Due to the move of the blog to Wordpress posts from Jan 2012 onward will have commenting disabled (when I remember to do it)
Cheers - AE

Tuesday, 2 September 2008

Why automatic policing by numbers isn't a substitute for sensible policing by coppers.

From the Sydney Morning Herald: Police drop bridge crash fines.
As motorists were forced to use the Harbour Bridge transit lane yesterday - the only way past a crash that clogged Australia's busiest road for six hours - highway patrol officers recorded their details. They would be sending them a fine for $189.

It so incensed the Police Minister, David Campbell, that he called on the Police Commissioner to show some leniency and cancel the fines.

Five of the bridge's eight lanes were blocked for more than two hours. That left just two lanes northbound and one south bound - the transit lane. It was not until midday that the traffic backlog cleared, demonstrating how easily a main city artery can be thrown into chaos.

It just happened that the police highway patrol was conducting a planned operation on the bridge. The officers started booking drivers who moved into transit lanes to get around the crash. A police spokesman said the operation was called off as soon as officers realised what was causing the disorder. But it was too late for some.

Nice to see that the officers involved realized (albeit after some fines had already been issued) that drivers were taking the obvious option of using the transit lane and weren't simply piss takers, that the Police Minister recognized that fining drivers for being sensible was unfair and wasn't going to be popular, and that the Commissioner agreed and is canceling those tickets that were issued. Commonsense all round, but it does show that reliance on black and white interpretations aren't always the best option and that automatically issuing tickets regardless of circumstances, whether by automated systems or by human operators simply ticketing everything in sight, ignores that fact.

I'm no lawyer but I'm told that many motoring laws are absolute offenses - you are either over the speed limit or you are not, you either entered the transit lane or you did not, and so on. In the case of speed limits and transit lanes these boundaries are arbitrary. Change the limit on a particular road from 50kph to 60kph or vice versa and what has changed in the real world? Nothing. But suddenly 55kph has become legal/illegal where once it was not, and the risk presented by driving at 55kph in that place need not have changed. This is why I like real coppers enforcing laws like this. A trained traffic cop will look and evaluate and decide whether words need to be had or fines are deserved or perhaps even that a driver's action deserve a court appearance. Say someone exceeds the speed limit to overtake a road train... should they be fined because they decided that it was worth speeding in order to spend less time on the wrong side of the road? Is that situation fundamentally different from the situation on the Sydney Harbour Bridge? A camera just takes a picture and sticks a fine in the post, and that's the same whether it's a fully automated fixed camera or one with a human operator. Yes, there's the chance that a copper might be a vindictive sod having a bad day and willing to show no more mercy than a camera would have, but I'd like to think most join up for vocational reasons rather than the power and the gun. I'd rather have more coppers patrolling the roads (marked or unmarked cars, I don't care) and less reliance on cameras.
Related Posts with Thumbnails