Bad Samaritans?

January 31st, 2008
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Traffic’s back! Some of the morbidly dedicated readers of the page will recall a flurry of traffic-related blogs last year. These seemed to really strike a chord, based on the number of comments we received – some very detailed.

From that response, it likely won’t take much discussion of speed traps to get readers hot under the collar. If we haven’t written it already, the sight of strapping young policemen brandishing radar guns in suburban Calgary (or Ottawa for that matter) – while women feel unsafe walking alone in parts of the city – doesn’t inspire much admiration for our men in blue. Almost everyone has a particularly galling, personal speeding story, about getting nabbed on the way to church, cops hiding behind concrete pillars, or disguised as shrubs in a school zone.

As someone who routinely edges over the speed-limit, I guess a handful of tickets in a lifetime shouldn’t be THAT aggravating. But if the objective of the ticketing is simply using by-laws as a money-grab from already over-taxed citizens – then many will agree that an ethical line has been crossed.

Well, it gets worse. According to a recent report, police are trying to push the ticketing envelope even further. It’s worth reading the whole article, it’s cheeky and well-written. Seems that not only were Toronto police going after some “low-hanging fruit”, i.e. enthusiastic drivers on a broad, clear motorway, but ticketing those trying to warn other drivers about the speed trap!

Yes, you heard right. The Force set up a SECOND checkpoint to ticket drivers who flashed their lights at oncoming traffic approaching the speed trap. As the article suggests, if the objective of speed-traps is safety, then police should WANT you to warn oncoming drivers to slowdown. But no! Clearly the speed-trap is to collect money; otherwise they wouldn’t be ticketing the “warners”. Wow.

This reminds me of a related question – how to deal with expired parking meters. I had the experience some years ago of walking back from lunch along a line of cars with expired meters. I noticed, about a block away, a “by-law enforcement officer” (insert expletive here) writing parking tickets.

Having a pocketful of change and a warm giving heart (OK, I exaggerate) I decided to start putting money in the expired meters. Within seconds the uniformed (insert expletive here) was upon me. “You shouldn’t be doin’ that” he said. When I asked why he responded “Them people don’t need the money”. Well if that doesn’t sum up perfectly the attitude of minor officials everywhere! They perfectly rationalize their mini-totalitarianism.

I only found out later that what I had done might well have been illegal! Here is a recent article that suggests just that.

So it appears that the state expects its pound of flesh, and woe to those who step in its way. And what’s with the safety mantra? Well, now we know what that’s really all about.

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