Today I am going to take an unpopular position and defend police officers and the enforcement of traffic laws and writing traffic tickets. At least those tickets that are generated by actual police officers and not those tickets that are issued by speed cameras. My opinion will be very biased because I am a retired police officer who has worked on a traffic unit for many years. This article is in response to many articles that are the opinions of other people who completely dismiss the ticket issue as purely a cash cow for the government and insurance companies and an initiative that has nothing to do with road safety.
I will dare to say that everyone hates getting traffic tickets or parking tickets. I do not see anyone who will dispute that point. The prospect of having money taken out of our pockets because of poor driving choices really hurts. Hurts or Sucks or Bites or whatever terms that you may choose to use. I have had a couple in my life too so I know that no one is immune to tickets. There comes a point in time that every driver has to look in the rear view mirror and take responsibility for who is doing whatever action that caused them to get that ticket or to be stopped by the police. No, it is not the traffic cop who is at fault that you got that ticket. He was the guy who has a job to do and was at the right spot at the right time and had his eyes open to see whatever you did. Not his fault. The cop did not put his foot on your gas pedal or not stop at the stop sign or do whatever you are alleged to have done. Is anyone in today’s society who is willing to man up and admit that it was them who did something wrong? Thank you to those who are willing to do so. For those who may offer up a myriad of excuses, thank you for sharing and you may offer your excuses to the judge and he will make his determination. Playing the “Blame Game” and avoiding any responsibility on your part is old news. Time to suck it up buttercup!
So sorry that you may believe that you have your right to drive the way that you like and that the governments and judges and police all conspire to infringe on your God given rights to do whatever you want on the roadways. You may believe that any rules of the road should not apply to you because you are a more knowledgeable, aware and skilled driver on the road. While a certain percentage of the population may be better than average drivers, there is a portion of the population where this may be a belief but is not actually true. You may cite some studies, that may say that speed limits should be raised because of better designed highways, vehicles, and that X percentage of the drivers are already speeding at X clicks over the speed limit anyways… You may argue that “Speed does not kill” but that killer is the telephone pole that got in front of the car killed the driver. Some people may argue that there is not that much of a bigger “Bang” when you crash at 75 miles an hour than when you crash at 60 miles and hour. Well if you crash into the back of a semi truck that extra 15 MPH may be the difference between stopping before the bumper of the semi or having the bumper come to rest where your head would be located in that crash.
One of the lessons that I have learned in life is that there is always someone somewhere who is willing to take a stand and debate any position in life. They may have acquired knowledge through study and research but there are many who will cry from the rooftops an opinion based entirely on how they feel. I base my opinion on what I have studied and read and experienced and lived on the highways. I cannot provide a scientific paper to support all of my positions because there will always be challenges by the opposition side of how data was collected and other points. I could easily take the same position with any of the research that the opposition may provide and discredit their statistics. People who are filling out Motor Vehicle Collision Reports are not inclined to document that they were speeding, distracted because they had Rover riding on their lap or were wiping up that coffee that they had spilled in their laps. The appropriate data will be very difficult to collect because today’s persons are more willing to blame everyone and anyone else instead of taking their own responsibilities
Experience tells me that at any given time, somewhere not very far away from where we may be at the present time; there will be someone who is driving in a fashion that causes a risk to themselves and other people around them. These drivers may be making their driving decisions consciously or may be totally unaware of what they are doing is dangerous. They may be in a rush, running late, distracted or driving aggressively. Somewhere vehicles will be crashing into each other or driving into things or driving off the roads. People will be hurt or killed or may (hopefully) be able to walk away from the crash. Despite the advent of seatbelts and airbags and all of the other technology that allows for crumple zones to minimise impact and safer cars, it is not easy to predict the outcomes of any crashes at any speed.
As a traffic collision analyst I have seen low speed crashes that have taken multiple lives while showing minimal damage to cars, and have seen miracles where totally demolished cars have had everyone walk away. There appears to be no rhyme or reason at times and absolutely no guarantees of survivability at any speed. Unfortunately, not everyone who supports higher speed limits or relaxed enforcement levels has had the experience of responding to traffic collisions. They have not experienced a person expiring at the roadside and the task of shovelling blood body and guts into a body bag. They are willing to extrapolate figures and statistics but not see the actual bodies lying on our streets. On any given day, I would say that there is not one person who would say at the breakfast table that it is their plan today to die in a traffic accident. Yet almost every day, we can see that several persons have died on our roadways.
At some point and time, almost everyone has had some type of driving education or taken a test in order to obtain their drivers licence. While taking their test, everyone who passed successfully probably paid close attention to how fast they were going and making that complete stop at that stop sign or light. The driver examiner noted the good points and the poor points and made some evaluation on whether or not the driver was successful. The good driver was rewarded with a license if they performed well or failed if they did not do as well. Once you got your license there was not a driving examiner sitting next to you and perhaps the only time where you paid really close attention to how you were driving was when Dad was sitting next to you and you depended on him to let you drive the family car. You knew that your driving habits were being monitored and that there were consequences if there was a poor driving performance. At this time you were aware of a carrot or stick system or a risk and reward system. Basically if there were no concerns, there were no problems. If things did not go as well, well, things did not go very well.
