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Wednesday, October 17, 2007

The National Speed Trap Association - Moral or Amoral

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The National Motorists Association has set up a website for the National Speedtrap Association at http://www.speedtrap.org/speedtraps/stetlist.asp,  where motorists can report and make comments on Speed Traps that they have observed by Country, State and County.

The site also identifies U.S. States that have laws against "Speed Traps", indicates steps how one might fight one in their own community, and other useful things. For the purposes of this discussion we might define Speed Trap as an illegal or immoral trap using hanky panky to get traffic tickets rather than legitimate methods to catch those breaking the law.

For example, waiting near hidden speed change signs, etc.

These types of Speed Traps I have no problems with being identified publicly.

But what about the other kind?

Places where it is perfectly O.K. for police to hang out and watch for speeders, DUI offenders and others making traffic offenses. Perhaps it is a place where it is easy to pull over, write a citation, bring someone to a mailbox to observe them paying their fine so that they can give them their license back and then return to the highway easily and lead the offender back to the highway quickly so that they lose a minimum amount of time and confusion getting back.

Is a website like this effective?

Is convenient policing wrong?

Is it wrong to point out these locations?

In my own county, Cook in Illinois, I would have to say no to the first question. There are only three places listed. Perhaps this is because the Illinois State Police do a really effective job of moving around the highways near Chicago and so they don't need to find one spot to work from. Also, given the volume of traffic during rush hour, there are so many accidents that so many citations (e.g. following too closely) are written, that perhaps speeding is incidental within the city limits except for highway work zone violations, a $500 ticket!

I think the problem with convenient policing comes when you get out into lower volume areas where either local residents receive a disproportionate number of citations just because they must use the highway to get around and the local government is using the highway as a significant funding source, or for the same end reason, local residents are easily recognized and never pulled over for any reason, or only for the most serious offenses, eg., stolen vehicles or DUI.

When this kind of funny business is going on then the line becomes very grey about whether it is a good idea for the public to list these places. To what degree does the desire to go fast yourself outweigh your own self interest in surviving an accident given the much higher crash fatality rates at very high speeds? By giving away these locations or speeding except for these places are we signing our own death or disability warrants for ourselves or family members?

Finally, law enforcement knows how to use the internet now. Yup, took them awhile to get on the bandwagon, but they are onboard now, but whose to say that the data on the website is accurate. What if the speed trap listed is a quarter of a mile too late. Uh-oh, busted!

Personally, I have found that speeding doesn't pay. What pays is avoiding long rest stops. Every rest stop you avoid, from my calculations, on a 300 mile trip, is worth about 10-20 mph over the whole journey. The longer the stop, the more stops you make, you might as well go 55.

One trip to Wisconsin, my brother-in-law and I were going up, he made two extra rest stops of 10 minutes each going much faster than we were. We beat him by 5 minutes. He only missed getting a ticket because someone happened to pass him going 90 at JUST the right moment.

So,  I'd love to hear your comments. Is this website useful, moral, amoral, or a complete waste of time? Or is it sometime just easier to use the intercity bus or train or local transit? 

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