Do as I say, not as I do

I’ve written about revenue-based enforcement. Now the most common other kind. Yes, there is another kind. Where the usual speed traps are basically highway robbery, these are more like decimation.

I call it “squeaky wheel” enforcement, from the old saying “the squeaky wheel gets the grease.” Residents say, “I want you to punish nonresidents using my private street.” Politicians hear, and police obey.

The overtly discriminatory term is “cut-through traffic”. But streets are open to everybody, in theory. Usually the code word is “speeders”.

“Speeders” are nonresidents who drive the same speed as residents. I’ve read plenty of stories about speed traps that caught the person who demanded enforcement. I’ve seen the bumper sticker promising to obey the speed limit attached to a car speeding through a residential area. We have met the enemy, and he is us.

Often residents insist “the speed limit should be set by people who know the road best.” Funny thing is, that’s exactly how the speed limit they hate was supposed to have been set. Engineers measure the speed chosen by the people who drive the road every day. Not the speed they say other people ought to go. Actions speak louder than words.

But the people who drive 35 will keep insisting on a 25 mph speed limit and everybody else who exceeds it needs to be punished.

If you want to argue enforcement priorities and speed limit policies with your government you need to understand this. Sometimes they aren’t after your money, they just don’t like you.

The police chief gets a call from a city councilor, “can’t you do something about these speeders?” So the chief does something. Maybe he’d rather be fighting real crime. Maybe he loves speed traps. It really depends on the department.

A speed trailer pays off in the long term. Not for safety, which I suspect is hurt, but for public relations. A trailer costs a couple hundred hours of officer pay but can appease residents full time.

Any sign of action can work. I was thanked by a resident when I was doing a speed survey in Lexington, Massachusetts. I was not writing tickets, just shooting laser beams. But I was a visible sign of… I’m not sure what. A sign that somebody cared.

I cared that the speed limit was 10 mph too low. No point in telling her that.

The opinions expressed in this post belong to the author and do not necessarily represent those of the National Motorists Association or the NMA Foundation. This content is for informational purposes and is not intended as legal advice. No representations are made regarding the accuracy of this post or the included links.

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