Friday, 14 March 2008

Two speeding fines in one week, and I wasn’t even driving the Merc

I know I don’t have a leg to stand on here, because I did break the law, but come on! Don’t our cops have better things to do than hide behind bushes aiming radar at normally law-abiding citizens who travel 11kph over the speed limit? (I got both fines in the mail today, and in both cases I was nailed R150 for doing 71kph in a 60kph zone.)

What really infuriated me was when I read where I’d been trapped. The first one was on a busy through-road in Cape Town on which, during rush hour (when I was photographed ‘speeding’), it is genuinely dangerous to travel at the speed limit. The road carries a very heavy load of trucks, buses and taxis, which invariably go significantly faster than the speed limit, and trying to keep at 60kph practically guarantees you will be mercilessly crushed beneath their wheels. Or at least sworn at a lot.

I know from experience that there’s little more frightening than being tailgated by a humongous lorry. It happened to me a while ago, when I was still driving a dinky little CitiGolf, and I received a fine in the mail of R625 for speeding. I was so shocked by this outrageous amount that at first I thought ‘R625’ was the name of the road I’d been travelling on at the time of the infraction.

After I’d located the actual name of the road – the N2, which I very seldom use – I remembered the day it had happened and wrote away to ask for photographic proof of the transgression. The pic, when it arrived, made me laugh: it clearly showed me, big-eyed with alarm, behind the wheel of my miniature car, and a truck the size of an apartment block directly behind me – so close you could see the whites of the driver’s eyes. I sent it back to the traffic department, accompanied by a letter asking if, in the circumstances, the prosecuting officer had been in my position, s/he would have kept to the speed limit. The fine was quashed.

The second fine I received today was recorded on a handheld device, on a quietish country road between my home in the village and my seaside flat. Looking in my dairy, I was able to recall exactly when it had happened, and the circumstances. It was a rainy day (I know this because I referred to my weather tree*), and I had actually spotted the officer aiming the radar sitting way back in the shadows under a huge wild fig (and I must say, even while I understand its purpose, the cagey manner in which these guys get you just rubs me up the wrong way).

But here’s the thing: the traffic cop was indeed nailing people in the 60kph zone – but at a point in the road just before the speed limit rises to 80kph, then, about 200 metres on, to 100kph. So, naturally, round about here, any driver who knows the route is probably relaxing his/her guard and beginning to accelerate. How sneaky is that?!

*How to make a weather tree

Draw a big tree on a piece of A2 paper. Give it 12 long branches, each representing a month of the year, and on each branch draw a leaf for each day and number it (so January’s branch, for instance, will have 31 leaves, each labelled with a number from 1 to 31). Stick this on your fridge.

Draw up a key using colours – red for very hot, orange for hot, yellow for mild, green for cold, blue for rainy, purple for windy, etc. Put a little pot containing crayons or kokis in these colours on top of your fridge.

Then, every day, colour in the appropriate day-leaf with its appropriate colour, according to what the weather’s like.

Once the tree is finished, you can watercolour the trunk and branches and give it a gorgeous background, and voila! a luvverly picture you can keep for posterity – or for comparison, year by year, if you want to make it an annual project.

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meggie said...

I have successfully got off fines by writing to plead not guilty or give reasons why I should get off. I have also got Gom off some fines. It is always worth the effort.
I like your weather tree idea!

Audrey said...

Love the tree! Absolutely love it!

Am going to do one tomorrow.