Massachusetts continues its speeding ticket blitz and people are dying. Before the ticketing rampage fatal accidents were down in absolute numbers but up relative to the amount of traffic. Now they are up in absolute numbers too: 17 in the first three weeks of May compared to 14 in the same period last year. But none of them have yet been blamed on exceeding the speed limit. I expect police to declare victory in that basis.
One thing that stands out is seven of 17 fatal accidents involved motorcycles. Are inexperienced riders taking advantage of empty roads?
Some of those seven are not due to reckless riding. On I-495 in Salisbury, a motorcycle pulled over, a car slowed, and a truck decided to pass the slowing car on the shoulder. Where the motorcycle was. On Route 28 in Andover, a motorcycle wrecked after a tire popped.
Out west on Route 2 in the small town of Florida a motorcycle wiped out on a curve. While no official cause has been announced, my guess is a young rider was trying to treat a Harley like a sport bike through a twisty section. It could be speed-related but it’s not correctable by speed traps. There’s no place to park a police car where the accident was. A mile or two east of there you might get a ticket.
On four wheels, there was a medical incident (Worcester on May 23). An SUV crossed the median on an exit ramp (Millbury on May 13). A car hit two bicycles on a city street (Arlington, May 5). Police blame that one on a right of way violation.
There are some so far unexplained losses of control (Andover, May 2; Lakeville, May 2; North Attleborough, May 1). What’s missing is a press release saying one of those scary fast drivers took out a car full of innocent bystanders. Because all this noise about speeders is just people taking offense at something they disapprove of.
It’s burned into American transportation policy making. Whatever the problem, speeders must be to blame. Even when ticketing doesn’t work, it’s all authorities know how to do. In Lowell, “despite increasing tickets by over 200 a week, that has not solved the issues on Pawtucket Boulevard.”
It’s also burned into transportation funding policies. Any safety problem can be solved by paying police overtime to write speeding tickets. And that’s really what’s going on here. Police are used to doubling their pay by low-effort overtime shifts and they don’t want to give it up just because of a pandemic.
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