The classic image of government-endorsed corruption is the “highwayman” with badge and gun extracting money from a compromised traveler with no hope or relief in sight. In the past these scenes were depicted in the wastelands of Mexico, or in the old “Iron Curtain” countries before the Berlin Wall met its deserved end.
Ironically, these bald-faced, extortionate practices pale in comparison to the institutionalized systems of graft and corruption that exist in the US and the UK.
The exploitation of drivers is so pervasive, intertwined, and accepted as “normal” that it is no longer recognized for the scam it is.
Think about it; traffic laws are created by the ream, every year. Some of them are needed to affect the smooth and safe flow of traffic. Most of the rest are put in place to appease malcontents and special interests with a “cause,” or to squeeze more money out of motorists. A key component of the latter category is the ladling on of layers of traffic fines, supposedly to enhance highway safety. No one seems to notice that traffic fines are ineffective, arbitrary, inequitable and they distort and pervert law enforcement agencies and the courts.
Why is it that those in power aren’t asking questions like these:
- How can the courts be viewed as fair and unbiased when much of their operating income is generated from the fines paid by traffic ticket defendants, isn’t there a fairly obvious conflict of interest here?
- Where’s the ethical justification for the police to issue hundreds or thousands of tickets to motorists who are driving safely and rationally, but in excess of an arguably dangerous and illegal speed limit?
- What moral objective is being served by charging ticket recipients more money to prevent “points” being applied to their driving record?
- What is the logic behind fining a driver $300 for running a red light when a police officer issues a ticket, but only $75 when a camera generates the ticket — is the driver getting a break because it’s a lot cheaper for the camera to take a picture then for the cop to write the ticket?
- Are we really building a better society by heaping fine upon fine and then suspending licenses because the fines aren’t paid?
- Does it improve the system’s chances of collecting its fines by taking away the defendants ability to find and hold a job?
- What police officer wants to be thought of as a bagman for the local government, or have his job dictated by how much money he can raise from motorists?
- What honest judge wants to work in a court system financially dependent on finding defendants guilty?
The police and the courts should be funded from general tax revenue, not from the proceeds of exploited citizens.
The bottom line is traffic fines don’t really benefit anyone, not even the recipients. This is an inherently corrupt and dysfunctional system that can’t be fixed, it should be discarded, the sooner the better.