The rules of the game

A long time ago, hopefully beyond the statute of limitations, I was at a Fourth of July party the BATF would have gone wild for. Drunk people with illegal fireworks and illegal cigars. Sober, I nearly got incinerated by a bonfire. Seems like a miracle nobody got hurt. The only harm was done by traffic cops.

Sometimes police on I-80 in Pennsylvania dress up and play soldier, laying camouflaged in the grass shooting laser beams into traffic. That day they were using a parked car so the game was who sees who first.

A couple coming to the party won the game by a second. The driver slammed on the brakes, the officer shot… and the score was a ticket for 71 in a 65.

That made me suspicious. On Pennsylvania highways police can’t write you up for less than 6 over when using radar or laser. What are the odds that the officer locked on at exactly the minimum ticketable speed? Slim.

I figured the officer saw the car’s nose dip before he measured a legal speed. He didn’t want to let somebody go who had obviously been speeding in a sports car. So he did the least dishonest thing.

If the charge had been unsafe driving he could have explained why he thought the car was going dangerously fast. But the car wasn’t going dangerously fast, and the system hardly cares about unsafe speed. That’s the least serious offense known to the license point system. 2 points. There are no 1 point offenses.

Driving with the flow of traffic past Erie is a worse offense than unsafe speed. Driving 71 in a 55 is worse than careless driving or running a stop sign. Sports car on the open highway… they’ll take your license away.

Like most states’, Pennsylvania’s traffic court system is designed to punish people for driving at safe speeds and let them off easy for driving at unsafe speeds.

To compensate a little, the rules of the game say the serious “bad number” offense should be proved by a machine-generated number.

So what I think happened is the officer made up a number. If you put him on trial for perjury I’d say there’s reasonable doubt, but I think that’s what happened. Some people think it’s OK to lie to convict a guilty person.

The driver was speeding but the officer didn’t play fair. The rules of the game say if you hit the brakes in time, you’re supposed to get away with it.

It’s part of the silly system we have. You could imagine trials being about good driving, bad driving. Instead they’re about good number, bad number.

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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2 Responses to “The rules of the game”

  1. Joe says:

    The blog is wrong. No police in PA are currently permitted to use LIDAR, which he calls laser. Laser is also a term from the 1990’s, which is obsolete.

    Also, in the 71 in a 65 example used, it is possible the cop read that, may have cut the person a break, may have known the person slowed down, etc. This had to be radar, which may or may not be accurate, and there is also a cosine effect. Without being there, it is sheer speculation.

    In a 65 zone, they will not ticket anyone below 75, and possibly 80. The exception may be holiday periods or during so-called ticket blitzes.

    If this were an actual speeding ticket, it may have been laughed out of court. What happens a lot too is there are non-points tickets written. They want you to just pay up and call it a break. Could that be what this is?

  2. Tom Beckett says:

    To Joe’s last sentence, any time a government official in any capacity goes on about safety, it’s the money. If you ever get a ticket in PA, look at all the add ons for the various funds and costs. It’s all crap. Enforcement for profit.