Monday, August 08, 2005

What's With Our City Cops?

The other night, a friend of mine was driving home when he suddenly spotted the dreaded red-and-blue lights in his rear view mirror. Pulling over, he was informed that he had gone through a yellow light. So what, right?

Wrong. Apparently, that particular yellow light was worth $115.

My girlfriend witnessed another incident, this time involving a pedestrian crosswalk. As a person approached the corner and reached out to press the button that would activate the flashing lights, a car went through the intersection. At that moment, a police officer jumped out and pulled the car over. The offense? Passing a pedestrian at a crosswalk. And in this city, that carries a $500 penalty!

Now, don't get me wrong... I have a healthy respect for the law and those who enforce it, especially when it comes to traffic law. I think we all need to slow down, pay more attention to the road than our cellphones, and just generally try to get where we're going in one piece. But I have to draw the line when it comes to outright stupidity.

The last time I checked, the purpose of a yellow light was to alert motorists to the fact the light is about to turn red. It is a buffer between the green and the red that allows you to clear the intersection. If you can safely stop on the yellow, then do so. If not, continue through before it turns red. And these things are properly timed, too, so you should be able to do one or the other, unless you're speeding.

Now, if they're going to take away our buffer and require us to stop for yellow lights too, I think you're going to see a dramatic rise in rear-end collisions as people slam on their brakes to avoid a ticket.

Bottom line: You shouldn't be able to receive a ticket for running a yellow, only a red.

It's no different with the crosswalk... I agree there should be penalties for driving right past someone attempting to cross the street. I can't count the number of times I've stood at a corner, waiting for someone to take pity on me and allow me to cross. But when you're talking about controlled pedestrian crossings with the flashing lights, it's a different story. If the lights aren't flashing, you should be able to drive on through. Even if they start flashing and you don't have time to stop safely, you should carry on... The same as the yellow light.

On the flipside, I had an altogether different experience this weekend. There's a stretch of road where I live, called Deerfoot Trail. For those of you who aren't familiar with "The Calgary Autobahn", it's a 6-lane freeway that runs north and south through the city. The speed limit is 100km/h (60mph), but that is seldom paid any attention. I'm used to the speeding and I accept it as a normal part of driving Deerfoot.

This past weekend, however, things were completely out of hand. It wasn't just the usual 10 or 15 over the speed limit... It was people flying past me (I was doing about 110), drivers riding only a few feet off each others' bumpers, and one guy that decided to use the shoulder to pass. And guess what... Not a single cop in sight.

It looks like they don't mind handing out tickets for traffic violations, but they'd prefer it if the offenders came to them. So, I say we take away the useless cruisers and hand out lawn chairs so they can park themselves at intersections with coffee and donuts. It sure would ease the pressure on the budget!
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