Saturday, November 25, 2006


I got popped again today. Heading south on the Bend parkway this time. All i got was 2 little chirps out of the radar detector. A glance at the occasionally helpful device confirmed my fear--the "L" light was blinking at me; "L" as in laser. For the most part, if your radar detector picks up a laser signal, it's basically just telling you that you're already screwed. Sometimes the detectors can be useful in warning you about oncoming cops, it will pickup radar waves that are scattered all over as The Man is blasting the cars ahead of you. Laser is a different animal though; it's extremely precise and is directed at only a single vehicle at a time. It also acquires a reading much more quickly than radar (or so i'm told).

So, if you get the laser signal from your detector, you might as well just go ahead and pull over... or run.

Anyway, I've so little faith in my radar detector these days, that i figured it was just a false alarm. Of course, i scanned the roadway ahead of me for possible police vehicles, just in case. As I did, I noticed a white SUV barely visible behind the bank and divider separating the highway from an upcoming on-ramp. As I watched, the SUV moved out from it's parked position and accelerated up the ramp. Sure enough, when it broke past the barrier, I could see that it bore the insignia of our city's finest. After merging in, he pulled right up behind me and stayed there.

Generally I drive 60 to 65 on this road. I can't argue the fact that it's marked with a limit of 45 mph, but it's a freeway. There are no intersections for several miles, there are ramps for entering and exiting traffic, two lanes, and it's divided from oncoming traffic. Traffic tends to flow at about 60 mph. I tend to go faster than most people.

Well, there's no need for further suspense; by this point it's as clear to you as it was to me that Mr. Police Man intended to have a chat with me. He followed me to the next exit, then put his lights on. I was ready, already having slowed to within 5 of the speed limit (going actually at, or *gasp* under the speed limit would look way too suspicious) and worked into the right lane.

After I drove past two other cars also enduring the wrath of the local heat, I was able to find an unoccupied piece of curb to park at. The officer said I was speeding, and that he assumed I knew it, since I slowed by nearly 20 mph as soon as I saw him; then he took my credentials back to his car.

He said he got me at 68; I don't doubt it, but that is a little faster than I normally go on that road. I told him that. It didn't help. He wrote the ticket for 65 instead of 68. That way i was not more than 20 mph over the limit, and it's a lesser fine. How sublimely generous of him.

Side Note: I hate that policemen are usually (not always!) so professional during these encounters. It causes me to feel like the jerk and the unreasonable one if i raise a ruckus.

As I waited for my citation, I had ample time to note that it was the 25th day of the month, and also coming up on the holidays. I suppose that the department was not quite on track to make its quota for the month, and they have a few extra expenses coming up, so they decided to go out and set up a speed trap. The parkway is guaranteed easy-pickings. It's safe to do well over the speed limit, so of course, most people do. Since it's safe, the department usually doesn't worry about it too much. But oh what an easy source of revenue when the budget is looking thin! One cop can probably write four tickets per hour there. Since there were two other people already pulled over, and i was the third, there were at least 3 men working that stretch. That's 12 tickets per hour, at $150 each. The department is pulling in $1,800 per hour.

It's unsportsmanlike. Shooting fish in a barrel would be harder. Fish are unpredictable. We, in our cars, must follow the lines; and lasers are more accurate than any bullet. The Man should have to work a little harder than that to get into my wallet! If only it were that easy for us to make a living!

Don't get me wrong, i'm not implying that the citation revenues translate directly into policeman's wages. And I'm not placing blame on the individual officers so much as I am the system that they work in. I think traffic officers are largely unneeded and that American society would do just fine with about 25% of the traffic officers we have now. If there weren't so many of them to support, they wouldn't have to write so many tickets to keep the department funded! I would gladly pay more in taxes than i pay in traffic tickets annually, and not have to feel paranoid while driving. And i'd have the satisfaction of knowing that more of my dollars were being put to work on productive tasks, like reducing crime or conditions that actually endanger people. That and not feeling like it was stolen from me, would be welcome conditions.

Hopefully things will come to be more like that some day. Until then, I'll continue to pay tickets I guess. I wonder if bribing would work? I doubt it, and I'd imagine the consequences for attempting to bribe an officer are pretty high. Maybe I'll have to start running. Also high consequences, but more likely to succeed (when on two wheels anyway, not so much with the SUV).

Wish me luck.

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