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Easy money!

I am always looking for ways to help California out of its massive, projected $42 billion (USD) budget deficit this year. :-) Today, I saw at least two “variations on a theme” that might help, on the “supply side!”

On my way to an assignment this morning, I followed a Mercedes with a driver who was “texting” while approaching the on-ramp from Airway in Livermore to west-bound I-580. I blew the horn (since he was driving badly) and gave him the “international sign” for “no texting” (holding an imaginary device with both thumbs flailing madly, while slowly shaking your head from side to side :-) ). Eventually, he started to actually DRIVE! :-) While proceeding down that same on-ramp, the texting driver in the Mercedes BLEW past the traffic-metering signal on the on-ramp, ignoring the red stop signal! In the carpool-only lane, drivers without passengers blatantly ignored the “carpool-only” designation so that they could bypass a whole line of cars and merge onto I-580 west.

Then, on the way home this afternoon, a gray Mercedes (I don’t know about YOU, but I will spend a lot of time in a gray box soon enough without DRIVING one :-) ) totally ignored a red metering stop signal on the on-ramp from the Fallon Road exit to east-bound I-580. I blew my horn (ineffectually, I know), but I like to let drivers know when they are driving badly. Otherwise, they might begin to believe that what they are doing is “just fine.”

I have written about Bay Area traffic BEFORE!

I am not sure what it is with Mercedes drivers lately – they seem to be earning the same bad reputation that many BMW and Volvo drivers have (for admittedly DIFFERENT reasons). :-) All of these brands make good cars, by the way. It is the DRIVERS, not the CARS, that have the bad reputations.

(Note added February 5, 2009: In thinking about this topic some more, I realized that my stance is probably strongly influenced by traffic-enforcement patterns in my native Ohio [there is a place on Interstate Highway 71 that is known as “Radar Valley”]. I remember a statement in the movie “The Cannonball Run,” starring Burt Reynolds and others, about the fact that “no state has instituted the death penalty for speeding, except maybe Ohio.” :-) )

Anyway, my proposal is this: station a CHP (California Highway Patrol) or other motorcycle officer near the traffic-metering signal for the on-ramps at intersections along I-580 (and other “main arteries” as well). Go ahead and mix it up. Look for people in the carpool lane with only a driver. Carpool lane violations are several hundred dollars, and the officer could pull them over while stopped, without a chase (same for drivers who are “texting” or “phoning without a hands-free device”…). Meanwhile, if the motorcycle officer notices anyone “running the light” then they are in a good position to follow them in the bogged-down traffic. The officers should not expect civilian motorcyclists to sit forever at a faulty detector that does not “sense” them, however. We make electronics in California – buy some GOOD detectors. :-)

It is interesting to me that some drivers think that they can ignore the law. We have a “classless” society in America. Some “native-born” Americans have not learned that fact. Similarly, some immigrants (remember, we are ALL immigrants here) and visitors from other countries, who enjoyed a “privileged class status” abroad, would like to “import” that class status while living in or visiting the United States. Some might even enjoy remaking American society into a society with more rigid social classes. Forget about it. Drop your “privileged class status” at the border. You are just like everyone else here.

If there are ANY social classes in America, there are really only two – the top 1% (economically), for whom things have been getting MUCH better since 1980, and the rest of us, for whom things have been getting slowly (or rapidly) worse. Driving a Mercedes (or BMW, or Volvo or any other “brand” [definition 4a]) will not move you into that top 1%. Don’t be delusional. :-)

OK, law enforcement folks – the ball is in your court. Start enforcing the carpool lanes, cell phone hands-free laws, and no-texting-while-driving laws and bring in that revenue!  Don’t enforce the laws selectively (as some Bay Area communities are known to do – letting folks who LIVE (and VOTE, e.g., for Mayor  :-) ) in their towns get off with a WARNING, while FINING those who “pass through.” :-) You know who you are! (I avoid passing through or shopping in one such city – I wonder how many others do. I wonder if their Chamber of Commerce knows that their merchants could be doing business with folks like us who avoid their town for reasons of “selective enforcement” (and “fabricated” violations)!

Look at the effect that law enforcement could have on California’s budget deficit (we have a lot of “offenders” :-) )! Look at the contribution that could be made to reinforce the concept that America is a country where “all men <humans> are created equal.”

-Bill at Cheshire Cat Photo™

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