Thursday, August 12, 2010

Getting a Ticket

Insert "RANT MODE" here.

Yesterday afternoon I received a speeding ticket going to an appointment. It was for going 44 MPH in a 30 MPH zone. The officer was friendly and to be honest, quick in his citation writing. I have no complaints about him at all. I have three complaints however with the City I received the ticket in however.

  1. Arterial roads with 30 MPH speed limits. The Texas Department of Transportation sets speed limits on roads by measuring the speed of vehicles travelling down the road. It takes the 85th percentile of those speeds and then sets the limit. The limit may be modified up to 5 MPH above or below the 85th percentile. This way the road is driven according to its function.  The road I was on in is a functional class minor arterial. There are numerous collector roads from the surrounding subdivisions that feed into the road. It is a link in the frankly dysfunctional east/west arterial system of the City. Only three roads within the City Limits travel completely through the City without a disconnection. Two other disconnected roads fill a 2.5 mile gap between two of the major arterials. There is a significant amount of population living within that 2.5 mile gap. This situation shows a lack of ability and will to adequately finance and construct arterial roads through the City. Only now is one of the primary arterials being widened through - there are two major sections which have not been widened at this point - (both in the City which I received my ticket).  My point being -  more functional arterials = greater mobility = faster (but not unsafe) speeds through the community.
  2. The police vehicle which pulled me over was a Ford Expedition with no discernible markings whatsoever. While, I'm not debating the fact that a police force should be able to have unmarked vehicles - using them for the sole purpose of traffic control is primarily a revenue generator and not speed enforcement. A marked police car sitting at the same point on the road would "show force" that the City means business about the 30 MPH speed limit on that street. I would have double checked my speed instead of driving quickly to my appointment. I would have complied. No problem. I make a mistake in front of an unmarked car and immediately I owe $175 to the City. There is a difference between enforcement and revenue. It works in Code Enforcement - my department will issue a notice of violation - a "hey watch what you're doing" and provide you an opportunity to comply prior to issuance of a citation. A marked police car does the same thing. I honestly didn't know I was going over the speed limit. I fully realize that - but I'm not given the opportunity to correct my actions prior to punishment for infraction because the City is in a revenue mode.
  3. The final issue I have is the Municipal Court. I got up this morning, read the information on the back of my citation and headed to the Municipal Court to receive my paperwork to begin the process of defensive driving. The citation clearly states that I would lose all privileges of defensive driving if I don't contact the Court prior to the deadline written on the citation. There is not anywhere listed on the citation that I have to wait four to five days prior to contacting the Court to allow the citation to be entered into the computer. So I arrive at 8:00am (by the way, the citation states the office hours are M-F 8:00am to 4:30pm - the sign on the door says 7:00am - ugh, I'm late to work for this?) and I arrive to find out that my citation written a day earlier is not in the system and they can't get my paperwork together to allow me to pay my administrative costs and begin to get the ticket dismissed. I'll have to come back next week. I'm attempting to be a model citizen by doing my diligence in getting things accomplished and this is how I'm treated. Again, my community has automated ticket writing instruments which allow officers to write tickets, print a citation to the defendant and the information is transmitted wirelessly to the primary computer server and entered into the system. The City in which I received the citation has a contract for police enforcement with an adjacent smaller city - does the smaller city know they have a substandard system?
Again this is not a rant against the Police Officer who issued me a ticket (other than his bad handwriting which is almost impossible to read on the triplicate form he gave me) but against the system of management set up in the City which allows these things to occur. Better roads designed for higher (but safe speeds); marked police cars for traffic enforcement to ensure safety and compliance instead of punishment; and the utilization of technology to allow the necessary bureaucracy to function on a more efficient basis. These things make a better community - instead of one where form over function seems to be the course of order.

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