Tragi­com­i­cal speed check

Jamaica Gleaner - - OPINION & COMMENTARY - Garth A. Rat­tray is a med­i­cal doc­tor with a fam­ily prac­tice. Email feed­back to col­umns@glean­erjm.com and garthrat­tray@gmail.com.

ON THURS­DAY, June 8, my wife and I were go­ing on a brief trip to St Ann. I was trav­el­ling north on the North-South High­way early in the af­ter­noon. As I drove along at 80km/h, lit­er­ally all the other ve­hi­cles over­took me at var­i­ous speeds. I re­marked to my wife that I felt like a fool be­cause every­one else was go­ing by. As bor­ing as it was, I obeyed the rules and kept within the posted speed limit.

As I ap­proached Unity Val­ley, five ve­hi­cles flew by me in quick suc­ces­sion. They sped away from me and I saw them breeze right past the clearly vis­i­ble traf­fic po­lice stand­ing be­low. To my amaze­ment, the po­lice of­fi­cer did not stop any of them. I was, there­fore, flab­ber­gasted when he stopped me!

He showed me a 101km/h read­ing on his speed gun. The sit­u­a­tion was bla­tantly out­ra­geous. I had kept within the 80km/h speed limit the en­tire drive.

I felt vic­timised, forcibly taken hostage by an armed of­fi­cer of the law no less. The feel­ing of to­tal help­less­ness was over­whelm­ing. Although it was only a sim­ple traf­fic ticket, be­ing wrongly ac­cused by law­men broad­ened my vista. I won­dered how it wasn’t ob­vi­ous to the po­lice­man that I was not ap­proach­ing him at a high rate of speed and that I main­tained that speed while be­ing over­taken by sev­eral ve­hi­cles. Some­one was wrong – and it wasn’t me.

EX­PLAIN­ING THE OB­VI­OUS

He di­rected me to an­other po­lice­man who re­quested my pa­pers and an­nounced that I was go­ing to be is­sued a speed­ing ticket. I gave him the pa­pers, but told him that I was ab­so­lutely cer­tain that I was not speed­ing. I was stopped, although I was the only one obey­ing the law. It would be hi­lar­i­ous if the sit­u­a­tion weren’t so se­ri­ous.

He went through his rou­tine. He said that the in­stru­ment was cal­i­brated that morn­ing. He ridicu­lously asked how it was that I could be watch­ing my speed AND watch the road, in­ti­mat­ing that care­ful driv­ers can’t pos­si­bly know how fast they are go­ing.

I found my­self ex­plain­ing the ob­vi­ous: I looked down at the speed and then up at the road, and back and forth. He said that my ve­hi­cle was alone, not in a group, when checked but added that they need the newer in­stru­ments that also cap­ture an im­age.

It felt aw­ful hav­ing to ar­gue with a po­lice­man. De­spite er­rant in­di­vid­u­als, it’s a job for which I have al­ways had a great deal of re­spect. My re­mon­stra­tion was per­sis­tent and in­ter­minable. It was the prin­ci­ple of the thing. I have had no traf­fic tick­ets, so my driver’s li­cence was not in jeop­ardy. I ex­pressed my se­ri­ous con­cern that other mo­torists were be­ing wrong­fully tick­eted and for the re­sul­tant neg­a­tive im­pres­sions of in­ef­fi­ciency, in­ac­cu­racy, un­fair­ness and/or cor­rup­tion within the po­lice force.

PLEAS­ANT EX­CHANGE

As he and I spoke, a red car was stopped by the of­fi­cer hold­ing the speed gun. It parked di­rectly be­hind mine and I watched as the driver and front-seat pas­sen­ger alighted, went to that po­lice­man, and, af­ter a very brief mo­ment, they got back into the car, smil­ing broadly and drove away, while I was still try­ing to con­vince the young con­sta­ble that some­thing was def­i­nitely amiss.

He even­tu­ally de­cided to ‘ease me up’. I did not tell him thanks be­cause I was wrong­fully stopped in the first place.

I went away with sev­eral lessons. Obey­ing the law won’t stop you from be­ing un­fairly tar­geted. Such be­hav­iour se­verely un­der­mines po­lice au­thor­ity, causes cit­i­zens to lose re­spect for po­lice per­son­nel, and, there­fore, en­dan­gers the en­tire con­stab­u­lary.

I have wit­nessed at least two driv­ers ig­nore the po­lice when sig­nalled to stop on the North-South High­way. Some peo­ple drive like bats out of hell be­cause they are never go­ing to be stopped when go­ing that fast. Driv­ing over the limit while in groups ren­ders immunity against speed­ing tick­ets. And, last but not least, this is why cor­rup­tion still thrives.

I re­viewed my dash cam video; it con­firmed my me­mory of the events. I in­vite any mem­ber of the con­stab­u­lary to see it for them­selves. Was it a griev­ous er­ror or was foul play afoot? I’ll never know, but both be­smirch the con­stab­u­lary.

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