Do you ever feel as if you’ve been worked over by your government?

Getting a ticketI am very disgruntled. I got a moving violation today and have the strong feeling that I was set up.

There is a road near my home that I travel frequently. It’s a familiar road and, in its own way, a fun one:  Many people in my community travel that road on foot and I like to keep an eye out for friends.  Seeing them always gives me a comfortable, small town feel.

Given my dual reasons for keeping an eye out for pedestrians (safety and small town friendliness), you can take my word for it when I say that, as I neared a specific cross street, there were no pedestrians drawing near and, as I drove past that specific cross street, there were no pedestrians heading towards it from the opposition direction. Indeed, the only pedestrians  were two men nearing this particular intersection as I drove towards it.

Just as I entered the intersection (going the speed limit), one of the men walking north towards the corner suddenly swerved east towards the cross walk and stepped off the curb. I had a split second to figure out what to do. In that split second, he looked over his shoulder, up the cross street, and then stepped back onto the sidewalk. I had my foot hovering over the brake, ready to plow my passenger into the dashboard, but his change of plan made me change my plan.  I decided that he’d changed his mind about his impulsive decision to cross the street (because there was no indication that he was previously contemplating doing so), and I drove on.

Fifteen seconds later, I saw a motorcycle police officer coming up behind me with his lights on. An officer wearing a uniform from a police department two towns away from mine approached and asked politely if I had seen the pedestrian. I said that I had, but that he’d stepped into the intersection when it was too late for me to stop safely for the passengers in the car — even though I was going the speed limit — and, since he’d obviously then changed his mind and turned around, I kept going.  The officer informed me that I had enough time to stop and issued me a moving violation.

At this point, I might have thought the whole thing was my bad luck, but then something happened that got me wondering: About four minutes after the policeman stopped me, I saw another car in my rear view mirror getting pulled over. I’m betting he got pulled over for the same infraction because the office went out of his way to tell me that they were cracking down on cars that didn’t stop for pedestrians.

The crackdown might explain that another car got stopped immediately after I did, except for that information I opened the post with:  There were no pedestrians near that intersection other than the two men I mentioned, one of whom got me in trouble.  Perhaps — and I’m just say perhaps — that same pedestrian did the same thing to the other driver that he did to me: Looked as if he wasn’t going to cross, waited until the driver got into the intersection, stepped into the cross walk, then stepped back onto the curb, right in front of another motorcycle cop.

There’s no way I can ever prove this, of course. I just think it’s a remarkable coincidence that, within four minutes, on a street with only two pedestrians at a corner where police were hiding as part of a crackdown, two people got ticketed for moving violations.

It’s not the end of the world, of course, but I don’t like being made a fool of, especially when it costs me money — and being caught in a con (a scam? a sting?) does make me feel as if I’ve been played. Whatever the cost, I can afford it, thank goodness. Others who travel the road can’t (and I wonder if the police let them off with a warning, since the whole infraction is, I believe, a man-created offense).

Aside from the cost of the ticket (and I don’t know yet what it is, but I’m sure it’s not cheap), if I want to avoid seeing my insurance going up, I have to go to traffic school. The county makes that expensive too:

In addition to the bail, you must pay a non-refundable administrative fee of $52 when requesting traffic violator school. The Court accepts certificates of completion from classroom and online traffic violator schools accredited by the Department of Motor Vehicles. You will also be required to pay the fee at the traffic violator school you select. You must submit satisfactory proof of completion to the Court by your due date. If you do so, your citation will not be reported on your driving record. If you sign up for traffic violator school and fail to submit the certificate of completion to the Court by the due date, the Court will notify DMV of your conviction and this conviction will be added to your driving record.

You know what else irked me? The ticket itself. The useful information on the back is illegible, light gray on pink.  I could see that it said “IMPORTANT — READ CAREFULLY,” because that was in 10 pt text and all caps, but everything else was not only in faded gray on pink, but was also 6 or 7 pt text.

If a business handed out a document with important information in illegible text, not only would people not be bound by the information, but the business would be sued under all sorts of consumer protection acts. One of the mandates the law imposes on businesses is that they must ensure that important information in documents that they give to consumers is in dark ink and uses a readable font. Our government, however, is free to hand out unreadable traffic tickets. Fortunately, I was able to access the information I needed on the internet.  Not everyone, though, is as internet savvy as I am, something that’s especially true for older people.

I’ll get over this, but as someone who’s not fond of government at the best of times, I really didn’t need to be on the receiving end of this petty exercise in police power.  I was just speaking today with a contractor about building codes.  He said that inspectors don’t have to have any building experience.  Instead, they can just be any old person who takes a class on how to read the code and apply it to a building site.  This means that the inspector is going to be absolutely inflexible.  Since he has no knowledge, all he can do is paint by bureaucratic numbers.

Take wheelchair ramps, for example.  I like them.  They’re useful for all sorts of people, from the disabled to mothers with baby strollers.  My problem is that codes don’t say only that the ramp has to be wide enough to accommodate wheelchairs of a specific width, that it cannot have a grade greater than “X” or less than “Y”, and that it cannot force the disabled to wend their way through garbage piles.  Architects, engineers, and contractors can then act creatively to meet those parameters while still respecting the space or design of the building project.  Instead, codes spell out rigidly what the ramp must be like, even though it might be impossible or cost-prohibitive to fit that specific, code-defined ramp on the project, and even though an equally useful ramp might be built a different way.

