 10, 2010  
Blogger Jeff said...

In Los Angeles, they have a few intersections manned with camaras which flash every light change, to catch red light runners. Imagine the revenue from a single one of those camaras, let say 10 runners a day x 256 days x $500 = $1.28M per camara per year. Now let's say at any of these intersection there are maybe, what, 2 accidents per year caused by red light runners on average. The fees are out of whack. Period.

At one intersection in Beverly Hills where there is one of these camaras, they actually have no solid 'don't walk' in the light sequence, it goes right to yellow. Rigged to trapped the maximum number of drivers, most of which, by the way are probably people who can't afford it. Someone responsible please come forward and put a stop to big money moving violation tickets AND parking tickets. It's not right the right way to balance a budget, and of course the bigger problem is government spending creep.

4:43 AM, March 11, 2010  
Blogger Cham said...

Jeff:

Our red light cameras have history. 13 years ago we had 4 intersections that were heavily abused by redlight runners. I must admit, they were dangerous, lots of accidents. The biggest reason was that our yellow lights last 1.4 seconds, the shortest ever. So rather than extending the yellow lights the city tried 4 redlight cameras. In one year revenue jumped by 10 million dollars, we had an excess. The mayor was quite pleased. Unfortunately, 2 short years later that excess disappeared and so did the accidents. People figured out about the cameras and stopped for the lights. The city's response was to simply add 75 red light cameras. Revenue was back up.

My city and state is unashamed now to mask all of these traffic cameras as anything but revenue enhancers. Why lie? The state gets a huge portion of its spending budget from the gas tax, but with all these cameras I think very long and very hard about going anywhere anymore that is not on a major highway. My gas consumption is way down. I'll walk or ride my bike or do anything not to drive in the city. Constantly driving around at 25 mph even on Sunday morning is painful when there is no other traffic. I've embraced the money-losing public transportation system. So this has become a lose lose for the state.

Oh, and those yellow lights, still 1.4 seconds.

7:19 AM, March 11, 2010  
Blogger Professor Hale said...

People who are impulsive, have no insurance, no forwarding address and don't give a rat's ass if they hit you get behind you and tail-gate. I have had this experience and know others who have also.

The best tactic I have seen for dealing with such people is to slow down, not speed up. You cannot go fast enough to satisfy some people. Their tailgating demonstrates their impatience. By going slower, they will go around you. By going faster, they will match your speed and still tailgate.

The government seeks to force you to travel no faster than a safe and legal speed.

It is the legal speed only because the government says it is. It is not the safe speed, it is the arbitrary speed. The yellow advisory signs are a good indicator of "safe speeds". When they are not present, Max safe speed in many western states should be somewhere around 100MPH. People in Pennsylvania should still be limited to 55, their roads stink.

8:38 AM, March 11, 2010  
Blogger GawainsGhost said...

Well, some time ago when I was in college, I left Austin to drive home for vacation. Shortly outside of the city traffic slowed to a crawl on I35. Bumper to bumper, barely 5mph, I figured there was some accident ahead that caused the congestion.

Numerous cars were peeling off the highway, driving over the grass median to the access road to avoid the blockage. I thought about doing the same, as it was becoming increasingly frustrating, but decided to just stay in the lane and eventually get around what was holding up the traffic.

Well, about an hour later, I came to the source of the problem. The DPS had blocked off all lanes but one and were only allowing cars through one at a time after stopping. Then I looked down to the access road. There was a long line of several hundred cars also blocked by the DPS. And each one was getting a ticket for illegally crossing the median.

Fortunately I avoided that situation and proceeded home. But it illustrates the salient point. The DPS created a road block to entice people to break the law, then gave them tickets for breaking the law. All for the purpose of making some established quota.

Just another day in America, I guess.

9:09 AM, March 11, 2010  
Blogger fred said...

Instead of blaming the police why not try to change speed laws? Or at the very least obey what happens to be the law, whether or not you like it. In fact all this bitching is simply about people irked b ecause they want to have the right to NOT obey what is currently the law where they live.

9:30 AM, March 11, 2010  
Blogger fred said...

Instead of blaming the police why not try to change speed laws? Or at the very least obey what happens to be the law, whether or not you like it. In fact all this bitching is simply about people irked b ecause they want to have the right to NOT obey what is currently the law where they live.

