Something has to change. In a day and age when traffic stops become literal life-and-death episodes, or at least become the spark that can set off a tinderbox of protest and violence, the interactions between police and motorists need to be examined more closely.
Jim Walker, perhaps the NMA’s most prolific member in lobbying for reform of traffic laws and how those regulations are enforced, recently posted the following letter to a state law enforcement agency. He has not received a formal response yet – it has only been a few days – but we are hopeful that his common-sense recommendation will pick up support from that as well as other police departments. You can be sure that Jim and the NMA will continue to spread the word.
Think how both the public and the police officers would benefit if “lightning struck” and magically almost every posted speed limit on a collector, arterial, trunk line, and freeway were instantly corrected to the nearest 5 mph interval to the 85th percentile speeds so that almost every main road would have a speed limit no more than 2 mph away from the actual 85th speeds. (There might be a very small percentage of exceptions for truly unusual situations, but each one should require substantial written engineering justification by police and licensed professional engineers willing to document and sign off on the reasons.)
Police officers would have drastically fewer exposures to traffic stops, some of which become very dangerous.
The predatory 5 or 10 over speeding tickets issued for revenue in speed traps would virtually cease to exist.
The public would no longer automatically see traffic officers as those sworn to “stop and collect”, and would begin to regain respect for them as officers who are sworn to “serve and protect” — an evil change that started in the 1970s with the 55 mph National Maximum Speed Limit.
The vicious circle of unjustified tickets for revenue, warrants for nonpayment, and what amounts to a “debtor’s prison” of suspended licenses for poor people would be drastically reduced.
The entire relationship of police and citizens would change for the better, most notably in the cities with large percentages of disadvantaged and often minority citizens.
There will always be criminals, including a very small percentage of genuinely bad officers.
But drastically reducing unnecessary interactions between police and citizens might help begin a healing process that is becoming desperately needed.