Elizabeth Willis Barrett
June 6, 2012
(Reading this essay may save you some grief!)
Have you ever come up to a yellow light and debated a second too long whether to stop or not? You must choose to slide on through the yellow or squeal your brakes causing bodies and 44 ouncers to slosh dangerously. A second to decide is all you’ve got.
I came to a light at Dobson and Main and my split second decision was decidedly the wrong one. I drove through the yellow only to see a flash of brilliance that made my stomach reel. Photo radared again! Before this incident, I had received only one unflattering blurred picture of myself driving. I took it to a complaint department and asked them how they could tell it was me. He was very kind and said there was no denying the likeness. He also told me how the lights are synchronized and that I did have time to stop but chose not to. Off to traffic school I marched to avoid the fine and the record.
When this next expected indistinct photo arrived in the mail connected to a traffic ticket, I ignored it as many experienced photoed drivers have advised me to do. Unfortunately, a hungry ticket issuer decided to knock on my door one evening with a copy of said ticket.
“Are you Elizabeth Barrett?” she asked. Thinking she had something exciting to offer me, I admitted that I was. “Here!” she said and thrust an envelope into my hand before she scampered away out of the porch’s light. I felt the same way I used to feel as a kid when a racing child slammed me with, “Tag, you’re it!” This one I knew I couldn’t run from.
I didn’t want to spend a whole day in traffic school which also came with a rather steep price tag, so I opted to pay the very hefty fine of $361.50 which sounded a bit over the top for not stopping at a yellow. I paid it anyway just to be done with the whole thing and thought I was.
Yesterday, however, I got a letter which showed that not only was I not done, but the can of worms was proliferating.
The letter was from the MVD. It stated: “The following action has been ordered against your driving and/or vehicle registration privileges.” I thought that their letter had been sent before they realized that I had already paid the fine. So I called the number given for those with questions. Surely I could quickly explain that I had already paid the fine so they could cross me off their hassle list. But as the young-man-in-training who was trying to help me explained, the MVD letter was totally separate from the court-issued ticket I had received. In essence, he told me that since I had paid the fine, I had admitted to a traffic light violation. Because Arizona is number one (or somewhere near) in red light run-ons, the state legislature has made a law that anyone admitting to running a light must take an eight hour Traffic Survival Class which could cost up to $200. Therefore, my unfortunate second of mis-calculation could cost me about $561.50 plus eight grueling hours of class time. Better than my life or someone else’s, I know. But it seems like a high penalty for running a yellow light.
I have a great respect for the law. We should be held accountable when we make an error. If we weren’t, there would be lots more funerals which would be terrible, especially if we know and love the one being grieved over. I usually don’t even rail against photo radar because it keeps infractions down. If it means I have to take my turn in traffic school once in a while, I’ll do it. I just think the punishment should match the crime.
Since I’ve had prevention on my mind a lot recently, I have three tidbits of advice to give to help you prevent the torment of a yellow light violation.
#1. When approaching a yellow light, STOP! Don’t try to out guess if it has a camera connected to it or not. Just STOP! Throw your right arm out to keep everything from continuing it’s forward thrust, and stomp your right foot on the brake. The two minutes you save won’t be worth doing otherwise.
#2. If your doorbell rings, before you answer it, make sure you check the peephole to see who is standing there trying to look innocent. If he/she looks like he/she is hiding an envelope behind his/her back, get away from the door and make absolutely no noise. Hopefully, he/she will think you’re not home even though all cars are in the carport and your house lights are blazing. If you do not receive an official summons, you cannot be held responsible.
#3. If you fail to follow the first two pieces of advice, at least follow this one: When that letter is personally delivered to you by a nervous stranger, read every word of it so you don’t miss the fine print. That print will probably say, “if you pay this fine you are admitting that you were wrong in a light violation.” And if you pay the fine, the Court will send that guilty verdict to the MVD. I don’t know why the MVD gets involved but they do. Then the MVD will require you to take an expensive eight hour class totally unrelated to the court requirement. Fair? I don’t think so. But there it is.
Happy driving and just in case--keep smiling!