9:30 AM, March 11, 2010  
Blogger Kevin M said...

This comment has been removed by the author.

9:45 AM, March 11, 2010  
Blogger Larry J said...

If you want intelligent and modern traffic laws, you need to have a safe, convenient and affordable mass transit for those citizens who can't measure up to your standards. Europe does. Japan does. We don't. Because Detroit wants to stay rich.

Bullshit. Have you ever been to Europe or Japan? I've been to Japan and lived for two years in Germany. Their population density is many times higher than the US so it's relatively easy to implement effective mass transit. The city I live in has an area greater than Chicago and San Francisco combined but a population of only 400,000. The bus system requires heavy subsidizies every year because it never breaks even.

9:54 AM, March 11, 2010  
Blogger Professor Hale said...

Kevin M,
Was it advanced highway science that determined during the Carter administration to make 55 the national speed limit? Or was it science when it was repealed? The limit in Virginia is now 65 but there is a bill before the assembly to change that to 70. Highway science or arbitrary diktat of government?

It may have missed your notice but many US cities do have extensive and taxpayer subsidized mass transit systems. Those places universally also have drunk drivers, speeders, red light runners and all the rest of the evils of crass individualism you bemoan. Mass transit does not go everywhere that people want to go when they want to go. Cars and taxis fill the gap.

If you like being a serf, then I am sure living in Europe or Japan is just fine. But my ancestors left there for a reason.

1:24 PM, March 11, 2010  
Blogger Professor Hale said...

Sorry... Nixon.

1:26 PM, March 11, 2010  
Blogger Mary said...

" habitual speeding is thumbing one's nose at road safety "

Not necessarily. In rural stretches, with perfect roadwork and no cars around for hundreds of yards, your car really can go safely faster than 65 (or 55).

Do you know how fast good drivers can go on the Autobahn, for years and years and years with no collisions?

Sure, there's always the argument that even with no one around, you might somehow "lose control" at 70 or 75 -- just a few miles over what's legal. Or, hit a deer -- that suddenly appears in broad daylight one summer day from the cornfields and the road buffer, that somehow, you just didn't see in mid-day... (fyi: deer are out more at dusk and dawn, and nighttime. My scenario is facetious).

I agree with Helen: there's sitting out there with the technology on the rural, expressways when there's no one around and you ARE driving safe for the conditions ... just for the revenue.

And always show up and plead not guilty the first go around. Sometimes they'll not want to assign a judge or have you come in again, so the DA can drop the mileage you were over = less pts on the license, and less $$ in fines if you take the guilty plea.

You do a cost-value analysis to see if it's worth it to fight on, or just pay as you go. I'm not educated enough to see how often they overrule those gun clockings (mine were pretty accurate, I think), but I'll speculate when they have a "roundup" like Helen seems to have experienced here, a judge will be more sympathetic to the sudden influx of drivers from that one time and one day, and you're more likely to get a dismissal and a warning if your record is otherwise clean.

Let us know what happens -- if Glenn is an currently licensed attorney, might you convince him to go in and represent you? Maybe the judge (or DA at the first appearance) will be an Insty fan??

I'm pretty proud if you took the ticket though. You have the looks it seems, that if you wanted to use them to get out of it with the cop, it might have worked. I've never been tempted to "charm" them roadside that way myself; doesn't seem fair to all the motorists -- male or otherwise -- who just aren't as charming, young and good-looking as me. ;-) (Big fat lol here!)

Just don't like it too much when people play that kind of card ... just because they can.

4:10 PM, March 11, 2010  
Blogger Mary said...

PS re the use of radar guns:

Ain't technology great? Trouble is, we have to develop the sane policies and ethics in practice to keep up with it.

One time when negotiating w/the DA over the phone (remember: they don't want you to come in for another appearance after you'd pled Not Guilty either), I just admitted my speed, and argued that though over the legal limit, I was proceeding safely as no other cars were around or in sight even, excellent road conditions. Plus significant buffers even, with grass and trees where you are isolated in view from the opposite lanes. That's when the DA played the "what if a deer comes out in the middle of the day on a highway with great visibility all the way around.)

Get to know their "hiding spots" with those radar guns on familiar drives; slow down in case they are clocking you from yards and yards away; and ALWAYS lower your speed for conditions (weather, congestion, road conditions, etc.)

