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Pin Drop

May 26, 2024

My wife and I have traveled a lot over the last couple of years, much more so since buying our Honda Civic. I fill the tank when it is at or near half and it rarely costs even $20.

We average 40-plus miles to the gallon and have put a mind-bending (to us) 35,000-plus miles on the vehicle since we bought it. That used to be two years of travel for us. We are on the highway a lot.

I’ve been driving since I was sixteen years old. I have had two moving violations in all those years. Both on the same weekend. Both were when I was 17 years old. Neither was for speeding. I will NOT say that I never exceed the speed. I pass people often who are not doing the speed limit and I try to do so as quickly as possible so I usually exceed posted speed mid-pass. I rarely travel more than two miles over the speed limit if that. I’m simply not interesting to officers tasked with controlling speeders. A big part of my philosophy is the fear of getting a ticket. It has worked. The downside, if it is that, is that I get where I’m going a few minutes later than I might have at faster speeds.

Not everyone feels the same about the speed limits. My wife’s brother-in-law (her sister’s husband doesn’t. (I don’t consider those relationships ‘in-law’. I only consider people married to MY brothers/sisters in-laws. There IS logic in that and also some agreement. I’ve done the research)… I digress… my wife’s brother-in-law argued with me about the miles per gallon achieved being equal between driving the speed limit and speeding. He argues that ‘getting there faster’ equals things out. The fact is, he is wrong. Wind resistance is the difference and I have done the research and even kept a newspaper article explaining things should it ever come up again. While miles per gallon certainly adds weight to my determination to obey the speed limits, it is not the main reason. The fact that it is the law is the important factor to me. I try to be faithful in what is least… and also give ‘Caesar’s things to Caesar’. I’m not perfect. I try to do what I can though.

Having said all of that, it is a little frustrating seeing people ignore the speed limit so flagrantly. I do see them pulled over often and I would be lying if I did not enjoy the schadenfreude (seeing them pay for their flagrant disobedience) but having them whiz by me, often weaving through traffic like race car drivers, introduces danger that can affect me directly and indirectly. I’ve sat in many a traffic jam caused by someone who ‘knows what he’s doing’. Years ago I came up with an idea for a rush-hour surcharge. This would be where a surcharge of say $5,000 is applied to anyone who has an accident during rush hour. Schadenfreude!

I have gotten used to the young lady in my wife’s phone who gives us directions. For the most part, she is pretty reliable. Sometimes she gets confused and needs the boot. (Reboot). Mostly, I’ve grown to rely on her. One of the services she provides is notification of traffic congestion and speed traps, and THAT is the whole point of this article.

When we think of a pin drop, it is probably most often in the context of small sounds in extreme quiet. The lady in my wife’s phone has given me a whole other context. I asked my wife how she knows when there is an accident or a speed trap. Apparently, it is because other travelers ‘drop a pin’ in an area to notify/warn other travelers. This gave me a great idea. Great to me. Probably at least of some amused interest on the part of law enforcement. I’m pretty sure the scofflaw cohort will not find it amusing.

For years, I have noted the effect of a state police car parked in some inconspicuous part of a road or highway. Usually, there is a trooper with a radar device trolling for speeders. In the past, I have even read police parking their cars but not staying there, expecting just the sight of a police car to be enough to slow drivers down. This effect is always temporary though. Speeding resumes shortly after the sighting whether the vehicle is manned or not. The law of averages is always in the speeder’s favor. Police cannot catch everyone. Their best hope is to scare people like me honest. However…..

It occurs to me that the state police could use the ‘pin drop’ thing to their advantage. Every day, while driving along, drop a pin every once in a while to report a speed trap. Do it in several places, not the same every day. I’m not saying set up a speed trap… just report that one is there. And then another a bit farther. Etc. This seems like a cost-effective way to slow more people down without allocating roadside radar resources.

You have doubtless heard of Pavlov’s dog. Give a dog a treat to reward desired behavior. It works. They found that it works even BETTER when the treat is intermittent. In other words, there may or may not be a treat. The conditioned behavior becomes even more pronounced. It works in people too. Actual speed traps would reinforce the behavior because people would not start to become comfortable that traps were tricks.

The goal is speed control. There are other ways to get a fix for rebellion/defiance. Speeding is dangerous. It causes accidents, often not for the speeder but for others in their vicinity. Or passengers in their cars. Accidents cause injuries, deaths, and traffic jams. If I were a state trooper, I would be doing this everywhere I went. A button press, or however a pin is dropped. Kinder, gentler way to enforce a law. No carrot. Never sure if there is a stick.

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