Saturday, January 16, 2010
FILLING THE COFFERS CAR BY CAR
I admit it. I am a fast driver. On freeways I try to set my cruise control at 4 miles over the posted speed limit (sometimes here in Southern California it is 65 mph and other times 70, depending on urban or rural sections). When I do that, I am totally blown away by drivers passing me on both sides. If my choice is to get in the outside lane and stay at speed limit; my risk is that a) I will be run over by big semi-trucks, b) I will have one of them topple over on me, which toppling is a common occurance on our freeways, or c) I will have my vision totally obliterated because I'm caught in a pocket between trucks. If I drive in any other than the outside lanes at the posted speed limit, I run the risk of being shot at by one of the many people who think road rage is an acceptable excuse for picking slow drivers off the freeway.
So depending on the freeway road conditions, I more often than not exceed my own "4 miles over speed limit" rule and stay with the flow of traffic. I know I am breaking the law and I know that I will get ticketed for it if I am pulled over by a CHP officer, but I also know that most of the times the CHP officers are passing me by on the left and the right anyway, so odds are I won't get caught. I hope, I hope!
On the city streets a whole different set of circumstances exist. Obviously, on a heavily trafficked street, one has to go with the flow of traffic. As often as not the cars are all driving beyond the posted speed limit. I admit I mostly do not watch for signs that tell the speed limit, except when there are few cars on the road and I have an option of slowing down without snarling up traffic. I do try to drive the posted speed limit. But I know there are times, when conditions are optimum, that I will go a bit faster than I the signs say I should. It's kind of a "why crawl down an empty road at 15 mph?"
Now our Governator Schwartzenegger has decided he wants to balance California's budget by installing speed sensors on red-light cameras to catch - and ticket - speeding cars. He uses Beverly Hills as an example. There are 9 red-light cameras in that city, which could catch an estimated 835 speeders each month. The proposed fine for those caught going up to 15 mph over the speed limit is $225 per violation. Those going 16 mph or faster would be fined $325. What he doesn't say is that here in California many governmental units want part of the action too. So tacked on to those basic fines would be things like another $25 for local court costs, $50 for city street maintenance departments, $25 for this, that and the other thing - and an original $225 fine will end up costing $500 or more. A friend of mine got caught by a red-light camera after making a "California stop" (a slowing down but not a full stop of 7 seconds) prior to making a right hand turn onto a nearly empty cross-street. The $140 fine ended up costing her $475 by the time all the "add-ons" were figured into it.
Schwartzenegger figures that if he can install 500 speed detectors throughout California, they will generate nearly half a billion dollars for the state treasury each year. And he could then balanced the budget.
Whether one believes that scofflaws should be able to "get away with it" because everybody's doing it, or that it is only right to severely punish those who break speed laws whether deliberately or accidentally, it seems to me that this is a wrong-headed approach. I don't know what the answer is to our State budget crisis, but I sure don't think this proposal is a good answer.