By Al Vinikour
Unless you read automotive columns and auto-related websites you probably wouldn’t be familiar with my name. Truth be told I’m a hard-working journalist and freelance economist. (That means I’m poor, too.) I have watched municipalities by the tens of thousands drop down to such desperate financial shape that many have actually had to do away with city services such as police and fire protection, school bus service, garbage pickup and a host of other things. Yet there’s a lot of laws that, if enforced, your town would be out of the dumper in a week. I’m talking about ticketing drivers. If the way out of this morass wasn’t so clearly defined I could almost find some sympathy. I’m going to assume those communities have never read my weekly rants because, if they had and followed my advice, no community would be short on law enforcement or any other vital asset. Listen up because the town you save could be your own.
Simple Solution: Enforce the laws already on the books. You’re a police chief, not another detached Congressman. There is a law that’s broken so many times during a day that if who fail to use turn signals. I have spoken to hundreds of police officers in dozens of states and each locality apparently has a mandatory turn signal edict. You’d never know it, however, by the little attention paid to this violation. I’ve been told that there’s not the manpower to make this feasible. Oh, really?! If you’d take some officers off of speed trap duty and assign them to simple driving enforcement like I’ve mentioned, proceeds would skyrocket. But apparently it’s more NYPD-Blue to stop a driver doing 6 MPH over the speed limit while cruising down a four-lane road than it would to pull over some guy who either doesn’t have the energy or the desire to use his turn signal lever.
You don’t have to be a great mathematician to run the numbers. Let’s say that the fine for failure to use a turn signal is $50 (I don’t know what it is, quite honestly). Depending on the size of the village, if police officers wrote 50 tickets per shift — which isn’t really that many — a minimum of $7,000 per day would be totally realistic. Furthermore, it’s a lot more dangerous for car to make a non-indicated turn and have a Buick creep up its rear-end than it is the aforementioned driver doing 46 in a 40.
The fine should be doubled if the driver is on his cell phone as he’s making a turn that wasn’t preceded by use of a turn signal. If this person can multi-task enough to steer his vehicle and talk on the telephone then he still should be able to find an available finger, knuckle or other body part to flick the stem up or down. Either way it will eventually turn itself off so the driver is really “done working” after the signals are on.
The second most dangerous and violated traffic law is running, or turning left on, red lights. There are more t-boned vehicles than there are t-bones. The body damage wasn’t caused by wild squirrel sex, my friend. It was caused by either the wounded vehicle running a stop light… or the vehicle being the victim of a driver who had run a red light. If this happens once it should be at the discretion of the judge as to what punishment to mete out. The second time should result in a four-figure fine. If there happens to be a third time, then it’s obvious the person is not only a menace to himself but endangering the lives of those around him. Consequently he should lose his driver’s license for a period up to 10 years, and immediately forfeit his vehicle to the town, which will later be sold at a sheriff’s auction. Think how many speeding tickets and how many hours it would take to match the money collected.
The third suggestion of this financial hat trick is to take a “no tolerance” policy towards drunk driving – particularly serial intoxicated motorists. As I’ve said before, if one of my family members has his or her life shortened because of the actions of a drunk driver there would be a job opening at the defendant’s workplace, if you get my meaning. The first arrest should result in a very heavy fine. If there’s a second offense then it clearly indicates the drinker is a killer in waiting. His license should be suspended forever and unlike these bastards who lose their license and wind up driving home from the courthouse, a chip should be implanted in the arm or chest so a 24-hour-per-day surveillance can be maintained. I don’t know much about high-technology —I’m still awed by the engineering marvel of a wheelbarrow — but the tracking device could easily be programmed to indicate the observed driver is operating a motor vehicle. If that’s the case then a strict prison sentence should be administered. The second offense would result in a life-without-parole fine.
The big kahuna in fines would be if innocent parties were killed as a result of a drunk driver. The driver will immediately be held in jail without bail; upon a guilty verdict he (or she) will immediately be carted to a hardcore state (or even federal) prison and all properties of the driver — cars, homes, jewelry, etc — would be confiscated and sold, with the proceeds given to the victim’s immediately family minus a 20% share going to the municipality in whose jurisdiction the incident took place.
If I can come up with various revenue-producing scenarios like I’ve listed — and I can’t even come up with a plan to pull myself out of the hole — then what are town councils and law enforcement agencies doing such that they can’t see their way clear to institute such plans?
This column should be read aloud during every police roll call at the start of a shift… and at the council meeting of every community in this country. The answer of what will make your cities safe and financially sound is already in the statutes. If you aren’t going to use them, then stop siphoning off public funds that could be used to employ someone who will.
A. D. Vinikour