That's all I've got to offer...

4:16 PM, March 11, 2010  
Blogger Mary said...

"The best tactic I have seen for dealing with such people is to slow down, not speed up. You cannot go fast enough to satisfy some people. Their tailgating demonstrates their impatience. By going slower, they will go around you."

Good advice ... on one-lane roads. Otherwise, accelerate under control, and get over into the right(er) lanes to LET them pass you.

Otherwise this advice has them passing you in the RIGHT hand lanes. Never, never, never do that. Even if it's wide open in the right lane. Better to wait out (not tailgate though) the driver who is going slower, and hasn't realized yet that he should get over (if/when possible) and let the vehicles go faster safely pass them... in the Right(er) Hand lane.

I too hate tailgaters (and rt hand lane passers; both are WAAAAYYY more dangerous than speeders, as they are so ... close!). Too bad the cops can't ticket on that.

Plus, even if someone's speeding way out of control, get in the right(er) lane to let them pass. Don't be that "traffic speeding cop" in congestion, thinking by bottling everyone up together you are helping things...

(Whew! I like car/driving posts myself.)

4:23 PM, March 11, 2010  
Blogger Mary said...

OK -- one more:

If someone is tailgating you on a one lane, or if they are tailgating you before you can get over to the right and safely let them pass, "flip them off" NOT with your middle finger but by "flipping" up your rear view mirror to the nighttime/reducing glare position.

Keep your eyes straight ahead, your hands upon the wheel. DON'T keep eyeballing the rearview mirror to see how close they are coming. When somebody's that stupid to follow so close, you REALLY need to be driving defensively with your eyes staight ahead, alert, and seeking to get yourself out of that situation.

Your control you, your car, and don't let the tailgating driver make YOU lose control. (I really should be a drivers' ed classroom teacher. Tips galore, learned along the way :-)

4:32 PM, March 11, 2010  
Blogger Topher said...

Prof. Hale,

I believe the 55mph speed limit was a measure designed to reduce the nation's overall gas consumption.

Driving faster reduces fuel efficiency per mile due to aerodynamics. This is one area of government science that appears to be legitimate, although its policy implications are murky and racked with cost-benefit conundra.

5:56 PM, March 11, 2010  
Blogger justin said...

The 55 mph limit was based on the idea of saving gas but did not have any scientific backing. The speed / efficiency curve varies with vehicle type.

6:21 PM, March 11, 2010  
Blogger JB said...

And, in the total irony department:

I got stopped for speeding today.

I don't speed. I never speed. This is the first time I've been pulled over in decades.

I was going more slowly than everyone else around me.

I am fairly certain that the radar was bouncing off the big box trucking shooting past me, not off of me.

But I was the one in the red convertible. So I was the one that the officer nailed.

Of course I plan to fight it.

9:03 PM, March 11, 2010  
Blogger Methadras said...

In California, where I live, you can fight any ticket by what's called a Trial by Declaration. You in essence can, in written format explain to a commissioner, not a judge, why you should be penalized in any way and also explain why you shouldn't have gotten a ticket. You have roughly 30 - 45 days to submit a tr-205 form, filled out in your own words to the commissioner the circumstances of your innocence. Submit any evidence to that effect, send in the bail amount that came with your notice (California sends out notices to appear in traffic court) and submit the form, preferrably via certified/registered mail. Then the commissioners office gives the citing officer 25 - 30 days to send in his written statement. The commissioner then assess the evidence and you will get a notice of this verdict by mail. If you win, you get your bail back and a letter explaining that you are not guilty and vice versa. Most of the time, the citing officer will not send in any written form at all and therefore you are free and clear.

The reason for this is because officers get overtime pay to show up to court when you plead not guilty and show up. They get nothing if they have to sit and figure out who you were and make something up, which they are not willing to do. Also, in your tr-205 you can ask, if in the event you are found guilty that you can ask for traffic school and/or a reduced fine. I always do, but I have a 100% record so far of beating this racket.

It's a scam for the most part. Traffic school is a kangaroo system of justice and it's based around how stupid you are as a citizen. Know the game and play it to win. If you are in california only fight a traffic ticket with a tr-205. Never show up to court if you can avoid it.

10:20 PM, March 11, 2010  
Blogger Methadras said...

