Sat | Oct 21, 2017

Garth Rattray | Tragicomical speed check

Published:Monday | June 19, 2017 | 12:00 AM

On Thursday, June 8, my wife and I were going on a brief trip to St Ann. I was travelling north on the North-South Highway early in the afternoon. As I drove along at 80km/h, literally all the other vehicles overtook me at various speeds. I remarked to my wife that I felt like a fool because everyone else was going by. As boring as it was, I obeyed the rules and kept within the posted speed limit.

As I approached Unity Valley, five vehicles flew by me in quick succession. They sped away from me and I saw them breeze right past the clearly visible traffic police standing below. To my amazement, the police officer did not stop any of them. I was, therefore, flabbergasted when he stopped me!

He showed me a 101km/h reading on his speed gun. The situation was blatantly outrageous. I had kept within the 80km/h speed limit the entire drive.

I felt victimised, forcibly taken hostage by an armed officer of the law no less. The feeling of total helplessness was overwhelming. Although it was only a simple traffic ticket, being wrongly accused by lawmen broadened my vista. I wondered how it wasn't obvious to the policeman that I was not approaching him at a high rate of speed and that I maintained that speed while being overtaken by several vehicles. Someone was wrong - and it wasn't me.

 

EXPLAINING THE OBVIOUS

 

He directed me to another policeman who requested my papers and announced that I was going to be issued a speeding ticket. I gave him the papers, but told him that I was absolutely certain that I was not speeding. I was stopped, although I was the only one obeying the law. It would be hilarious if the situation weren't so serious.

He went through his routine. He said that the instrument was calibrated that morning. He ridiculously asked how it was that I could be watching my speed AND watch the road, intimating that careful drivers can't possibly know how fast they are going.

I found myself explaining the obvious: I looked down at the speed and then up at the road, and back and forth. He said that my vehicle was alone, not in a group, when checked but added that they need the newer instruments that also capture an image.

It felt awful having to argue with a policeman. Despite errant individuals, it's a job for which I have always had a great deal of respect. My remonstration was persistent and interminable. It was the principle of the thing. I have had no traffic tickets, so my driver's licence was not in jeopardy. I expressed my serious concern that other motorists were being wrongfully ticketed and for the resultant negative impressions of inefficiency, inaccuracy, unfairness and/or corruption within the police force.

 

PLEASANT EXCHANGE

 

As he and I spoke, a red car was stopped by the officer holding the speed gun. It parked directly behind mine and I watched as the driver and front-seat passenger alighted, went to that policeman, and, after a very brief moment, they got back into the car, smiling broadly and drove away, while I was still trying to convince the young constable that something was definitely amiss.

He eventually decided to 'ease me up'. I did not tell him thanks because I was wrongfully stopped in the first place.

I went away with several lessons. Obeying the law won't stop you from being unfairly targeted. Such behaviour severely undermines police authority, causes citizens to lose respect for police personnel, and, therefore, endangers the entire constabulary.

I have witnessed at least two drivers ignore the police when signalled to stop on the North-South Highway. Some people drive like bats out of hell because they are never going to be stopped when going that fast. Driving over the limit while in groups renders immunity against speeding tickets. And, last but not least, this is why corruption still thrives.

I reviewed my dash cam video; it confirmed my memory of the events. I invite any member of the constabulary to see it for themselves. Was it a grievous error or was foul play afoot? I'll never know, but both besmirch the constabulary.

- Garth A. Rattray is a medical doctor with a family practice. Email feedback to columns@gleanerjm.com and garthrattray@gmail.com.