Sunday, February 24, 2013

Remember the drop down red light in Dukes of Hazzard?

Years ago the TV show Dukes of Hazzard made fun of the Hazzard County sheriff, Roscoe P. Coltrane, and the local political boss, Boss Hogg, by showing the Duke brothers and their cousin Daisy outwitting the local law enforcement.  One of the occasional scenes showed a sheriff's deputy lowering a stop light on a rope from a tree in the middle of nowhere to write out a ticket for running a red light.

This fictional practice has become much more subtle over the past forty years, with red light cameras of dubious effectiveness, camera vans tracking speed, and various tricks to issue expensive tickets to motorists.  One of the things they often have in common is a lack of actual witnesses to the alleged violation.  These traps often result in tickets issued by mail and defending against them can be almost impossible, in spite of the lack of actual witnesses to the "crime".

Well, a group of motorcylists in England have taken matters into their own hands.  They are wearing Guy Fawkes masks as popularized by the comic book series and 2006 movie V for Vendetta and have taken to following the trap cars in order to warn the public about the traps ahead.  One might argue that they are interfering with the performance of the police in their duties, but they are very clear that they target traps that are  unclear to the average motorist.  One example they gave in the interview I link to below relates to a bus lane that is not very clearly marked.  Many motorists they talked to didn't even realize there was a bus lane ahead, yet the trap car was generating tickets by mail to anyone driving in the lane.

Well done, boys.  This is the kind of citizen action that can result in inequitable laws being overturned.  When laws are passed or enforced without the consent of the citizenry or in an unjust manner, the trust of the people in government is eroded, making it more difficult to maintain a functioning society.  This is one small example and there are certainly others that are of greater importance, but every journey begins with a small step.  As Abraham Lincoln once said “The best way to get a bad law repealed is to enforce it strictly.”  These men have seen a bad law being enforced and have decided to do something about it.  Maybe vigilante should not be such a bad word.

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