Thursday, March 23, 2006

Traffic laws

I'm a big fan of traffic laws and their enforcement. I'm glad that speeding tickets are handed out like crazy around the Microsoft campus. I'm glad that the laws are at least occasionally enforced. And I'm always really angry when people bitch about getting a ticket, or try to use sneaky, underhanded tactics to avoid paying tickets.

Maybe if the world didn't prove itself to be completely unwilling to follow reasonable rules, I wouldn't be so happy to see these people fined. I wouldn't mind it if the already-high ticket fees doubled. But people drive incredibly unsafely and insist that they're perfectly fine and aren't hurting anyone... and that's just disgustingly self-centered. Driving is already dangerous enough as it is. We don't need assholes driving at double the speed limit and ignoring stop signs.

People trying to avoid paying tickets on technicalities disgust me twice as much, because they combine two of my pet peeves into one act. Trying to get a case dismissed on grounds like "oh, the officer forgot to bring calibration reports for his radar gun; clearly I'm innocent" or things like that is just repugnant. I have no respect for people who try to cheat the court system, but it bothers me even more that it actually works.

Now, I'm not in favor of very strict enforcement of traffic laws. Going 65 in a 60 zone shouldn't be cause for ticketing. Maybe not even 70. But people going 95 should have their licenses revoked. I'd perhaps be okay with some rare extenuating circumstance like "my wife is pregnant," but in most cases, I think that a single incident of speeding of that magnitude should be grounds for losing one's license to drive. It annoyed me to no end reading mail threads at work about people who were caught doing 115 on the freeway and were asking which lawyer had the best chances of getting them off on a technicality. These people should have to pay a $1000 fine and lose the right to drive for at least a year. I have no sympathy for them.

What I'm in favor of is the enforcement of laws that are clearly being broken intentionally, like speeding more than 10 miles per hour, or people who drive so far past the correct place to stop at an intersection that they'd still be breaking the law if their front wheels were where their back wheels are. I'm not at all supporting nitpicking, like ticketing for "going 55 in a 54." Just so we're clear on that.


Anonymous said...

I tend to agree with you on most counts here. I saw this sort of thing all the time when I heard parking ticket appeals for the ASUN student court. It almost ALWAYS boils down to the person knowing they were parking illegally and being too big a douche to just pay the damn fine. I think in the 5 times I heard it I granted 3 appeals.

Where I disagree is in terms of "fooling the courts". The rules for civil procedure are very clear to protect the innocent wrongfully accused. It is intentionally difficult for the state to take away someone’s rights, and procedure exists to help ensure that when the state does act, it is doing so without error. It's not a perfect system, but the burden of proof HAS to fall to the state, and officers have to follow rules and bring all their evidence and show up for court dates.

Now a traffic ticket is MUCH different than a serious crime, but the system is the system. Does it suck that my sister once got out of a ticket because the officer wrote on the ticket that she was driving a Lincoln Continental when in fact she was driving a Lincoln Towncar? Hell yes it does. But it also sucks when tax paid civil servants who are charged with potentially taking away rights of citizens do their work sloppily or don't bother to follow known and conventional procedure. The door swings both ways on that one.

Not to disparage hard working civil servants: I’m guessing the percentage of tickets actually tossed on legit technicalities is rather small. But the fact that we live in a society where we are free to challenge the authority is something to be embraced not loathed.

... and just in case anyone was wondering, it is Irish Spring soap.

Travis said...

Yes, it's definitely a delicate balance, and not something that can just be "fixed," but I think that this is an area where we're too cautious right now.

From what I hear, officers in this area are getting much better about showing up for court, and bringing the required materials. That's good.

Maybe a more realistic penalty would be all that it would take to get some of the more grievous offenders to clean up their act. A $200 fine is meaningless to someone driving a $40,000 sports car. License revocation isn't.

Matthew Johnson said...

My question about licence revocation is: what is the penalty for being stopped with a suspended licence? If the penalty for that is just another fine, then suspending a wealthy person's licence is just transferring the fine until they get caught again driving without a licence.

Steven said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Steven said...

I think tickets for speeding are a necessary evil.

I think that if people can wiggle out of it, then good for them. :-P Annoying as it may be, people get away with murder, if they can't get away with a speeding ticket then we are really in trouble!

After all, by the time they hire a lawyer, go to court, etc. Combined with the amount of time they spend going to court, they are probably already out more money than the original ticket and had this huge hassle.

Travis said...

I dunno; policemen carry guns, right?

I thought that the standard penalty for driving with a suspended license was a fee, further suspension, and jail time. But maybe that's just some fantasy I had once.