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2004.04.16 Life, Liberty, and the Pursuit of Speeders

posted Nov 4, 2009, 4:38 AM by Troy Cheek   [ updated Nov 4, 2009, 4:41 AM ]

...endowed by their Creator with certain inalienable rights...

I spend a lot of time on the road. As anyone who's met me would not be at surprised to hear, because of my wit, charm, and sparkling personality, I have a little bit of a problem finding jobs. My current place of employment is a full hour's drive from my home. Because of said wit, charm, and sparkling personality, I also have a little bit of a problem finding a special person with whom to share my life. My current girlfriend is a full two hours' drive from my home.

In the opposite direction.

While spending so much time on the road, I've encountered pretty much every type of driver there is. Some are courteous, some are reckless, and some are just plain strange. But as long as they're willing to obey the rules of the road, I'm happy to share the highway with them.

As I realized when I wrote my "The Lane Ranger" article back in 2001 (soon to be re-released in HTML format) most people using America's highways aren't willing. Feedback shows that, among those who felt strongly enough to bother to write, nobody thinks that speed limits are a good idea and anybody who tries to slow them down is either a control freak or just trying to enhance the county government's revenue stream.

Another universal constant is that if anyone interferes with our God-given right to drive as fast as we damn well please -- for example, by driving through a 45 MPH speed zone at the unheard of slow speed of 45 MPH -- it's their fault if we crash into them.

Why do I mention this? Well, if what the San Francisco Chronicle reports is correct, these people are about to have something else to go into rages over.

It seems that the town of Pleasanton, California is not too pleasant. Seems that Bay Area community has been discovered by commuters who flood its streets with high speed traffic zipping from one busy interstate to the next. But not to worry, they've come up with an idea to slow it down.

Rather than install speed bumps or run speed traps or let little blue-hair ladies in big black Oldsmobiles take over, they've created "a traffic signal with attitude."

A system of radar guns and cameras monitors key intersections. It "senses when a speeder is approaching and metes out swift punishment."

Automatic tickets? A notation in your driving record? Posting your email address in a Uselessnet forum? No, something much worse.

The system figures out what road you're on and the next intersection you're approaching. When you're about 100 yards away, it tells the light at that intersection to switch from green to yellow to red. In other words, if you try to speed through town, you're going to hit nothing but red lights. You'll actually make it through town more quickly by driving at the posted speed limit.

I think this is a great idea, as do some of the townspeople. The biggest problem some people see is that their husbands aren't bright enough to figure out the relationship between speed and red lights and won't get to work on time, thus losing their jobs and no longer being able to pay for their maid and their health club memberships.

Others think it's the worst thing to come along since, well, ever. Why, it's just another example of the government meddling with our private affairs. Why, it's a prime example of Big Brother and how we're monitored every second of our lives. Why, it's practically the mark of the Beast. Next thing you know, we'll have to put a big 666 sticker on our bumpers if we want to pass through town unimpeded.

Biggest complaint? That it's depriving Americans of their right -- right, mind you -- to drive fast.

It's a damned shame that our public schools don't teach us better. Here I was completely unaware that our Founding Fathers fought and died for us so we could enjoy the right to life, liberty, and driving as fast as we want down Vineyard Avenue on our Harleys.

Oh, sure, they have radar guns and timing traps all sorts of other methods to catch us when we speed, the opponents of this plan whine, but at least we are still free to try. We might get caught occasionally and have to pay a small fine and put up with comments from a self-important law enforcement officer who ought to be out somewhere catching theives and rapists, but that's just the chance we have the right -- right, mind you -- to take.

Yes, my dear reader, there are people in this world who think that it's their God-given right to try to get away with breaking the law. If they get away with it, there was no harm done. If they don't, it's the fault of the person who caught them. I've worked in the security and law enforcement area for the last decade. I encounter people like this on an almost daily basis. I've met people that will tell you with a straight face that if you don't lock your car, you're offering them your radio, CD player, cellular phone, or anything else they can rip loose.

Another complain is the massive gridlock this is going to cause. "If they implement it everywhere," one Constitutional scholar says, "there will be nothing but red lights. Nobody does the speed limit."

Well, it seems to me that if all the lights are red, people will have no choice but to do the speed limit. Well, much less than the speed limit, since the speed limit is usually greater than a dead stop.

Besides, according to this logic, we shouldn't put automatic theft-control locks on the doors to department stores. Since everybody shoplifts, the doors will all be locked all the time and nobody will be able to get in and out of the stores.

People, please, quit complaining and slow down.

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