By the way, invest in a radar/laser detector if you can afford one. Worth the money in my opinion.

10:25 PM, March 11, 2010  
Blogger Mary said...

I've learned that the hard way, Methadras. Any suggestions on make/model, for efficiency (lower price w/best signal "pickup"?) ?

10:44 PM, March 11, 2010  
Blogger Will said...

JB:
If there was a box truck moving within a quarter mile of you, that is most likely what it locked on.
Basically, if there is ANYTHING moving within at least a 1/4 mile of your vehicle, there is NO WAY to know what the radar locked onto. It has been shown to lock on trees blowing in a high wind, low flying small planes, and bouncing off metal signs to pick up vehicles behind the gun.
The car and motorcycle magazines buy these radar guns for use in testing. They find them difficult to get clean hits, due to other moving vehicles. Basically, they have to use abandoned or blocked off roads to get them to work right.
Fight the ticket. Do some research. Find out if it is necessary to use an attorney in your locale, or if you can simply bring in the documentation to show how it is impossible to know with any certainty what it locked on.


Mary:
The Valentine is probably still the best. Not cheap, though.

12:23 AM, March 12, 2010  
Blogger LPF said...

"I too hate tailgaters (and rt hand lane passers; both are WAAAAYYY more dangerous than speeders, as they are so ... close!). Too bad the cops can't ticket on that."

Actually, undertaking (passing on the right) is an offense in some states... Of course blocking the left lane (as you must be doing if someone can & does pass on the right) is also an offense (failure to yield to faster traffic).

Slower traffic keep right.

10:58 AM, March 12, 2010  
Blogger Wayne said...

@Fred - I don't think most of us here are blaming the cops themselves, just the policies they have to follow.

11:31 AM, March 12, 2010  
Blogger daflowers said...

Wouldn't it be great if half (or all) of those officers spent their time serving the people out on the roads? Helping those that have broken down... when is the last time you saw an officer helping the change a flat tire?
I have great admiration and respect for the police force, esp those in large cities, but still would love for the ideal of "serve and protect" to return to what it once was...

4:31 PM, March 12, 2010  
Blogger Mario said...

I live a little over an hour north of NYC. Since December I've noticed cops everywhere. It has stopped. I've been telling people to be careful.

I have no doubt that cops are being pushed to generate as much revenue as possible for cash-strapped states.

9:46 AM, March 13, 2010  
Blogger Cham said...

I don't blame the police departments at all for this increased enthusiasm for ticketing. The people are screaming for more police protection due to real and imagined threats, like terrorism. Police departments naturally want to get bigger so they become richer and more powerful. The only way to do that without an increase in conventional revenue generation methods like sales, property and income taxes is create a police-generated revenue stream. Hence the police-manned speed traps. You have to find a way to collect fees from people who will pay them, like wage earners with ties to the community. If you slap fines on addicts or burglars you are attempting to get blood from a turnip. Again, I'm not blaming the police but I have an idea who the culprits are in this mess.....mirror please.

11:19 AM, March 13, 2010  
Blogger Michael Ryan said...

The police may be busy here in Virginia, but to no avail for the police themselves. All fines paid go to state education funding.

9:34 AM, March 14, 2010  
Blogger Mary said...

I have good long-term eyesight. Say I'm in the middle lane, and up ahead in the right lane is a car going slower than the speed of traffic in the middle lane. Someone is coming up behind me fast, with the left lane open, and the right lane too, except for that car up ahead. How many a-holes (like you I presume?) choose the "open" right lane, cursing me because I didn't get over for you, only to slam on your brakes and have to sheepishly get in behind me (don't try and cut me off when you eventually have to get left to pass that car I saw, and you apparently didn't).

If you're passing on the right in a bottleneck of drivers, trust me: eventually you're going to have to have to slow down and get back in the faster passing lanes. Sometimes short term gains don't hold.

That's probably why it's easier for me just to steer clear of cars that like to clump together. You really are safer depending on your own skills, if you're alert and experienced.

Pass in the passing lanes. And then get over. Zoom zoom.

12:41 PM, March 14, 2010  
Blogger Mary said...

"When is the last time you saw an officer helping the change a flat tire?"

Call Triple AAA, or a tow truck. The side of the road is the most dangerous place to be, even well pulled over.

