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My Project: The Law Works Both Ways

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  • My Project: The Law Works Both Ways

    --Disclaimer: This is Long --

    Background:

    I've been driving for about 7 years now and over those years I've definately had my share of tickets. Most of them have been seat belt ticket -- I have one point-worthy moving violation (failure to signal, pfft) -- and then random stuff like unclear plates, obstructed view etc. In the lesser instances, a cop is cutting me a break on speeding or whatever reason they decide to pull me over. Thats great, I appreciate that. Some of my tickets have been completely bogus though and I've fought those in court on several occasions (winning while self represented). The problem there is that even winning is a pain in the ass because it takes time and money just to show up in court.

    My gripe here isn't necessarily just with the cops issuing meaningless tickets. Its with the way traffic tickets are primarily used to generate revenue in court and not to punish people who drive inappropriately. Its often the municipality that imposes that kind of mandate, not necessarily the police department. While sitting in court enjoying my due process I've had the opportunity to observe how money is extracted from people for the most meaningless offenses. There is no interest in the details of the event or whether an offense even occured, courts simply push people through a prosecutor plea agreement where the 'offender' ends up changing their fine to a no point offense, often times costing individuals alot of extra money in the process. The insurance companies who would otherwise raise rates to compensate for the fact that a particular driver is unsafe is left unaware while the state fills its coffers by fudging the fines in their financial favor.

    That said, I've decided that if I'm going to have my balls busted for meaningless things like seat belts or doing 63-in-a-55-where-the-flow-of-trafic-is-72-but-I'm-the-only-out-of-state-plate, I'm going to give as good as I get.

    The Issue At Hand
    Recently my mom recieved a traffic ticket for running a red light. I asked her about the incident and she kept saying that the yellow light was too short and there was no way that she 'ran' the light, but just proceeded through on a yellow. I told her I would look into it for her.

    I went to the road where she got her ticket and measured the yellow light timings for 7 consecutive lights. The posted speed limit is a consistent 45 mph for the entire stretch of road that I measured. The area is not flat, there are appreciable inclines and declines that are apparent to the naked eye and certainly effect driving (you notice these things when you drive stick).

    Every single light on that stretch of road has a 4 second yellow time EXCEPT for the light at the intersection where she recieved her ticket. That light is set to 3 seconds. There is no apparent reason why the inconsistency exists, moreover the light is at the bottom of a bowl where it would be more difficult to stop if approaching from any direction. This light should have a LONGER yellow than the other lights.

    I bought a stop watch and timed the lights several times over the course of a few days. The timings stuck. The light that she was given a ticket for is one second short when compared to the other lights on the same road. I also saw 3 people get pulled over for 'running a red' during the few hours it took me to compile data.

    My mom, afraid of getting points on her license immediately signed a plea bargin to reduce the offense to a no point ticket. This 'offense' happened in PA. She lives in NJ, and has an NJ license. She will end up getting points anyway because PA has no sway over how NJ assesses points, and in the ticket that they gave her (failure to obey traffic signal) is a 2 point violation in NJ. If NJ doesn't recognize the exact charge, the ticket becomes 'Out of state moving violation' which is still 2 pts. My mom got screwed over twice. First by the cop issuing the ticket, second by the prosecutor who offered no points without aknowledging that PA doesn't determine the points for out of state drivers.

    The Plan
    Well I've already determined that the light is not consistent and that it is clearly too short.
    If I am liable for not wearing a seatbelt, I'll be damned that the state or local municipality isn't liable for having unsafe traffic light timings. Worse yet, if they use that light to generate revenue thats border line extortion and and probably some form of endangerment.

    I am in the process of making videos of the light where my mom got her ticket in order to document how many cars 'run' the light in order to demonstrate that the light is whats causing people to run red, and not people driving carelessly or ignoring traffic signals. If 6 lights in a row have been 4 seconds yellow, while driving you expect the very next light on the same road to also be 4 seconds.

    Getting my moms ticket dismissed is only the minor goal.

    I've contacted the DOT and local municipality to get information on traffic light timings, specifically what are these lights supposed to be set at (the formula they use), and what timings are listed on record and how the light timings have changed in the last 5 years. The local municipality put me in touch with an engineering firm that handles the traffic lights for the county -- I've contacted the firm with my request. We'll see how forethcoming they are.

