I'm not normally a particualrly heavy-footed driver, but I got pulled over for doing 75 in a 55 Saturday afternoon on the way home to my parents. I was in a good mood, listening to a Tom Waits album, driving with traffic, and not really paying attention to my speed - for all I know I may actually have been doing what the cop claimed I was, and I certainly have no empirical basis to disagree. I haven't gotten a ticket in years (ironically, my last one was in Gardner, too, and I suspect it might have been the same cop), and it's not like the $200 ticket is the difference between paying rent this month and not, and again it wouldn't shock me if that number was at least close to accurate, so whatever - the cop was about as polite and professional as one could ask in that situation, so the ultimate result was it barely dampened my good spirits. I probably won't even fight it.
However, it got me thinking about the whole "speeding ticket" thing. For one, there's no plausible reason I can think of why that stretch of highway isn't 65. It's two lanes, it doesn't pass near any major urban or suburban centers and doesn't drive through any towns, and it's a four lane highway. It's silly that the speed limit is as low as it is.
However, the thing that I really started thinking about is how the system as it stands now really incentivizes cops to go out and set speed traps. I wasn't doing anything dangerous (I was moving with the flow of traffic) and wasn't even putting myself at risk, driving over 65 in a sparse but steady flow of traffic, yet crime is going undetected all over the state (almost two years ago when I got hit by another driver, the cops wouldn't even come out to do an accident report when I called it in - thank god there were no issues with the insurance process). It makes very little sense in any terms but an attempt to try to generate funds for their department - if the Town of Gardner's coffers get a bit low, send a trooper out onto Rt 2 for the afternoon and at $200 a pop it's not too hard to pad the budget a bit.
So, since it's tough to argue speed traps are a good use of police resources, it seems to me that the system wherin ticket revinue goes to the towns who write the tickets provides a strong economic incentive to allocate police resources in an inefficient manner. So I started thinking briefly about alternatives. After toying with the idea of distributing ticket dollars on a statewide basis per capita based on census data (such that a town with 1% of the state's population would get 1% of all ticket revinue), it occured to me that a more fair approach might be to direct ticket revinue back to the home district of the offender, to improve law enforcement in the neighborhood of the person commiting the crime. Aside from the appealing symmetry there, it would still insure a relatively even per capita distribution of ticket revinue (since if there are no demographic factors surrounding speeding tickets the more people in a community, the higher the probability that residents will recieve speeding tickets) while removing the personal incentive for writing tickets.
I don't know, I'm sort of thinking out loud here. Thoughts? I just see something inherently inappropriate about allowing a department to keep potentially lucrative ticket revinue from minor offences, and I'm sure there's a better way to do it.
Slow down=no speeding ticket.