I have the same problem with the ticket I got.  There was not the smallest likelihood I would have hit the man, who turned back to the curb the second his foot hit the road.  There’s also no indication that I was driving so recklessly or fast that I would have been unable to stop had it been apparent that he was bound and determined to cross.  The rule didn’t provide any flexibility for me to read the entire situation:  the passengers in my car, the other drivers on my tail, and the pedestrian’s actions, moving both forwards and backwards.

Instead, because the pedestrian (whether he was a plant or not) decided on the spur of the moment to step into the street, I was expected to stop immediately, sending my passengers flying and risking that another car would rear end me.  Keep in  mind that, as the situation played out, I could have hit the pedestrian only if I suddenly accelerated from 30 mph to about 70 mph (which I could do in a Tesla, not my Mom car), or if he had sprinted at warp speed to get in front of me.  Keep in mind too that, if the pedestrian was a continuing into the intersection, or was a child, I would have slammed the brake so hard, I would practically have moved backwards.

Grumble, grumble, grumble.  Grumble.

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  • Ymarsakar

    The police have quotas, so it’s not impossible that somebody 2 towns over had a deficiency in the number of traffic violations and needed an emergency shore up and they came up with a solution: rich people in Marin.

  • Ymarsakar

    I suggest you eat the costs up, but remove their moral and spiritual authority over your own behavior. Most people consciously or unconsciously accept the authority of people… well in positions of authority. Thus they might consider it unjust. Well, the whole source of their legitimacy and authority is baseless to begin with, so there’s no point arguing about what flows downhill from the sh factory.
    Until you get to the point where you accept that external rules and judgments have no effect on your internal conscience, they can always pull you around for their own convenience, whether or not what they are doing is just or legal.
    This is also why blacks and certain other demographics distrust the police and don’t respect authority of society. It’s not that there’s anything wrong happening, but merely the perception of it can change an entire city’s view point. Whether it is wrong or right is a different issue.
    The top down authority figures have always been setting us up. It’s only a matter of whether we become aware of it or not, and whether we like slavery or dislike it.

  • MacG

    You might be able to get this dismissed.  There aas a hit and run in 2010 in San Rafael and had the driver stopped instead of running: “Police do not plan to cite Lundblad for a crosswalk violation. Rohrbacher said the law requires any vehicles, including bicycles, entering a crosswalk to yield the right-of-way to cross-traffic.” 

    • lee

      “She was also being detained on a no-bail federal immigration hold pending a review of her citizenship status, and she could be deported when the case is concluded.”

  • MacG

    This maybe more germane as there is no vehicle: “BUT
    (b) This section does not relieve a pedestrian from the duty ofusing due care for his or her safety. No pedestrian may suddenlyleave a curb or other place of safety and walk or run into the pathof a vehicle that is so close as to constitute an immediate hazard.No pedestrian may unnecessarily stop or delay traffic while in amarked or unmarked crosswalk.”
    It seems to me that the pedestrian realized it was not safe for him to cross and backed off as he had made a 90 turn without looking over his shoulder before stepping off of the curb and backed up.

  • MacG

    If his back was to you when he turned off of the curb, how could he have safely left the curb and be in compliance with the pedestrian law?

  • lee

    Marin is full of people I call “Prancers.” They are the people who walk into the crosswalk, confident that, because they are in the crosswalk, cars will miraculously stop on a dime for them. They, after all, have the right of way. They fail to understand that even careful, undistracted drivers SOMETIMES have a hard time seeing people–dusk/dawn; between cars… I would often wonder when a pedestrian was hit, how much the fact that the hit-tee was a “Prancer” factored into it.
    Drove me crazy when I lived out there.

  • Jose

    Good thing you didn’t have a suspiciously shaped pop-tart in the car.

  • Ymarsakar

    I always assumed people in cars would try to drive me over, so I made sure I was in a safe area by running really fast.
    The real retards are the ones that go between two cars parked on the side, and then across the street, because cars coming from either direction can’t see through those parked cars.

  • Earl

    I’d go to court on this one, BW.
    First, go to that intersection with a couple of friends (hubby will do for one of them) and take photos of the setup…..where the pedestrians were, where your car was, etc.  Have photo enlargements made and take them to court with you.   Then, collect the relevant statutes on pedestrians and cars and their respective responsibilities. Study those so you can tell the judge what’s what without having to read stuff.
    If my experience with this sort of thing plays out, the officer will not be there in court, and the judge will tell you to make your case in writing, rather than listen to you in person (Hey! He’s busy — in fact, if the officer fails to come, he might dismiss it entirely!).
    I think you can beat this, and I’m pretty sure the fine will make it worth your while to attempt it.