I don't want police becoming maintenance men for every falling apart car out there. They can stop to make sure there's no medical emergency, and call a tow truck if you've no phone, or put up cones behind you to alert oncoming traffic.

But change your tire? Not in the job description, fortunately.

12:45 PM, March 14, 2010  
Blogger RR Ryan said...

I seem to have inadvertantly deleted my comment. The correct answer to the question, "Do you know why I pulled you over?," is always "No". Don't argue, but make the cop explain it.

2:40 PM, March 14, 2010  
Blogger Methadras said...

Mary said...

I've learned that the hard way, Methadras. Any suggestions on make/model, for efficiency (lower price w/best signal "pickup"?) ?


Mary, Passport is a very good all-around detector. They make a wireless version as well. The Valentine One is another good model. I have a couple of good friends that own them and they swear by them. They even went so far as to hack the Valentine Ones into their car system so that their onscreen displays in their car will give them a readout whenever they encounter radar or laser emitters. Google/Bing are an excellent resource for ratings and reviews. Stay away from ebay as most of that stuff is stolen or at least buy from a reputable ebay dealer. Good luck.

8:56 PM, March 15, 2010  
Blogger Methadras said...

Cham said...

I don't blame the police departments at all for this increased enthusiasm for ticketing. The people are screaming for more police protection due to real and imagined threats, like terrorism.


How does terrorism equate to police departments using traffic enforcement as a revenue generation stream back to their municipality and the state? That's what they do, they will never admit, but they do it. They know it, we know it. There is a quota system and it's in full effect. Go to any traffic court and you will see it on display.

Police departments naturally want to get bigger so they become richer and more powerful.

Stunning isn't it how a local/state agency wants to see its largess increase on the backs of tax paying citizens that are not only taxed once, but in effect taxed differentially based on their driving habits or rather on the perception of the police officers arbitrary application of their driving habits. By the way, have you ever seen how large the California Vehicular Code is? It's huge. I carry one in each one of my cars just in case I have to deal with an officer making shit up, which they do on occasion.

The only way to do that without an increase in conventional revenue generation methods like sales, property and income taxes is create a police-generated revenue stream.

Yes, a police generated revenue stream is actually an arbitrary tax on your driving habits or the officers perceptions of what they are based on the law. Anything the state charges you for whether it's a fine or a fee is better known as a tax. They just don't call it that for obvious reasons.

Hence the police-manned speed traps.

Which are illegal. Didn't you know that? Nudge, nudge, wink, wink?

You have to find a way to collect fees from people who will pay them, like wage earners with ties to the community. If you slap fines on addicts or burglars you are attempting to get blood from a turnip. Again, I'm not blaming the police but I have an idea who the culprits are in this mess.....mirror please.

Clearly your disclaimer is one made out of fear. The police are solely responsible for citing traffic violation infractions and therefore are the only ones to blame for the bullshit that is traffic court. There is an entire industry based on it. Many PD's rely on this money stream. So who are you (not) defending again?

9:06 PM, March 15, 2010  
Blogger Methadras said...

RR Ryan said...

I seem to have inadvertantly deleted my comment. The correct answer to the question, "Do you know why I pulled you over?," is always "No". Don't argue, but make the cop explain it.


The actual answer will be, "well yes officers I actually do know why you pulled me over. It's obviously to expound upon your petty need to impede my forward progress so you can explain to me how your shitty day has impacted your perception of what you think you saw vs. something that is so minor as to be insignificantly stupid. that's why you pulled me over."

9:09 PM, March 15, 2010  
Blogger KCJohnGalt said...

Good thread.

I'll keep my comments simple - in mid 2009 I noticed the police in Kansas City and Overland Park really stepping up their presence and probably enforcement (I can see a cop - I can't tell how many tickets he wrote that day). I reacted by doing a variation of "Going Galt" - I simply resolved to not violate ANY traffic laws whatsoever going forward, inasmuch as it is in my power to do so. The goal was to starve them of fine revenue, period. And I have.

I can't tell you exact numbers of police cars I've driven by and smiled at, knowing their radar wasn't flashing three cherries at them when I went by, but it's been a lot. No more tension, no more looking for cruisers, no higher insurance rates, just a smooth journey albeit a little longer.

It's more than worth it.

2:37 AM, March 17, 2010  

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