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Dear Mr/Mrs Frightened Driver

Posted: January 25, 2009 in Cars & Driving

Hi, it's me. One of the languishing masses trapped in the parade behind you. Now, I know that all those Cashcam speed cameras that the county has been installing have got you scared senseless (don't worry, we all hate them too), but I couldn't help but notice that you don't seem to get how the whole system works. So, I thought I'd offer some pointers that will help you get through your drive a bit easier, and let the rest of us get to work before the next Presidential election. Please read carefully.

1. There is no extra credit.

The county has clearly stated that there is an 11mph grace area built into the cameras. This helps account for speedometer errors, camera calibration errors, etc. What this means to you is that in a 30mph zone for example, you can actually drive up to 40mph and be fine. That said, you do not get extra credit for going below the speed limit, nor is the county going to mail you a check for every mph that you drive below it. All you're really doing by driving 22mph is pissing off the 15 people trapped behind you. The people at the back of the line will start to accordion, and the chances of a rear-end collision increase considerably. So even if you're not going to slip past the camera at 35 like the rest of us, please at least drive the speed limit, ok?

2. The cameras do not have an infinite range

Once you've passed the camera, it's ok to relax a little. You don't have to keep crawling along at 22mph (see "no extra credit", item 1 above) for the next several miles. The camera cannot "see" you 5 miles away, over hill and dale (not to mention through the 20 people bunched up behind you). No one is saying you should "floor it", but it's probably ok to just drive a normal speed again. Not too fast though, because it's probably only a matter of time before the police realize that they can probably set up a trap right after the cam and nab all the people who take off like the space shuttle after passing it. After all, there's really no crime around here, so they don't really have anything else to do. But 37 or so in the 30 will be fine, and even the bored police man will ignore you.

3. The speed in the camera zone only applies to the camera zone

This is a tough one, I know, but I'll try my best to explain it, because it seems to be the one you have the most trouble with. Once you leave the camera zone, and the speed limit sign says 40, 45, or sometimes even 50, it really is ok to drive at that speed. No, I am not kidding. You can really drive at that speed. Driving 22 in any of those places is not helping anything (see "no extra credit", item 1 above), and can be downright dangerous, especially when there is a passing zone and the 25 people who are jammed up behind you all try to pass at once. No, that horn honking is not them just being friendly. See that thing stuck on the windshield? Yes, the mirror. That's not for picking caraway seeds out of your teeth at red lights, it's for seeing what's behind you. If you look closely, you will see all those people stuck back there. Notice the scowls and clenched teeth? Now just imagine how they're going to look if they have to, say, go to the bathroom while you're going 22 when the sign says 50.

Just sayin'.

4. When the camera on the opposite side of the road flashes, you not have to stop dead in your tracks

So you're driving, and there's a camera on the other side of the road that's spying on the people in the oncoming lane. Occasionally, one of them may be from out of town, or yakking on the cell phone, or for whatever reason do not notice the camera. Since people usually elevate to a safe and comfortable speed in the absence of any external factors, a few of those people might be going faster than the grace area. So the camera will take a picture of them. Of THEM. You, especially at 22mph, have NOTHING to worry about, so there is no need to slam on your brakes and stop dead in your tracks. In fact this may cause you, or one of the 30 people trapped behind you to have a rear-end collision. So lay off the brakes. The camera is worried about the people in the opposite lane, not you.

I know that's a lot to digest, but read it carefully and try to take at least some of the advice. The 35 people stuck behind you will thank you.

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