It is the police’s job to monitor the driving habits of motorists to make sure that everyone is driving according to the rules of the road. You may liken the traffic cop to the sports referee who tries to keep everything rolling along without anyone interfering with the proper unfolding of the game. At times the referee is looking in another direction and is not able to observe transgressions of the rules and at those times where something is observed, the ref may stop the game and possibly issue some type of penalty. If the referee has made an error there may be the opportunity to ask the sports body to review the circumstances and there will be a determination made if the ref’s observations will be upheld or be dismissed.
In life the cop may stop you for an offence and as the driver you have the opportunity to take your situation to a judge who will rule if you are guilty or not guilty. In traffic court there is rarely a situation where there is a tie as in a sporting match. There are times when a driver may dispute the enforcement action of the police and the driver has the opportunity to show that the officer has erred. To some this is just an adversarial situation of who is right and who is wrong but somewhere there should be a lesson for the driver that they may wish to change the way that they may be driving so that they will avoid the hassle of traffic court and lawyers and points and surcharges.
The traffic officer who is proactive has the ability to gather information that may assist in other more serious crimes. Traffic officers are able to intercept impaired drivers, illegal drugs and contraband and stolen property as they perform their patrol duties. Their observations of who is driving around with who can link criminally inclined people with their associates which may benefit the community as a whole. In most circumstances, any driver that is not speeding has a vehicle that is in good repair and is following the rules of the road will not come to the attention of police. A quick glance that confirms that everything appears to be normal will have the officer looking at the next vehicle coming down the road that may have something that attracts more of his attention. In order to avoid traffic tickets, all a motorist needs to do is stay off the officer’s radar. (Pun Definitely Intended)
I personally believe that photo radar cameras have caused the motoring public to feel that these types of tickets are the proverbial cash cow and a revenue generating machine. Getting a ticket two weeks after the offence in the mail is an infuriating experience. People have told me that photo radar has caused more collisions than it has promoted safer driving habits. And I have to agree with some of this perception. Taking the living and breathing human element out of this type of traffic enforcement does not tend to give the driver any sense of possibly resolving the issue informally and depending on circumstances. In some circumstances, there appears that there has been court cases that support revenue generation as opposed to safety concerns. Perhaps it is time to rethink how this new technology is used?
Today’s police departments are stretched to the limits with budget concerns and some people say that insurance companies are in collusion with police departments to write more tickets. Insurance companies have donated items such as speed timing devices and breath testing equipment to many departments. While these donations will most certainly assist departments in their capacity to enforce traffic laws, I would like to point out that there are more lives lost on the highways than on all of the most violent categories of crime combined. Deaths in traffic collisions are far more numerous than serious injuries and deaths that can be attributed to murders, robberies and serious assaults at rapes in communities all around the world. When the disgruntled motorist comments that the traffic officer should be concentrating on more serious crimes, there is evidence that traffic issues account for more pain, suffering and grief to the community than the other crimes that also require police attention. From the position of an insurance company, would it make good business sense to supply a police department with resources that would possibly impact the number of vehicles that would be involved in crashes by slowing traffic down because of a new radar unit? Would it make sense that these companies would try to have less pay outs for vehicle repairs and death benefits? Is it in the interest of the police and their partners to reduce the number of crashes, injuries and fatalities? Of course it is!
I support appropriate fines, point systems for licensing and insurance purposes. I support proper signage of speed zones and establishing proper speed zones and the education of new and existing drivers. The large amount of cash paid in traffic ticket fines is staggering. People use the term cash cow to describe how much money is actually generated by traffic enforcement. Unfortunately, society does not calculate the costs associated with health care treatments, insurance payments for vehicle damage and premature deaths of people killed in collisions and the loss of parents and loved ones.
I am part of the minority of the population that would have their police departments go out and kick you-know-what and have drivers pay more attention to their driving habits. Those who are prudent will not be affected except for some momentary lapses of attention and judgement and those who slip up on a more consistent basis will pay the price for their habits. Use the media to educate the masses and let them know that there will be a vigorous effort to reduce the carnage on the streets. Whether you want to call it carrot and stick, risk and reward or cause and effect, there needs to be some level of enforcement to address the road casualty numbers. While there is a percentage of the population who thrives on the adrenaline rush of speed or the rush of getting away with something, the rest of the public deserve to have their safety interests preserved. There is a need for police to respond to and attempt to control the number of drivers who may engage in aggressive or dangerous driving behaviours.
The manner in which you drive is a personal decision that ultimately rests with you. You may escape the traffic ticket time after time after time however there may be a time where the laws of physics may catch up with you and have you ending up in the ditch or crunched inside the wreck of metal that was once your car. Are you really interested in challenging the physics and would you prefer to experience inertia, momentum and how energy and forces effect the human body in a crash or would you be more inclined to avoid these experiences completely? Have a safe drive!
Gord Kowalchuk is a retired law enforcement professional who has created the website [http://www.MyTrafficTicketTips.com]. His mission is to educate, and promote safe driving strategies that will help save lives and suffering caused by traffic collisions. Gord’s Tips assist drivers from getting traffic tickets and bring them safely home to their loved ones. Gord provides coaching and consulting and is preparing an eBook based on his experiences and career.