Breeding contempt for the law

Morley Lymburner
August 29, 2016
By Morley Lymburner
Photo radar and four-way stops breed public contempt and a good indication of traffic engineering being usurped by municipal politicians... There is no easy or cheap fix to traffic safety and a lot more grey matter must be brought to bear on how and why we do enforcement, but one thing is certain. Photo radar in school zones is not the answer and symptomatic of a poorly managed police service.

Photo radar and four-way stops breed public contempt and a good indication of traffic engineering being usurped by municipal politicians.

Using four-way stops to slow traffic is a feeble attempt to compensate for the lack of properly instructed police officers tasked with enforcing speed limits. Speeding is now enforced only in the most egregious of circumstances. A collision at one of these crude, ill-thought out corners is reduced to a 'he said - she said' situation which no one can adjudicate. In most cases neither vehicle stopped correctly, if at all. The danger, of course, is when four-way stops signs become thought of by motorists to be the default configuration.

Better use of yield signs would be far more effective and eliminate many arguments presented in collisions. 'He said - she said' is a little less subjective when one views where one car hit the other. Simply slowing down and yielding to the vehicle on the left closest to the intersection is much more palatable to the public and police. It effectively turns a four-way stop into a pseudo traffic circle without the centre median and construction expense.

Four-way yields make motorists more aware and alert, since they must pay closer attention to moving traffic approaching in all directions. Yields reduce a potential hazard by requiring right of way control over speed that all but eliminates the requirement to completely stop. Speed is reduced, as are the number of frustrated drivers and officers who have to whistle and pretend they are looking the other way.

Photo radar

This new-age budget saving traffic control system is terribly abused and puts enforcement firmly in the control of the bean counters and bottom-line junkies who analyse productivity and revenue under the guise of traffic safety.

Any police agency using photo radar in school zones needs to be asked: 'What the heck else are your officers doing at that hour that is more important?'

School zones should be {policed}. Supervisors working with well instructed police officers should strategically concentrate on ensuring orderly and safe traffic movement in locations where they are most needed. Rush hour routes and school zones are givens.

Our most precious future assets are walking to a facility tasked with turning them into responsible, caring adults. Children are very impressionable and every agency would be well served by stationing a uniformed officer in their neighbourhood to be seen by all, and to ensure the journey to and from school is safe. Nothing a police service does should trump this... Nothing!

No electronic device passively sitting on the roadside taking pictures can be as effective. In my day I would hammer school zones and less than one in 100 motorists would contest their ticket in court. Most were too ashamed to attempt a defence.

Ticketing motorists in school zones gives them an immediate jolt of adrenaline and wakes up every driver who sees the officer approaching the violator. A well instructed officer knows all this but the bottom-line junkies do not... nor do they care.

That camera in a box only makes things worse. A citizen sleepily drives through a school zone, in some cases not even remembering they did so, in a routine commute to work. Familiarity breeds contempt. Several weeks later a photograph and bill for $200 plus administrative fees addressed to the vehicle owner arrives in the mail, but the driver can't remember doing anything wrong.

Remember that sage advice of parenting manuals? Discipline must be immediate and meaningful to be effective. Punishment for something done three weeks earlier has little or no effect. That ticket creates only enmity for the system and the operations that set it up – and regardless of the source, it is always police who take the flak.

As if this poorly thought out approach to traffic control and enforcement were not bad enough, we now must contend with the ravages of legalized pot. The statistics from our southern neighbour are ominous and prophetic. The percentage of Washington state drivers involved in fatal crashes went from 8.3 per cent to 17 per cent after marijuana was legalized. With no empirical research to tell how much THC is too much, the courts fall back on officer observations.

How many offenders caught on the photo enforcement initiatives are impaired? With a photo radar ticket we see the symptom but can do nothing about the cause. A distorted sense of time and distance are the chief issues with THC consumption, so how safe will traffic lights or school zones be without a police officer to subjectively determine a driver's capabilities?

When a photo radar fails to take a picture of a child being struck by a non-speeding but iPhone distracted, potted up or drunk driver, perhaps the local chief will reconsider staff deployment.

There is no easy or cheap fix to traffic safety and a lot more grey matter must be brought to bear on how and why we do enforcement, but one thing is sure. Photo radar in school zones is not the answer and symptomatic of a poorly managed police service.

Add comment


Security code
Refresh

Subscription Centre

 
New Subscription
 
Already a Subscriber
 
Customer Service
 
View Digital Magazine Renew

Most Popular

Latest Events

Blue Line Expo & Conference
Tue May 02, 2017 @ 8:00AM -
RCMP Synthetic Drug Awareness Workshop
Thu May 04, 2017 @ 8:00AM - 05:00PM
Serving with Pride - LGBT 101 education series
Tue May 09, 2017 @ 9:00AM - 03:00PM