Written by Gregory Monte.
I have written several other blog posts related to this topic, but I decided to write one more to directly address the point of several Facebook detractors. If you want to read one of the best posts related to this issue, it was published back in April:
“Doing God’s Work?”
Here are two recent Facebook comments which inspired me to broach this issue one last time:
Jerry Finnegan “Traffic tickets are issued because people violate the rules of the road. The rules of the road are set to protect the users of public roads.”
DennisWilma Wyatt Dunham “You do the crime you do the time!”
For the record, I don’t recommend violating traffic laws. Obviously there have to be rules of the road or else chaos would ensue on the highway. My point is that when the police enforce these rules by issuing citations, they are not necessarily “doing God’s work,” as the expression goes.
The Traffic Nazis
I have little tolerance for individuals who I term “Traffic Law Nazis.” These are people who get “high and mighty” about drivers who safely travel over the speed limit by 10 mph. They smile to themselves when they see those flashing police lights behind a car pulled over on the side of the road. Likewise, these individuals can’t fathom how anyone could possibly roll through a stop sign safely – even when there is no one within 100 yards of the intersection. They want the police to issue tickets to every single one of these lawbreakers.
Do these individuals secretly hope for a police state where every single law/regulation on the rule books (there are thousands upon thousands) is strictly enforced and prosecuted no matter what the circumstance?
A Reasonable Approach to Speeding
The more that I read about Pennsylvania traffic laws, the more thankful I am that I live in this state rather than any of the others. We have several protections not afforded to other drivers. Here are three of them:
- Only the State Police can use radar to measure a driver’s speed (more on this below).
- Drivers can only be issued a ticket if they are travelling 6 mph over the speed limit in 55 mph or above zones.
- Drivers can only be issued a ticket if they are travelling 10 mph over the speed limit in all other speed zones.
Police Enforcement of Speeding Violations – It’s Not All About Safety
When the Pennsylvania Legislature debated the newest vehicle code, it specifically recognized that speeding ticket issuance was likely to be abused as a way to raise money for local governments. While I couldn’t find a good source for the PA Senate debate on this issue, the PA Supreme Court decision Commonwealth v. DePasquale (1985) provided a brief review of the reasoning:
[M]embers of the legislature cited the following reasons for their desire to restrict the use of electronic devices to the State Police:”
- “… that the proponents of radar in municipalities are concerned more with revenue raising than with safety.
- “… that the drivers being stopped for speeding ‘were the poor guys who have to go to work and make a living and pay the very taxes to keep the community going’ rather than ‘the speeders’”
- “… that radar has not improved safety on the roads but has only helped the district justices and the ‘arresting mills’”
- “… that police who have access to radar would leave serious crime undetected while improving their records by making large numbers of arrests for a summary offense”
- “that when radar is available to the police, the number of arrests for speeding increases dramatically”
- “… that there would not be an even distribution of justice because the local police would have ‘some sort of campaign on for those whom do not care for’”
- “… that it is unfair to allow municipalities to use radar when the speed limits have not been updated to keep pace with new developments in transportation and in residential and commercial areas.”
Liberty, Safety and Benjamin Franklin
Allegedly, Benjamin Franklin wrote the following:
“Those who would give up essential Liberty, to purchase a little temporary Safety, deserve neither Liberty nor Safety.”
Although his original meaning does not align with my point in this blog post, I still quote it because it is how I think of the “Traffic Nazis.” I repeat what I asked earlier:
“Do these individuals secretly hope for a police state where every single law/regulation on the rule books (there are thousands upon thousands) is strictly enforced and prosecuted no matter what the circumstance?”
Be careful for what you wish for …