A $10,000 ticket for speeding?
Today is April Fools Day, so you might want to take the following scenario with a pinch of salt. There you were, behind the wheel of you...
Today is April Fools Day, so you might want to take the following scenario with a pinch of salt. There you were, behind the wheel of your new SUV cruising all alone down a country highway, when a traffic cop hauled you over, pointed out that you were doing 50 kilometers/ hour over the speed limit, impounds your car, and hands you a ticket for $10,000.
“Ha! Ha!” you chortle, and tear up the ticket. That’s when the cuffs come out and you end up in the back seat of a patrol car. The scenario, in one form or another is actually being played out in Ontario Canada, where along with other Canadian provinces, the public reaction to driving irregularities has changed dramatically over the years.
Driving under the influence, once deemed as socially acceptable, is now regarded as a mortal sin, and after a couple of tickets which lead to six-month license suspensions there is an automatic jail sentence. Groups like MADD (Mothers Against Drunk Driving), consisting originally of those who had lost loved ones through “accidents” involving drunk drivers, have helped change public perceptions, and the politicians saw the writing on the wall, and stiffened penalties, for errant drivers.
But above all they tightened up on enforcement, a word that seems to be absent in our local law enforcement community.
There is one program that radically altered attitudes to partying and bar hopping, it’s called RIDE (Reduce Impaired Driving Everywhere). On any night of the year, but particularly around Christmas and New Year, fleets of police cars with the RIDE signal in bold lights atop, stop drivers and inquire politely if they have had a drink. The smell of alcohol, or a slurred reply get’s the driver a breathalyzer test. If he’s over the top, the car is impounded and he is taken to a police station for a further test. After that comes the court appearance and Draconian punishments.
The results of this and other enforcement programs, like highway cameras recording speedsters has moved Canada towards its aim of having the safest roads in the world.
A 2005 reports from the US show that about a third of all road fatalities involve speed, and in Canada in the same year, 25 percent involved speed.
The report said ”Though not the primary cause of traffic fatalities, this figure still represents a significant number of fatalities that could otherwise be avoided.”
Last year in Ontario (Pop. 13,000,000) 320 people died in traffic accidents. In the first 10 weeks of this year in Panama (Pop. 3.3 million) 102 people have died on the roads. With the envisaged continuation of the Diablos Rojos, and lack of effective enforcement, that figure will continue climbing.
CASH COW. Enforcement of traffic laws is also a big source of income for governments. One Canadian town bought radar guns for its police force, and raked in so much money, that it was able to increase the size of it’s force. In Ontario, the Government collects over $35 million a year from unchallenged speeding tickets, and highway and traffic light intersection cameras are an ongoing cash cow.
It’s a lesson Panama could take to heart. We have traffic laws a plenty, but little enforcement. At the corner of Frederico Boyd, a few yards from the Eurasia restaurant, there is a “no left turn” sign. One morning while waiting outside the Cooperative on the same corner I counted 22 vehicles making the illegal turn. It’s a daily occurrence, but nary a cop in site. On the same road illegally parked cars funnel traffic into two lanes during rush hour. A traffic cop’s dream.