Thursday, August 17, 2006

Fund drive

Cops rounded up more than 100 drivers for using their cellular phones while driving through Colonie this week, according to Thursday’s Times Union. That’s more than one-third of the total number of drivers cited during Albany County’s two-day interdepartmental “sweep” for chatty motorists.

Given some recently published numbers, it’s not surprising that Colonie drivers would rise to the top amid this bogus crack down. And it’s not because a greater contingent of people in the town who have had a wireless device accidentally grafted to their ear.

It’s because the police patrolling Colonie seem to like handing out tickets. Or at least that’s the indication given from the state Comptroller’s most recent report on the Justice Court Fund, which found the town benefitted to the tune of $739,743 from traffic fines alone in 2004, making it the seventh most profitable justice court in New York and the most profitable in the Capital Region. Colonie’s citation-happy cops also managed to net the Legislature a nice chunk of change, with $722,284 going straight into state coffers.

So it’s no wonder that Colonie road patrols surged to the top during the sweep, which was funded in part by the Select Traffic Enforcement Program through the Governor's Traffic Safety Committee. And with more than $10,000 worth of fines issued in a two-day period, it appears as though the sprawling city suburb may be shooting for the top.

Here’s the problem: the cell phone law is bogus. It’s just another way to tax people passing through a municipality at both the local and state level. Towns that want to generate a fair amount of operating income –whether to offset local taxes or engage in projects of frivolity –can simply charge their police force to “step up” the enforcement of spurious laws. There’s no shortage of such tripe either, with group of the brain-dead legislators in Albany who seem to come up with new laws every time they finish a good bowel movement.

As it turns out, there’s really no difference between driving with a handheld cell phone or a hands-free cell phone. That’s because distraction is what causes accidents, not the act of holding something to your head. Given this logic, fiddling with your radio can be just as lethal as chatting with your neighbor Phyllis while hammering down the freeway.

Even disregarding this, abiding by the state cell phone law would be much easier were the cops themselves not regularly yacking on them while patrolling. Cell phones have become an integral part of law enforcement and the communication between officers. After all, what’s said on a cell phone doesn’t get broadcast across the airwaves where nosy citizens could listen in on a scanner.

All this is good information to know, especially during the recent spate of deaths resulting from drunken drivers. After all, it's probably better to spend grant money pulling over cell phone users than the guy who's been drinking whiskey at the Saratoga Racecourse for six or seven hours.


Blogger fxrsjoe said...

It's tough to fault cops for pulling over idiots that are yapping on their cell phone. I think we have all been annoyed by or had some near misses with people engaged in conversation instead of driving.

I'm not sure I agree that a hands free cell phone is as dangerous as holding a regular cell phone. As you point out it is the distraction factors that make cell use dangerous. Certainly dialing is very distracting for both the hands free and regular cell phones. But when the conversation begins I think the hands free is less distracting. The person is not fumbling to keep a grip on the phone and the hands free person has both hands on the wheel, unless of course they are putting on make up or drinking coffee.

As far as wasting grant money pulling over cell phone violators, as you point out, Colonie is making money on the activity.

I say pull the knuckleheads over and continue to write tickets.

5:02 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

First they give us tickets for cell phone use. What's next...fines for road hummers?

5:33 AM  

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