    I'm in the process of contacting the DMV aswell to get a record of every ticket written for traffic light violations on the stretch of road in question. I plan on comparing the 3 second intersection to the other 4 second intersections. I suspect it is generating significantly more revenue. Whether it is or it is not, the intersection is still unsafe and I will be seeking official justification for the shortened light.

    Beyond clearing my moms ticket, I plan on either producing an expose on this and tossing it over to the local news, and if any lawyers find my detailed research (as it will be in great detail when it is done) valid I would like to seek a significant suit with the intent of
    A) Expunging the traffic report/points assessed and reimbursing everyone who has recieved a ticket for running the red at the light in question
    B) Changing the light timings to a safe level
    C) Compensating anyone who has been in an accident at that intersection due to short yellow light interval
    D) My personal costs for time spent and possible lawyer fees.


    I know this seems over the top, but if the government is going to hold me accountable for minor infractions like seatbelts I'm going to hold the government accountable for not maintaining safe light intervals and then extorting people who unwittingly 'run a red'.


    Well, any feed back/suggestions/care to help with research?
    |TG|Switch

    Better known as:
    That noob who crashed the chopper.
    That noob who ran over the mine.
    That noob who TK'd me with a sniper rifle.
    That noob who hit that APC at 300m with light AT! Our APC...

  • #2
    Re: My Project: The Law Works Both Ways

    I would see if a reporter wants to get involved with you now as opposed to hearing the story later.
    USAR

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    • #3
      Re: My Project: The Law Works Both Ways

      lol All the power to you. I hope you win, if you do you'll be my hero. Please keep us posted on your progress.

      Comment


      • #4
        Re: My Project: The Law Works Both Ways

        Kick ass and good luck. And don't get arrested for taking pictures of public places like a t'rrist would.
        In game handle: Steel Scion
        sigpic

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        • #5
          Re: My Project: The Law Works Both Ways

          Awesome project.
          Dude, seriously, WHAT handkerchief?

          snooggums' density principal: "The more dense a population, the more dense a population."

          Iliana: "You're a great friend but if we're ever chased by zombies I'm tripping you."

          Comment


          • #6
            Re: My Project: The Law Works Both Ways

            I hate to be the naysayer here, but the law in most states treats a yellow light exactly the same as a red light. Meaning, if drive through an intersection and the light isn't green, you are in violation.

            Obviously you spent a lot of time on your argument, but I don't think it will hold up based on what I know about my own state's laws.
            "No bastard ever won a war by dying for his country.
            He won it by making the other poor dumb bastard die for his country."

            - Attributed to General George Patton, Jr.

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            • #7
              Re: My Project: The Law Works Both Ways

              @Switch: More power to you! Keep us posted!

              @Evo: That would kind of defeat the purpose of Yellow Lights if they were treated the same as Red Lights, wouldn't it? The way I heard it, the presence of a yellow light legally poses this question to a driver: Can you currently stop before reaching the intersection? If yes, you must stop. If no, you are free to proceed through the intersection, as quickly as possible.

              Most people who get tagged for running red lights failed because they were asking themselves the opposite question: Can I make it through the light before it turns red? If you stick to the correct question you'll almost always be safe. That said, given that the majority of drivers don't think like that, I'll agree with Switch that this intersection is probably predatory and needs to be redesigned.

              Comment


              • #8
                Re: My Project: The Law Works Both Ways

                The purpose of the yellow light is to warn drivers that the light is about to turn red. In order to legally make it through an intersection according to the law in most states, your vehicle must completely clear the intersection BEFORE it turns red. This means that you can be directly under a light hanging over the middle of the intersection when it turns red and you are guilty of running the red lamp even though you could not see them lamp change since it was above you and out of your line of sight. In High School and again in Tractor Trailer Training School I was taught that you complete vehicle must clear the entire intersection including a trailer you are pulling before the lamp turns red. Running a red lamp is a very serious offense against your CDL, so drivers pay attention and stop when in doubt. The yellow lamp is you signal to stop if you are not already in the intersection and there is generally no standard timing on the lamps, so I don't think you will get very far with that argument, especially if you live in the area and drive the road frequently enough to know the rhythm.

                Basically it will go down like this, if you argue the light timing, they will just blow it off as irrelevant, if you argue that with the light timing your Mother could not stop safely before the lamp turned red they will remind you that you should slow down for intersections. Keep in mind that there is "proceed with caution" when thinking of the yellow warning lamp before the red. It's there to tell you that the red is coming and you better be stopped behind the white line before it comes on.

