Sunday, August 05, 2007

Traffic Violations and Human Nature

As you may know, I admit to being an accountant. Early in my accounting career an experienced person conveyed this "fact" to me: he said, "One of every 100 employees of a company actively looks for ways to cheat or steal from their employer, and another four will promptly take advantage of an opportunity to cheat or steal if they belive they won't be caught." I guess it's nice that 95 of 100 of us will not cheat or steal even if given the opportunity.

I was reminded of this story when I began to consider the reasons why I'm witnessing so many traffic violations on our local roads. So many more people seem to be running red lights, driving with their cell phones in their ears, or making illegal turns. It's an epidemic of traffic lawlessness, and I've seen the results of it at intersections where my ambulance stopped to pick up the people who've been hit by the latest light-runner.

Things were not always this way on the roads. Traffic law enforcement was once a much more high priority item for government, and traffic cops were everywhere, it seemed. If you were a chronic light-runner you could count on your luck running out and your wallet substantially lightened by fines and higher insurance costs. Now, however, the price of police has gone up and the number of police has declined. Moreover, police have little incentive to write tickets if they have to show up in court to defend them. Consequently, traffic law enforcement in many areas is minimal.

Back to my point, then. Perhaps there always was that one in 100 drivers who would run red lights simply because they were wired to look for opportunities to cheat. Now, though, we are faced with another four of 100 who, due to lack of enforcement, take advantage of the opportunity to cheat because they don't fear being caught. One of these four could kill you, so be wise - check both left and right before you start out after your red light turns green.

Some people believe using cameras for traffic law enforcement is an invasion of privacy. I figure that if we can't afford cops we should use cameras. After all, a picture is worth a thousand words in some situations. The risk of having 5% of drivers running red lights is just too high, and if fear is the only way to get us back to 1%, so be it.


Dave said...

When I was young, I used to drive fairly fast. Not crazy, just fast. Now I poke along in the right lane, or the next to the right lane, depending on how many people are merging, at sixty or sixty-five, depending on the traffic dynamics. You can get killed by driving too slow here in Atlanta.

Yesterday afternoon, I was driving from Marietta to Atlanta on I-75, poking along at sixty. I realized that most of the traffic was poking with me; and,that about a hundred yards ahead of me there was an Atlanta cop, poking along.

We all poked for awhile. A red blur passed though my mirror, on my side and ahead of me at about eighty or so. As he or she passed the cop, they slowed a bit. The cop paid no attention and got off at the next exit.

The cop having left us, everyone but me resumed the normal seventy to seventy-five unofficial spead.

ThomasLB said...

I'm one of the slowest guys on the road. I figure my car has a comfortable seat, air conditioning, and a nice stereo- so what's my hurry?

I read one time that we're far more likely to lose our lives or our property in auto crashes than to any form of crime. I would favor moving more resources into traffic enforcement.

But I have two problems with surveillance cameras. The first is that I don't trust the local authorities. Once they start seeing the revenue pour in, you'll start seeing 1-second yellow lights. The constitution says you have the right to face your accuser in court, but that won't work here- if the robot says you're guilty, there's no realistic recourse.

The other problem is that I know the White House is going to use those cameras to spy on people they don't like. People like me.

Woozie said...

Invent a mechanism where at red lights, spike strips pop up in front of the crosswalk so if they run the light they get flat tires.