Tuesday, July 29, 2008

I once wrote an article titled " I'd Rather Get Mugged Than Get A Traffic Ticket". Basically I said that getting mugged was faster, cheaper and has no long term repercussions such as increased insurance premiums or loss of my license. If I get mugged, the guy is only going to get $20.00 or $30.00 sometimes less and its over in about 30 seconds. If I get a ticket, it will cost $150.00 to $500.00 or more. If I didn't have car insurance that ticket for no insurance will be about $1,350.00. The mugger would love a score like that.

Unfortunately the traffic ticket fine is just the beginning. If you don't fight each ticket you get points against your license which could lead to the loss of your driving privileges which could eventually lead to the loss of your job and your ability to support yourself or your family.

The next thing you might face if you don't fight each ticket is an insurance rate increase or something worse like cancellation by the company you've been paying faithfully year after year after year. Insurance companies love to see us get tickets because they can raise our rates. Naturally they want the speed limits lower so we will get more tickets which means higher rates and more money for them.

Did you know that insurance companies spend 26 million dollars a year checking peoples driving records? Believe me they are not checking to see if you have no tickets so they can give you a good driver discount. They are checking to see if you have any traffic tickets so they can increase your rates accordingly.

One last thing - in a mugging the mugger might get arrested but never the muggee. Sit in on any traffic court and you will hear the judge issuing arrest warrants for things like failure to appear, contempt or whatever else is on the agenda that day. I swear to you, I was in traffic court this morning and someone failed to appear in court. The judge threw the file to the clerk and said "issue an arrest warrant with $10,000.00 bail".

The reason I got started in my campaign against unfair traffic tickets is because I have always felt like a victim whenever I have received a ticket no matter how well deserved. This feeling usually comes right after I get the notice that the extra 8 MPH over the limit will cost me $350.00. At that point I begin to feel like I've been robbed at the point of a radar gun by a masked (sunglasses) bandit in a black and white car or motorcycle who was hiding behind a huge garbage dumpster.

They always say they are writing these tickets in the interests of my safety. This may have been true at some point in the past before tickets became big business. Now I believe most are written to raise revenue, not for safety. If they were really interested in safety they would not hide behind walls and bushes but would be stationed out in the open where they can be seen and thus be a true deterrent to unsafe driving. The problem is that if they did this they would not make any money.

Hiding behind buildings and bushes doesn't cause anyone to drive slower or safer. It only causes bad relationships between the driving public and the police.

Radar traps good speed control or cash cow?

If you were on Steeles Avenue in Toronto two Sundays ago, you might have got mugged. Actually, you might have felt like you got mugged, although the lifting of funds from your pocket would have been perfectly legal. You wouldn't have been the only one to get mugged; I counted one person every two minutes getting fleeced. And the police were right there.

In fact, if one were so inclined, as a certain auto writer has occasionally been accused, one could say it was the police doing the mugging. OK, for the record (and so I don't get sued), I will categorically and definitively state that there was no police-involved mugging going on. But it was a speed trap, all laser-gunned out with multiple police officers writing tickets as fast as their keyboards could swipe driver's licences.

Any of the legendary speed traps -- New Rome, Ohio, Summersville, W. Va. -- would be justifiably envious of Toronto's finest as they raked in the big bucks on Steeles just west of Leslie.

In a scene often repeated in exactly the same spot, multiple cruisers were parked with one gendarme manning the laser gun while his colleagues wrote the tickets. Business was so good, in fact, that the guy manning the laser often had to abandon his post to aid in the prescription writing. In the time I was watching, they were averaging about one ticket every two minutes. They could have done more. The laser gun operator was seldom back at his post for more than 30 seconds before some other miscreant was unceremoniously flagged. Donations were so abundant that at least five collectors could have been kept busy.

But, Dave, you say, surely this was a particularly dangerous piece of road that they might focus their efforts so strenuously? Au contraire. Leslie after it leaves Bluffwood Avenue westward has no specific trigger points. There are, for instance, no bus stops before the police officers' hidey place is reached. There are no side streets to cause merging traffic and there is virtually no pedestrian traffic on the north side of Steeles walking westbound. In fact, all of that exists on the other side of the street in the eastbound lanes, which, as you might have guessed, remains consistently free of policing.

The reason for heavy policing on the westbound lanes is that they are downhill. Drivers, feeling comfortable with three lanes of relatively unobstructed traffic, don't dab the brakes quite enough and, bam, the long arm of the law nabs the miscreant. Even at only $100 a throw, this gang was contributing significantly to Toronto's coffers.

But my neighbourhood isn't the only cash cow. The same circumstances prevail on Eglinton eastbound between Don Mills and Lawrence -- multiple lanes, great sight lines, little side traffic, relatively few pedestrians and, of course, one mother of a long downhill run to encourage misbehaviour. My last traffic ticket was on Bathurst, where a police officer was picking off errant motorists on the long downhill just before St. Clair.

It's not that I don't believe in speed enforcement per se. If our constabulary, for instance, were to hang out in each and every one of Toronto's school zones and charge anyone driving more than 40 kilometres an hour with reckless driving, I'd stand up and applaud. And should they decide to come just up the road a bit and "calm" traffic along Bluffwood so that the many toddlers in my neighbourhood can feel safer, I will personally thank each and every one. I'll even bring them coffee in the morning. But trying to tell me that they are writing a speeding ticket every two or three minutes for my safety while barely having time for a perfunctory "and slow down" before grabbing the next poor unfortunate does not fit into my idea of "serve and protect."

We are being inundated with information that says speeding is the No. 1 road safety enemy, though we are given precious little proof that it is, in fact, the top cause of accidents and fatalities. Nor is there any delineation as to when and where -- residential/ urban streets, rural byways or high-speed motor-ways -- the dangers actually occur.

We are simply told that all speeding is bad, softening us up to accept an egregious enforcement of rules of questionable merit.


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Anonymous Anonymous said...

I'm a native of Summersville and am glad to see my little hometown get a little publicity. When you are traveling on Route 19 South, slow to 50 mph when bypassing Summersville, W.V. You will get a ticket.

Just FYI: This started innocently enough. Back in the 1970s when 19 was being four-laned and there was lots of construction going on, there were several horrific accidents -- almost daily, I lost friends in some -- caused by people going to fast. The heavy patrols started then innocently enough to try to save lives. I guess the town just found it was a good source of income and kept it up after the construction was completed.

6:53 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

You're talking about the tip of the iceberg when it comes to traffic courts. The system is horribly unfair.

7:12 PM  

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