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                • #9
                  Re: My Project: The Law Works Both Ways

                  Yes, but yellow light times must be safe. If I can show that the light is too short to be safe, I have my case. Also, consistency is a mandate for traffic signaling, so they will need to have some very good reason to keep this light shorter than all the rest on the same road.

                  You make a good point though, and I'm looking into it. Not all PA law is available on line so its kinda difficult to do on my free time (as I work 6 days a week, 55hrs)
                  |TG|Switch

                  Better known as:
                  That noob who crashed the chopper.
                  That noob who ran over the mine.
                  That noob who TK'd me with a sniper rifle.
                  That noob who hit that APC at 300m with light AT! Our APC...

                  Comment


                  • #10
                    Re: My Project: The Law Works Both Ways

                    I think what you will run into is that there is no law or specific standard to compare to and you would basically need something more eventful to cause a commotion about the speed of a traffic light. It's been argued before, but as soon as the court can establish that you have traveled the road before the ticket was issued, then you had prior knowledge of the light and no excuse for not stopping safely. You have to think like the judge will be thinking and his interpretation of "right", not your own. Just my .02

                    Comment


                    • #11
                      Re: My Project: The Law Works Both Ways

                      One more point of safety is to consider the timing between the streets intersecting each other, does the red light on "Your Mom's" street instantly, or within a second, cause the green light for "Not you Mom's" street? Because this could very well be the court's response to your argument of safety or they may have the answer and "layeth the smacketh down on your..." well. You know.

                      Just trying to play a little Devil's Advocate for you. In any case I think this tiny process of beaucracy is fascinating (the light timing, not due process :p). The collection and application of mounds upon mounds of data into a complex system of traffic signals that move in change with passage of time. From the bird's eye its a marvelous clock, so interdependent on the other nodes failures cause monstrous problems and each success is barely noticeable.

                      I know, I'm not a very interesting person. :(
                      BF 2142:|TG| Birdman10113
                      CoD4: |TG|Birdman

                      Let's put the badges here...

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                      • #12
                        Re: My Project: The Law Works Both Ways

                        Also, another thing most people dont know about yellow lights and the corresponding lane lines (this according to a friend of mine who works for the NTSB:
                        When you come to an intersection, did you ever notice that at a short distance before the "stop" line, the dashed lane lines become a solid line? Theres a reason for this. The NTSB calls it the "red zone", or an area before an intersection at which a car travelling the permitted speed for the road cannot stop safely before the stop line if the light turns while the car is in it. So essentially, if you're approaching a light and you're doing exactly the speed limit and it turns yellow before you reach the point where the lane lines become a solid line, you have time to stop. If you are already in the solid line area, it is considered unsafe to stop before the light. Yellow light timers are set to compensate for this, meaning that they do the math to come up with the exact time at which it takes a car to pass through the "red zone", and thats the length of the yellow light at the intersection.

                        Just an interesting little piece of trivia for you.

                        Comment


                        • #13
                          Re: My Project: The Law Works Both Ways

                          They are SUPPOSED to be set to compensate for such, what I'm saying is that this light clearly is not since it is shorter than the other lights on the same street... but more devils advocate please, it will only help me build a case.
                          |TG|Switch

                          Better known as:
                          That noob who crashed the chopper.
                          That noob who ran over the mine.
                          That noob who TK'd me with a sniper rifle.
                          That noob who hit that APC at 300m with light AT! Our APC...

                          Comment


                          • #14
                            Re: My Project: The Law Works Both Ways

                            Yeah, this is not right. I hope you win. I am normally such a perfect little law abider, but I do run reds every once a while. That's because, like you say, going downhill in a 45 mph zone and then being expected to stop in 3 seconds can be impossible if you don't want to get rear-ended from the car behind you. I'd rather deal with the ticket than get in a wreck. Man, I've heard the east coast is crazy when it comes to tickets, but this is ridiculous. Is it true that Rhode Island cops are the worst when it comes to traffic violations?
                            "Common sense is not so common." -Voltaire

                            Comment


                            • #15
                              Re: My Project: The Law Works Both Ways

                              Originally posted by War.mongeR1 View Post
                              Is it true that Rhode Island cops are the worst when it comes to traffic violations?
                              Nah, Virginia is the worst. Radar detectors are illegal as well.

                              http://www.usatoday.com/news/nation/...ing-laws_N.htm

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