Saturday, July 21, 2007

Lead Foot Drivers Or Light-Headed Politicians?

I've always deplored using traffic enforcement as a way to raise revenues rather than ensuring safety and smooth driving conditions. Unfortunately it happens all the time. Ever noticed how the traffic police seem most active in issuing tickets when traffic volumes are low and driving conditions are good? In other words, when the conditions for driving fast are the safest?

Many of the traffic police either have quotas or financial incentives for issuing more tickets, though they try not to disclose this. That's why there's the "gotcha" mentality that makes me (and I'm guessing a majority of you) think negatively about speed cops.

Now look what these Virginia politicians have done. The Republicans opposed measures like a 1 cent increase in gas taxes to fund state highway projects, and instead pushed for raising revenues through draconian traffic penalties, like charging drivers at least $1,050 for going 20 miles over the limit. The main proponent of this legislation, State Rep. David Albo (R) is the senior partner in a law firm dealing with traffic offenses, which should experience a nice uptick in business.

Oh, and it's not just Republicans to blame. Democrat Governor Tim Kaine fully went along with this idea. Now that the new law took effect on July 1st, there's been a public outcry. There's pressure on lawmakers to call a special session to repeal the new provisions. Tim Kaine is opposing it - so far. All the state lawmakers face elections this fall. If those among them who voted for the new penalties get re-elected, Virginian drivers will lose a lot of my current sympathy for them.

6 comments:

Rene said...

My friends in LA refer to them as "Mamas" and invariably spot them lurking in the side lanes, especially towards the end of the month. And yet they have always tried to deny that they have a "quota" system.

Sandip Madan said...

Rene, your LA friends may be like some of my Punjabi friends who used the same term because "Mama" in Hindi or Punjabi means "uncle" (mother's brother.) I'm not surprised they denied having quotas...

Rene said...

The same meaning in Bong. Am hoping to see your input on the CNN-You-tube Dem Debate this evening (on sandipmadan.blogspot.com), Missed most of it myself because I was watching the South Asian News on a local channel here.

Sandip Madan said...

I did watch most of the debate, Rene. Since you asked I'll put some comments up, and then folks can give their perspectives or flat out disagree. :-)

kenrod said...

I also blame GM and Toyota for my speeding ticket:)) If the maximum limit on a freeway is 70, why is my speedometer designed to go 120?

But I agree with you, Sandip. I think traffic cops should primarily be dealing with safety issues, like helping the old lady with a flat tire. Instead, they seem so busy filling their quotas.

What has really bothered me lately is the number of cameras on busy intersections. The city says it's to prevent people from running red lights. However, my drycleaner got a $500 ticket, and I estimate the cameras on that intersection goes off 40 times a day. That's $20,000 daily without raising taxes. Big Brother watches. But the good part is that no one contests these tickets because they are flawless. So no more lawyers:))

Sandip Madan said...

Kenrod, I too don't like cameras on intersections being used to automatically issue tickets, and more so when the fines are so high. The intent seems to be revenue generation rather than promoting safety.

I think Republican lawmakers favor these kinds of revenues over welath related property or income taxes. That's because these fines are a flat tax extracting the same dollar amount from rich and poor alike. That's even flatter than consumption taxes like sales tax since the poor buy less than the rich. It's a sneaky way to push their agenda of favoring their richer constituency. But then Democrats are no better when it comes to their issues like union organizing where I agree with Jack Welch. Here's the controversy (the original article is available to BW registered users only):
http://www.businessweek.com/magazine/content/07_14/b4028070.htm?chan=search