I, like all troopers, began life as a dedicated traffic cop with broad police powers that led us off the road and into the criminal realm on occasion. Working traffic exposes you to a virtual Petri dish of human behavior that runs the gamut from pleasant folks who simply succumbed to momentarily lapse of consciousness to jackasses who could care less about the restrictions imposed by motor vehicle law. I have a total of 48 years of observing America behind the wheel, of which 27 were in uniform. Today what I see is as ugly as it has ever been. Here are my thoughts.
At the upper end of the scale, we have a shrinking minority of folks who still adhere to the rules of the road. They signal, stop at stop signs and are courteous to the drivers around them. They are easy to spot for us old road dogs. At the other end of the scale you have the psychopaths that fly through stops, wouldn’t know a turn signal from a spotted elephant, drive really fast and generally think the road exists for their exclusive use. Traffic cops love the good guys and live for the bad guys. We feel really good when we hand the jerks an invitation to circuit court. It is the grey area in between an automatic summons and a warning that concerns me. It has dramatically expanded in the year of Covid and we are seeing the results of reduced enforcement brought about by the viral scourge. When is the last time you saw what appeared to be a traffic stop? In my municipality, the traffic guys are up to here with accident investigations and the district cars are entirely too busy to mess with traffic law unless the violation is particularly egregious. What did I just say? There is more DWHIA (Driving with head in ass) activity today than I have seen in 48 years of observing the movement of cars. The grey area in enforcement has expanded and folks know it.
To be fair and balanced, in this age of defunding the police, a dramatic number of experienced officer retirements, and the ever increasing non-police related duty placed on law enforcement, traffic slips to the bottom of the list of things for the police to consider. While the number of traffic crashes declined during the pandemic, the severity of the accidents showed a dramatic increase. Why? Speed and DWHIA rates have increased, a lot. Officers have so little discretionary time these days, coupled with a reluctance to stick your head in the window of a strangers car who might be a Covid carrier, traffic enforcement is down. Apparently the days of 30 troopers saturating I-70 in a single county are over. We used to do that and it made an impact. If this old road dog donned a uniform and slipped out in a Patrol car, I doubt I would get 10 miles from the porch….there is that much work to be done out there.
One last thought. We have a new generation of drivers on the street who have come of age in a non enforcement environment. They earned their licenses and climbed into their chariots with little fear of suffering the consequences of stupidity behind the wheel. They are going to be tough to re-train when and if we amp up traffic enforcement. Good luck to my brothers and sisters who have assumed the responsibility of lending dignity to the movement of traffic in America. You are behind an eight ball not of your making, but it is a job that needs to be done. Meanwhile, I’ll continue to rail at the disregard that today’s motorists have for the law and their fellow drivers. If you have the inclination, work on climbing the grey scale to that light shade at the top, where folks don’t mind rules and understand the consequences of ignoring what you know to be right.
Have a great weekend!