Monday morning; not a morning full of optimism. To dispel resentment I do yoga, meditate, and guess what; sometimes it just does not work, it is Monday after all. When I drive to work, following the usual stop-start roads, I arrive straight in the epicentre of the classic morning traffic jam. Damn, why did I stick to the main route and not take a detour when I could?
Today it is even worse than usual. Usually, there are queues, but at least they are on the move, even though all the cars move at a snail’s pace — not today. The line constantly stops. Bored I pull out the iPhone and start writing. From time to time, the queue moves, I raise my head, engage a gear and shift another meter, sometimes two.
The queue finally accelerates to a steady five kilometres per hour. Even though I’m a woman, I do not do too much multitasking, so I throw the phone onto the passenger seat and look at the dirty rear of the car in front of me. After another three hundred meters I finally get to the last hill. What the? Oh, the police have closed one lane. That’s why it’s worse than usual.
Cars are slowly filtered down to one lane. At the moment I want to move to the free lane a policewoman suddenly starts waving and beckoning me to come to her. I can barely lower the window and say hi before I am informed that I am breaking the law. I was caught in the car on the phone. As a result of this serious offence, I will have six points on my license (Later I learn that I’m lighter an extra two hundred pounds). Fortunately, there is no arrest, and she even tells me the common speech that whatever I say now may later be used against me.
The policewoman writes me a ticket, and it eventually turns out that she is a pleasant lady. In the end, she is the last person with whom I could be angry because she is only doing her job and fulfilling quotas set by her superiors. It was the first time that I got into trouble with the law.
Even a journalist came to me with a microphone. I cannot remember what the question was, but she asked something like if this is a lesson for me and would I completely stop using my phone while driving. I admit I looked at her a little bit puzzled. It seemed to me that perhaps she came from another planet, because of the traffic jam next to her, perhaps reminiscent of anything but ‘driving’.
So I cautiously talked and said that, of course, I accept responsibility for my actions and I fully understand this measure as a severe punishment for people who use the phone while driving, but I was in the traffic queue during rush hour. I was no danger to anybody (I could not be even if I wanted) .. After a while, the policewoman lets me go and finally wished me a good day although this is not a good day at all.
Finally, I leave the city, and I am suddenly thinking about what happened. Firstly I do not know how I got caught. Around me, in the queue, there was not a single police car. They had to have someone directly deployed on the ground. Otherwise, I cannot explain it. Then I felt my anger begin to grow. If they had not closed the lane during the morning rush hour, I would never have touched the phone, because as I mentioned – I’m not a whiz, and if I was driving (even just 10 km / h), I could not stay in control of the car and telephone at the same time.
Later I realise that the authorities have made amendments to the Act, which significantly tightens the use of mobile phones and other electronic devices. What’s more, it uses the same standard in all situations and circumstances. This means that the same penalty applies for example to:
A. those who phone and text with the phone in hand while driving the car and drive as fast as they can;
B. those who get stuck in a traffic jam (e.g. as a result of those idiots from point A who caused it);
C. those who park their car in the parking lot and leave the engine running (e.g. Because they are waiting for somebody and outside its too cold or hot).
All these groups are subject to the same penalties. Hard to believe that you are breaking the law even when parked at the school letting the engine run so that you don’t get cold while waiting for someone. Of course, you want to fill this time, so you read an article on the phone or write to a friend. And if the police, standing on the opposite side are having a bad day, you’ll have one too.
This new law is meaningless to its core. One amendment is never going to change people who have long been ruthlessly disregarding it. And people who have common sense do not need a silly regulation. In my opinion, the people who will mostly have to pay for this silly law are the drivers from group B and C. I cannot imagine how the police will watch and catch someone who was using the phone while on the motorway hurtling along at 150km / h. About existing traffic and the average number of police cars on the road, it feels like something out of reach. Therefore, officials naturally have to focus on the more natural way to enforce the articles of the law.
Simple Business Plan
Whoever invented this was nothing more than a proficient trader. My Monday morning is a great example. The business plan was simple:
- Close the lane during rush hour.
- Exacerbate an already miserable traffic situation in the city.
- Catch bored people on the phone while waiting in traffic.
- Hand out fines as Santa Claus hands out Christmas gifts.
I thought of the following cartoon. Where there is no genuine need, it must be artificially created:
Famous in newspapers
Of course, this tale had a sequel. On the second day, the paper published an article about how a dozen drivers were caught on the phone while driving. The report in the newspaper is written in such a way that you almost think, “These drivers are bastards. The punishment is certainly well deserved.” Even I would have thought it – “what idiots using the phone in the car right before the eyes of the police.” You can find the article here: http://bit.ly/2ntFQ1F.
The newspaper reader has no way of knowing that the police were covertly watching and focusing on the busiest section where you cannot overtake even a child on a tricycle. Driver safety certainly did not increase, while traffic slowed down, and in turn hampered the English economy as many people undoubtedly arrived late for work. Well, a few people had their day spoiled, like me. Newspapers, of course, did not hesitate to make the drivers out to be reckless fools while in reality they just got stuck in traffic just because of someone’s ‘wise’ decision to close lanes during rush hour.
I have to admit that it makes me sad. Although the penalty sucks, it’s worse when one looks at it as a whole. The government has found yet another way to wring more money from the taxpayers while adding more complexity to their lives; all of this under the pretext that they do so in the interest of the greater good.
Indeed this has always been the way of things, regardless of the political regime. Lawmakers can always find new ways to grip their pliers around us and tighten them whenever they want. But sometimes it hurts enough to make me squeal and so I felt compelled to write this article. Yes, I can only make this painful squeak, and I know that the result will not change anything. I still secretly hold the utopian hope that once the squeak of each of us becomes a collective roar, it will finally move humanity out of this unbalanced system.
And now I repeat to myself a hundred times (you can join): I will never judge anyone based on articles in newspapers. It’s just an unreadable cesspool full of sensationalism that has nothing to do with reality.
This article was translated from Czech; the original version is available here.