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"One last thrash for old time's sake eh ?" inquired my partner in crime as we headed out on our final journey in my 1987 Toyota.

Famous last words ? Well, almost...

Off we went, cruising through the darkened streets of late night suburbia, not breaking any speed records but not holding up traffic either. Around a slight bend and down a street without houses or streetlights we drove when out of the darkness came flashes of red and blue and in no time we were being pulled over. I was then politely informed that I had been tooling along at 11 kph over the posted limit (71 in a 60 zone - or roughly 41 in a 35mph zone).

I was the hapless recipient of a $90 fine and 1 demerit point for this infringement.

The officer then asked to see my licence (the same licence that was in my wallet, at home - oops). When I told him that I didn't have the licence on me he radioed my name and address to HQ and received confirmation that I was indeed a valid licence holder, so far so good. He then proceeded to write a second ticket for "failure to produce licence as required by an officer" or some equally weak excuse. The fine on this ticket was $150.

Let's look at my illegal actions and their possible consequences for a second...

Speeding: If you believe the hype, the fact that I was travelling at over the posted limit was endangering the lives of innocent people. The slogan reads "Every k over is a killer". The price the government has put on this offence is $90.

Not producing my licence: As mentioned above, the officer made a call and 2 minutes later it was answered after a quick check had been done on my details. No chance of deaths, merely an inconvenience (and a small one at that). The price for this offence is $150.

Hmmmm... Death of civilians $90 Minor inconvenience to police officer/s $150

Either the Government doesn't care enough about the lives of the public to impose reasonable penalties or they are trying to make a quick buck from relatively minor offences (I think the latter is more likely). When I made a very careful appeal to the officer regarding this issue he rebuked "That's the law." Well thank you for clearing that up but in this case I believe the law has a flaw.

Note: This event occured in a small town in Australia, which is currently Suffering a 'Take no Prisoners' approach to road safety. I am not arguing that offences shouldn't be punished - just that a little perspective would be nice.

Speeding: If you believe the hype, the fact that I was travelling at over the posted limit was endangering the lives of innocent people. The slogan reads "Every k over is a killer". The price the government has put on this offence is $90

Stopping distance is proportional to v2, where v is your velocity (actually, a bit more than that, since your tires' friction decreases at higher speeds). This means that going 71km/h instead of 60km/h means that you take at least 1.4 times the distance to stop. Add to the fact that this is at night, and factoring in your reaction time (assuming you were sober), your stopping distance may easily increase from roughly 40m to about 60m. This margin would be further increased due to the age of the car (wear on tires, old brakes, etc.), but even this difference is massive! That's about 5 car lengths.
You should be grateful about this. Why are you so bitter? Ideally you'd be threatened with reckless endangerment, which carries a much larger penalty than $90.

Not producing my licence: As mentioned above, the officer made a call and 2 minutes later it was answered after a quick check had been done on my details. No chance of deaths, merely an inconvenience (and a small one at that). The price for this offence is $150.

So maybe this is a bit rough - but I can think of a multitude of reasons why you should be carrying your license with you:

  • If the officer's radio did not work, would you expect him to arrest you?
  • Lack of license allows you to falsify your identity, which would cause even more trouble and difficulty (thanks to pjd for this one)
  • In the event of a collision where you get hurt, immediate identification can speed treatment
  • In the event of a casualty-free incident, you can prove your identity to the other driver, especially if you don't have proof of insurance with you

They may be raising revenue, but I'm all for that. I'd prefer that people who knowingly break the law pay a larger contribution. If not for them, taxes might have to be raised.

Don't forget that in an ideal world there wouldn't be any need for fines or punishments. However, we do not live in such a utopia, so fines also act as a mechanism to minimise the temptation for us to "bend the rules". (based on an idea from pjd)

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