  • Ymarsakar

    Also, certain police departments gain a not insignificant part of their special funding from these traffick tickets, at least as it applies to the controlling authority.
    Where that money goes… well.
    Police generally go to areas where they know that they can get infractions noted by their dashboard cams. It’s easier on the paperwork, fuel use, and driving. So they park in a shadowy grove next to a road with a stop sign, that has little to no traffic. Somebody zooms past, Siren Siren! The police probably knew by rumour mill, from their Blue Line gossips, that your particular street has people like that on it. If of course, the rumors of “prancers” in Marin are true.
    These behaviors are generally long term. Meaning, it’s either something they can see as they drive by, or it’s listed as an area with a lot of traffic violations. And it may be listed a lot merely because some perceptive LEO saw that it was a great place to fill up the quota.

  • biancaneve

    I feel for you, BW.  The street into my neighborhood has a 25mph speed limit and two speed cameras, one of which is placed on a downhill section.  Have you ever tried to keep your car under 25mph while going downhill?  Practically impossible.  Despite being a residential street, there are very few driveways on the street – most of the traffic comes from neighborhood feeder streets – so the speed limit is artificially low.  Recently the county added traffic islands and curb extensions in order to make cars bob and weave on the road, thus forcing them so slow down.  In other words, the county made the road less safe in order to justify the low speed limit.  The whole thing feels like a trap.
    Recently I was driving in the right lane on a toll highway on a Sunday morning with absolutely no traffic.  Up ahead I saw a police car on the shoulder under an overpass.  Knowing that the state passed a law requiring drivers to pull over so as to leave a lane clear between stopped police cars and emergency vehicles and traffic, I started moving to the left lane.  As I did so, the police car put its lights on.  I passed the police car and in my rearview mirror I saw the police car turn its lights off.  The whole thing felt like a set-up to give people tickets for failing to move over for a stopped police car.
    Recently it came out that 18% of the speed camera revenues in my county come from one small town.  These speed cameras are just a source of revenue and represent a tax imposed unfairly on those who happen to live on certain streets or in certain neighborhoods.

  • Danny Lemieux

    Boycott the businesses in that community and write a letter to the Chamber of Commerce explaining why you are doing so and that you are also letting all of your friends and acquaintances know about this.  It’s the only way to effect change.

  • Navy Bob

    I had a similar experience and choose to provide the judge with a written explanation with diagrams and all and got it dismissed.   Depends on the judge but mine agreed with my reasonable explanation. 

  • Charles Martel

    Book, the Twin Cities cops sent out notice yesterday via Next Door that they are conducting “a special enforcement operation throughout our jurisdiction,” May 19-23. I am quoting the Barney Fifian language directly: “The goal of the Central Marin Police Authority is to educate the public regarding traffic laws concerning crosswalks and to educate pedestrians on using the crosswalks responsibly.”
    I think you can tell by the stilted language that you were, indeed, set up. This is what our pathetic little police force does with its time. There’s virtually no crime in the Twin Cities, but our vigilant protectors, tired of showing up way after petty crimes have been committed to take useless reports, have now decided to edumakate us. 

    • Bookworm

      That sounds right, Charles.  A friend told me about the same notice.  That’ll teach me not to read my Next Door emails right away.

      • Ymarsakar

        The tax collectors even gave you the luxury of a warning? That’s great Service right there.

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  • lee

    I used to live in Novato, just off of a street people used to speed up. I always went the speed limit–there were a lot of kids, a lot of pedestrians, a blind guy with a guide dog, guide dog trainers… Some of us were talking to a Novato police officer who told us that they only ticketed if people were going above the average speed that was traveled on that street. Interesting concept. If the average speed that is driven on that street is 35 mph, then, according to him, they’d only ticket people driving faster than 35 mph.
    However, they are LIGHTNING QUICK to pull people over for talking on a cell phone, not hands free.

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  • Bookworm

    When I wrote about my travails on Facebook, one of my friends confirmed that I was not being paranoid or hallucinating. Not only did the same thing happen to her, but when she circled back on foot, she witnessed her “pedestrian” do the same thing to several other drivers, only to have the cops swoop down on them. My friend then approached the woman and asked if she could join in, and the woman assured her that she could.

    This is just disgraceful. Although ours is a peaceful community, I’m sure that the police have something better to do with their time than to run stings on law-abiding citizens.

    • Ymarsakar

      Better than raising money for the police unions, so they can wage war on humanity.
      Whatever do you mean, of course they don’t have anything better than that to do.

  • Charles Martel

    Actually, Book, they don’t have anything better to do. They work from a gold-plated headquarters building that is equipped with high-end appliances in the break room and state-of-the-art communication equipment for a three-city jurisdiction where the biggest crimes are auto break-ins at the ferry terminal and shoplifters from Richmond hitting the tony stores at The Village.
    They drive high-powered V8 Dodges mounted with heavy-duty bumpers and shotgun racks, and most of them walk around with at least two pistols and all sorts of cop phylacteries on their belts.
    In short, we have a bunch of cosseted, oversized boys and girls with way too much time on their hands playing at cop. Barney Fifes on steroids.

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  • pst314

    If someone were to video the sting an ambitious lawyer could use it to get all the citations rescinded.
    Maybe you should get a dashboard cam.

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