Rant: Man-up

Just thought I’d pass this along (link to article at the end). The gist of the article is that cities/counties/states are raising fines for tickets. And? This is news-worthy? What the article is implying is that the fines are being raised to ridiculous rates not to deter people from breaking the law, but to help bring in revenue. Again: And?

Fines have always been used as a revenue stream. Period. Are the fines too high? Maybe. If you genuinely can’t afford to pay the fines you have two options available:

  1. Go to court and explain to the judge that you can’t afford the price of the ticket
  2. Don’t break the law in the first place

Option number 1 involves a lot of variables that you can’t control including which judge you get, what the fine is for etc. Option 2? Much safer. Seriously, if you break the law and get a ticket, pay it, take your lumps, and don’t do it again. In other words, be an adult about it. Most of the people I know are reasonable and can figure that out on their own. What gets me irritated are the people whining about the police being “out to get them” or “only interested in writing useless tickets”. Really? Take the quote below (from the article linked to at the end) as an example:

…the city collects $1.5 million a year at a single intersection in the San Fernando Valley from drivers running a red light. Cost per ticket is $476.
“It’s almost $500 and I have three kids right now,” said Jesus Altamirano, standing outside a Los Angeles municipal courtroom where he is fighting a red light violation.

Understood. $500 is a LOT of money! Notice, though, that he doesn’t say, “I can’t afford to pay that and buy food, my kids will starve and have to live on the streets”. “I have three kids” means nothing. Maybe he’s a millionaire! Maybe this is his fifth ticket for the same thing this week! Don’t get me wrong, if this is really such a financial burden that it will cause great hardship to his family (for instance not being able to afford food), he should go to court and throw himself at the judge’s mercy.

I have two large problems with “news” stories like this. First, most people I know (me included) waste a lot of money on unnecessary things. Me (eyes wide):

“Oooooohhhh! A shiny new gadget! <yoink>”

“I’m in the mood for PIZZA!!!!”

“Radiohead released a new CD?? FINALLY! <clicking “Buy Now”>”

While Christina and I are firmly in hunkering-down-and-saving-for-a-house mode (aka not-going-out-or-buying-stuff mode), we do still occasionally splurge. This is where I get irritated. Many people I know spend money like it’s going out of style, living way past their means. “Savings account? Pft, who needs it?”, “Paying my bills every month? Over rated!”. They eat out all the time, go on expensive vacations, and buy whatever they see. Problem? Not for me, I couldn’t care less what they do with their money, it’s THEIRS. Here’s the rub, those same people are the ones who will bitch about a $500 ticket. “I can’t afford that!”, “The cops are out to get me!” Really? REALLY??? First of all, it’s a ticket/fine, it’s not supposed to be fun, second, it’s not that you don’t have the money, it’s that you spend it on other things. Eat at home for the month and pay your ticket. Will that happen? Of course not. Even though they’ll freely admit they broke the law, they have deluded themselves into thinking that it’s not their responsibility, not their fault, not under their control. I say: You broke the law, you deal with the consequences. Man up! Pay the fine. Move on with your life.

My second problem with this is the public safety issue. Ask yourself, “Why is there a law that you must stop at a red light?” That was rhetorical, I’ll answer. The law is there so that I don’t get PLOWED INTO by your car when I drive through an intersection. By breaking the law and not stopping at a red light, a person compromises my life. Is my life worth $500? YES! Is yours? Then pay. The. Fine.

Other violations listed in the article include speeding, running a stop sign, and passing a school bus with flashing lights. Again, all public safety issues. I certainly don’t want my kids run over after leaving their school bus because you couldn’t be bothered to stop for the bus… And here’s the “argument” against these tickets:

“We cannot afford to pay tickets, especially when we don’t feel guilty for what we are being fined for,” said Luis Rivera, a California contractor.

Sigh, “…we don’t feel guilty…”. Exactly. You’ve endangered my life, but you’re so self-centered that you can’t see past what it means to you. Waaaah. Woe is you, now you can’t afford those cases of beer. Honestly, I couldn’t care less if these inconsiderate jerks “feel guilty” or not as long as they start obeying the law so that I can walk/drive in relative safety. I say raise the fines until people get the hint, obviously the fines aren’t priced high enough to deter people from breaking the law.

One final opinion. You know the laws that don’t impact others such as motorcyclists being required to wear helmets, drivers being required to wear seat-belts, etc.? I’m all for abolishing those. If people want to risk their own lives by not wearing a seat-belt, let them. Why should I care? Let their life or health insurance company worry about that. If these types of “for your own safety” laws are adjusted/repealed though, we just have to make sure that adults are still required to secure children in their car, children shouldn’t be put in harm’s way because their parents are idiots.

As a parting thought, for the record, I’ve had a fine or two to pay in my day. Speeding? Yeah. Running a red light? Oops (long story)… I’ve been there. I understand that there can be extenuating circumstances, or that breaking the law can be a mistake, but that doesn’t exempt you from the consequences. I paid, I did traffic school. Was it fun? No. Do I want to do it again? No. Success, I’ve been reformed, the system works!

Me: 0

Johnny-law: +1


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