If you drive north on Mopac daily from downtown in the morning, you’ll have no doubt noticed the Starship troopers hiding out on your journey. Recently they’ve been spotted in numerous places, more often up under the Parmer Lane Bridge, Monday there were three clustered together, their broad shouldered appearance in the shadows, standing next to their Star Wars like speeder bikes; Full facemask on, sometimes reflecting the sun and glinting in your eyes as you speed past. Only at the last minute do you spot them holding their radar speed guns rather than litesabers. Sometimes though they are easier to spot, they sit in Texas DPS Cars and are dressed like regular cops
It’s the reality of the daily north bound commute on Mopac, north of the 183 section, up onto the toll road section. Yes, while all you out of towners are sitting in slow moving traffic heading south, it’s perfectly possible to travel at, or greater than the speed limit going north. Now, I’m not for a minute suggesting that you should exceed the speed limit on any road in Austin or elsewhere. For the sake of transparency, I’ve been stopped and ticketed twice this year and realise I’m in the wrong. While I’ve breezed past the speed cops recently, with the cruise control set to 60MPH to accomodate the sometimes confusing, variable speed limit on sections of Mopac, many others have not been so lucky. The question is though, is this really the best use of the cops time ?
I’m not trying to get them off my back so I can speed and break the law with impunity, it just occurs to me that following another death in an Austin neighborhood, sitting on Mopac and picking off north bound drivers really does little good, except raise revenue. It’s an alternative, progressive form of tax, levied and paid unevenly, and avoided by most. If you really wanted to tax speeding drivers on the toll roads, just charge based on the time taken to pass through/between toll booths and be done with it. At least that’s open and transparent. The current system is akin to using the cops as tax/toll collectors.
While from time to time I assume there must be crashes on that section of Mopac, I’d guess they involve few cars, when speeding is possible. Maybe, more when the roads are busy like the evenings heading North on Mopac, but then speeding isn’t so much an issue, just dangerous and careless driving that causes accidents.
So, assuming we are not about to see a big influx of new law enforcement officers and enough to patrol everywhere, then perhaps the cops could be put to use patrolling those neighborhood roads where cars still speed, often with impunity, and when there is an accident with serious and deadly consequences. [Like this one from earlier this month]. To my memory, speed has been cited in at least 5 neighborhood deaths where pedestrians have been killed by motorists this year, have there been any on that section of Mopac in the morning commute?
I assume cops themselves are the only ones at risk of being hit on Mopac, rather than pedestrians, and sadly, it does happen, so another reason not to put them at risk just to raise revenue. What should we expect from our law officers, to protect and serve, or to raise revenue? Isn’t that a reasonable question ?
Before you vent, again, I’m not saying cops are bad, I’m not saying that speeding is justifiable, or that I or any others breaking the law are in any way safe drivers. The question I’m asking, is, given the choice should the cops be sitting on Mopac and picking off easy hits on variously empty roadway, or actually patrolling and stopping drivers in the neighborhood arterial roads and shortcuts where speeding is just as common but more dangerous?
Don’t hold your breath though for changes, a recent study from researchers at the University of North Carolina suggests that a weak economy will mean more traffic tickets. Net, net: every one percent (1%) loss of local government revenue leads to a .32 percent increase in the number of traffic tickets.