Thursday, September 17, 2009

Zoom zoom zoom

Ya know... I don't consider myself a speed demon.

As a matter of fact, people have made fun of me for driving too slow. For instance, one of the guys I sometimes carpool with to the Pentagon is a naval aviator. When he drives, I have to change my shorts after I get to work. He doesn't drive, he flies at really low altitude - Mach 2, zipping back and forth, weaving in and out of traffic. My right foot instinctively taps the floor for the ghostly passenger-side brake pedal that isn't there.

When I drive, he offers to pay me for the extra gas I'll burn if I at least go the speed limit. (He exaggerates a bit).

During our family road trip drive across country last summer, I commented on how I felt like a boulder in a vast river gushing around me as people passed me on the left and on the right as if I were standing still. The same is true on the occasional days that I have to drive in to work on the Dulles Toll Road. The speed limit is 55 mph, and I'll got a little bit over that, but people will fly past me on the left and right as if I'm standing still.

Segue into last night. After a looooooong day at work that started off with several middle-of-the-night phone calls and getting up to go to work at 4 a.m., I came home to find an envelope waiting for me on the table.

I said to myself, "Self, why is there something from the District of Columbia addressed to YOU on the table?"

[pregnant pause]

Then I said to myself, "Self, that's odd. It kinda looks like there's a picture in the envelope from the District of Columbia."

Oh fudge.

I opened the envelope to find a speeding ticket from a camera in the District of Columbia. Darnit. $50 if I pay within 30 days, $100 if I wait. It's actually very easy to pay the ticket on the DC DMV website.

Yep, they got me.

It's frustrating because I had no clue there was a speed trap in there. Today I happened to have to drive the same stretch of road to go to a meeting across town, so I kept a close eye out for the speed trap. I saw it alright. A coworker of mine was driving, and I took a couple of pictures on our way driving back to the office.

You can't even read it in this photo, but the little yellow rectangle under the SPEED LIMIT 40 sign says, "Photo Enforced."

Low and behold, about a quarter mile past the 40 mph speed limit sign, there was this white van parked on the side of the road with a radar gun and camera contraption on the dashboard. There were no markings on the van whatsoever, so you wouldn't even know it was law-enforcement related.

It seems clear to me that this is purely a revenue-generating venture for the District. By using the sneaky methods (small warning sign, unmarked van, wide-open stretch of road with no apparent reason to limit the speed to 40 mph), I suspect this has little impact on the actual rate of people speeding on this stretch of road.

If they genuinely wanted to get people to slow down, they would post one of the speed limit signs along with the "YOUR SPEED IS: XX" readouts that publicly declares you're speeding. Or they could put a lot bigger, more obvious warning signs that they're photo-enforcing the speed limit.

They didn't do any of that though. By doing it on the sly, it seems to me their intent is merely to generate revenue, and the website sure made it very quick and easy to pay the ticket - cha-ching!

Anyway, I'm not overly upset about this, other than my lovely wife pointing and laughing at me. You can't argue with the photographic evidence, though. I mainly share this for my DC readers to beware lest you find a surprise envelope from the District of Columbia in YOUR mailbox.


Navy Blue Cougar said...

That sucks.

I agree that these sort of things are nothing more than a revenue-generating machine. I read about a guy in Arizona that was caught 30-some times speeding while wearing a monkey mask over his face so that he could claim he was not the one speeding. The police staked out his house (which I assume they got from his license plate) and caught him getting in his car and putting on his mask. I would not recommend trying that.

Here in Bremerton, I see a lot of cameras at intersections to catch people running red light. These sort of things are popping up all over the place.

On the plus side, I guess you got to use your new Epson scanner to post the nifty letter you got from D.C.

Nice car.

Hilary said...

I'm so glad that your wife is laughing.. because really, that's funny considering you've been teased for being a slow driver.

I do have to disagree with your logic about the methods though.. as frustrating as I admit they are. The big sign above the little yellow one states the restriction of 40 mph. (Similar to a "no shoplifting" sign in a department store) The little yellow one warns you're being watched (kind of like a "shoplifters will be prosecuted sign or a mounted camera). We don't need that second bit of information to remind us that the first bit is the limit. We take our chances.

I don't consider speeding on the same scale as stealing by any means though. Not even close. Sorry you got caught, but it's practically a badge of honour to show your high-speed friend. ;)

Sagey said...

Thanks for making the giggles come back this morning.

Some of you have to understand our history and I will start off by saying I was born and raised in the Boston area... enough said. So needless to say, I don't do much driving when we are all in one car (but for some reason he has no problem with me schlepping the kids all over creation when he is at work). I scare him. But lets see who has all the recent traffic violations... hmm that would be HIM, not me. :-) **Giggle giggle giggle!**