Living in the United States, driving is essential to many aspect of life such as driving to the grocery stores and driving to work. As automobile transportation becoming more of a necessity for the economic development of the United States, more people are driving on the road, and therefore, regulation regarding how a person should drive is formed. The intent of traffic regulation is to provide a safe environment for everybody to operate their vehicle, to minimize the number of accident, and to ensure the injury party a ground to recoup compensation if an accident does occur. However, as traffic regulation develops, the government often takes advantage of its power and bully drivers to increase its own income.
In this article, the example of how the law enforcement is doing too much by using the pedestrian trap to catch traffic violator will be discussed.
The Pedestrian Trap
One of the bad practices of law enforcement is that in California, police often use a tactic call the “pedestrian trap” to cite traffic violators. A pedestrian trap is where a police officer dresses in plain clothes and acts as pedestrian to catch driver who does not yield to pedestrians. The goal of this practice is to catch drivers who do not yield to pedestrian and thereby deter driver from not yielding to pedestrian and increase the overall safety for both pedestrian and driver. Also, by setting up the pedestrian trap, the government can confidently cite traffic violators in a controlled environment to minimize the event of appeal, and from that, in a police officer’s standpoint, the police officer can fulfill his monthly ticket quota effectively, and in the police agency’s standpoint, the agency can more effectively earn funding from traffic regulation enforcement.
The pedestrian trap is a bad practice because the overall intent is not to maintain a safe environment for everybody but for other reasons that do not benefit the driver and the pedestrian directly. In a pedestrian trap, the police officer would wait for a vehicle and walk across the street. In this event, the officer as the pedestrian induces risk on himself in order to catch a violator, and the action of the police officer is not justified because the goal of traffic regulation is suppose to create a safe environment for everybody, and by using the pedestrian trap, the police officer create unnecessary risk to both the driver and the police officer all because the officer wants to give tickets.
One might argue that the risk police officer induce during a pedestrian trap is necessary to enforce the violation because the driver who did not yield to the police officer is likely to have violated the regulation before and will violate the regulation later if not deterred by law enforcement. Although it is true that driver is very possible to have violated the same regulation before or will violate it later on, the primary focus on the pedestrian trap is not whether or not the driver will violate the regulation but the focus is on rather the enforcement of the pedestrian rule is necessary and effective in maintaining a safe environment for everybody. The pedestrian rule first of all impose strict liability on drivers, which leads to the externalities of the government seeking funding from this regulation and leads to pedestrian taking less caution when crossing the street. Secondly, the primary purpose of operating an automobile is for the effectiveness and the ability to transport from place to place quickly; therefore, imposing strict liability on driver would impose extra responsibility on driver which leads to a slower speed that would make driving an automobile less effective as transportation. Finally, if pedestrian are given the responsibility to look for traffic and wait for a reasonable moment to cross the street, the same safe road environment can be achieved without the bad externalities. So after all, if there is no better reason for the government to use a strict liability rule on “yielding to pedestrian” other than earning money, this piece of regulation should be abolish and so the pedestrian trap would be eliminated, and therefore, lead to a safe driving environment without law enforcement doing too much to “protect” us.
In conclusion, other than the pedestrian trap, there are many other traffic regulation that are not economic to the society and beneficial mostly to the person who is enforcing it such as, red light cameras that catches red light violator regardless of the circumstance, speeding violation that restrict the effectiveness of vehicles, and stop sign violation that distorts the primary intent to make drivers check on traffic. With all these flaws in the current traffic regulation, next time when you vote, whether the regulation is about traffic or other issues, it is important for you to think about the reason behind a regulation and why you want the regulation before you vote on it.