It's not the first time I've disagreed with police, and I suspect it won't be the last.
However, it appears I am seriously outnumbered on this debate, and I wonder if this is a sign of my a) increasing pigheadedness b) journalistic arrogance or c) failure to compromise on anything anymore.
I'd be curious to know what readers think of my take on this. Am I a cranky rule-bound person, a moral throwback out of touch with the times?
Here's the dilemma: Radio station AM 730 tweeted a warning to drivers: "Seatbelt/cell-phone check in #NewWest on Royal Ave. by Sixth St."
I tweeted back, "Do you think these kind of alerts are a good idea?" The tweeter politely asked me to review the last hour or so of tweets on the radio station's twitter timeline.
The tweets revealed that the Vancouver police department approved of warning tweets (and I presume broadcasts). (See our story on age 5)
The Vancouver Police Department pointed out that it did not, however, approve of warning drivers about alcohol roadchecks - but the police were OK with warnings about cell-phone, speed traps and seatbelt checks. And not only were the police OK with this but seemed to encourage it.
The logic, if I understand this correctly, is that warnings encourage people to follow the rules and this is a good thing.
Really? Seriously? I know that I often exhibit a childlike naivete where human behaviour is concerned, but this strikes me as wrong on several fronts.
Putting aside the fact that folks who are reading these warning tweets are probably doing so on their cellphones while driving - I seriously doubt that warning them encourages violators to change their habits.
What it does do is encourage them to take another route to avoid being ticketed.
I suspect cellphone addicts don't turn off their cellphones but just detour around the checkpoints. In fact, doesn't the support for helping drivers evade such checkpoints reinforce the idea that the police are not taking the offenses seriously? Or, for that matter, doesn't it give cellphone users a false sense of security knowing media and fellow drivers are monitoring - and providing - early warnings?
Won't drivers spend more time watching out for warnings in an effort to avoid checks, rather than actually changing their behaviour? With the exception of seatbelt checks, most folks, I suspect, don't make a deliberate habit of driving without seatbelts.
But cellphone use while driving and speeding, in my experience, are mindful decisions. If you are in the habit of using your cellphone while driving or you always push the speed limits, chances are pretty good that you're not going to quit doing so unless there is some kind of deterrent - a fine or demerit points.
Having narrowly escaped several recent near-collisions with drivers who were on their cell-phones and recently witnessing another driver (on her cellphone) narrowly miss running over a pedestrian in a crosswalk, I have difficulty understanding how helping reckless drivers avoid being penalized for potentially deadly actions helps anyone other than the idiots who think they can continue to get away with such bad behaviour.
And it appears that all police departments agree with these early-warning systems. In fact, the Burnaby RCMP even think warnings about alcohol check roadblocks are OK.
That seems very bizarre to me.
And where do we draw the line?
What of the cellphone users who do cause collisions or hit people? What if they've avoided tickets because of Twitter or radio station warnings and continued on ending up hurting folks?
What responsibility do the "warners" hold in these cases?
If a drunk driver avoids a roadblock after being warned by a media outlet and then ends up in a collision that kills someone, wouldn't there at least be some moral responsibility?
Or, perhaps, this is just another sign that I have lost touch with the real world of today. Tell me what you think.
Pat Tracy is the editor for the Burnaby NOW and The Royal City Record. Email email@example.com.
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