My spouse recently got a speeding ticket. In the mail. From the Seattle Police Department. For 32 miles per hour in a 20 mile per hour zone.
Not just any zone. A school zone.
On her way to work. As a teacher.
It was a ticket from one of those automated semi-robotic radar guns with a camera which shoots innocent citizens as we drive past schools so fast we’re like bowling balls racing toward the pins. Well … perhaps … racing past the “kids”, as the case may be.
Now I have nothing against kids. Gee, we’re raising two of them. Six and ten years old. The last thing I want to do is have them mowed down by racing middle-aged banshees trying to get to work. But getting a ticket in the mail two weeks after you commit the offense is not exactly what I would call “preventative policing”: protecting kids by slowing people down and giving them (the drivers, not the kids) immediate, on scene, in-your-face feedback that they are going too fast.
Don’t get me wrong. A $234 speeding ticket got the attention of both my spouse and me. For a few minutes. Until the next time we are late to work.
Like most (generally) law-abiding citizens, we don’t want to speed. Especially in school zones. Or in places where there is an automatic semi-robotic radar gun with camera waiting for us.
Isn’t there a better way to protect kids and keep law-abiding citizens … Well … Law abiding?
Enter the Internet of Speeding and Parking Things (IoSPT).
Why don’t we attach a transponder (fancy word for “radio”) to every speed zone sign in a City? Then let’s distribute – for free – an app to every citizen and to every automobile we own (yes, cars run apps too). The speed sign talks to the app and the app talks to the smart phone (or to the car itself) and the phone screams at the driver “slow the hell down, dumbo, you are going too fast, and you are going to get a ticket. A two-hundred and thirty-four dollar ticket. And the judge is going to throw the book at you because you are driving like a pitcher’s fastball toward the umpire but aimed at a bunch of innocent kids in a school zone. Get your frigging act together and step on the brake, dammit.”
Perhaps the app can have the voice of Arnold Schwarzen-what’s-his-name or Clint Eastwood. “Slow down or you are going to Make the Mayor’s Day” (or at least help the Mayor close her budget gap).
While we are at it, how about putting IoSPT things in a lot of places in our roadways, not just speed-zone signs? Like in every parking meter (do those even exist any more?) or embedded in curbs or guard rails. Such devices could really help us law-abiding citizens stay law-abiding.
Example: Warning us when our parking time is about to expire – and we could use our app to pay a premium to buy more time.
IoSPT devices in every parking space could visually map all the parking spaces available in a city, directing people to immediately available on-street parking rather than encouraging endless “circling the block” to find an open space. THAT contributes to pollution and climate change. (San Francisco actually is piloting this technology).
IoSPT things in traffic lights could alert cars and their drivers via an app to stop when the light turns red, and even prevent cars on the cross street from starting up too fast to hit the red-light runner (who would automagically get a $234 ticket, by the way).
IoSPT devices in guard rails and median strips and other roadway obstacles could help semi-automated cars stay in their lanes, or at least alert those of us who text or do email while driving (or paint our fingernails or do our hair while driving) that we are swerving out of our lane.
We talk to our smart phones all the time, with digital assistants like Siri and Cortana and Google Voice. I suppose Amazon will even have “Echo for the Car” soon so the car can automatically order itself more oil or windshield wiper fluid when needed.
So why not have the road talk to the car? And its driver?
I suppose some governments, taking a clue from George Orwell’s “Big Brother”, will force cars to slow down in school zones. In other words, the speed sign talks to the car and tells the car it can’t go faster than 20 miles per hour. And it doesn’t.
But is that so bad? Perhaps “Big Brother” cars will prevent tragedies like the multiple-time drunk driver who killed two grandparents and seriously injured a mother and her newborn at Seattle’s Eckstein Middle School in 2013. And keep the rest of us on time for work because we are not going to get to speed through a school zone. Period. And perhaps let a few more innocent kids live to become speeding adults.
Oh sure, the IoSPT would put some people and things out of work. Meter maids (I mean: “parking enforcement officers”). Automated semi-robotic radar guns with cameras. Perhaps a few police officers. But gee, don’t we have enough other crime and public safety problems that perhaps a few of those folks could be redeployed to address them?
Except the automated semi-robotic radar guns with cameras.
Those go to the junkyard.