Every normal man must be tempted, at times, to spit on his hands, hoist the black flag, and begin slitting throats. –H.L. Mencken
Heading south on I-95 out of the city, high up in the air, is a stern-faced Delaware State Trooper with the headline in an equally antagonistic font, ‘I write tickets to save lives’. It’s a good thing traffic was crawling or I probably would have missed it as I usually drive by this spot doing about 90.
There are so many things to say about this abomination that I wasn’t quite sure where to start. I’ve decided to tackle this on two fronts, first the presuppositions behind the statement, and then its factuality. I’ll sum up with a dose of reality.
Statements like this require a series of logical steps in order to arrive at their underlying presupposition. This one is saying that the very act of writing a number down on a small slip of paper and giving it to a driver can save someone’s life.
But why would writing this number on the paper have any effect on someone?
Well, it’s a fine (some of us would say a tax), a fee for violating an administrative rule issued by the state. In this particular case it could be for any number of reasons, including having a cracked windshield, broken taillight, not wearing a seatbelt, or failing to have paid a different tax, like the vehicle “registration” fee.
But what they obviously want you to think of are speeding, reckless driving tickets, or seatbelt tickets. I’ll go along with those for the sake of argument.
The next obvious question regarding the fine is, why would the fine have any effect?
The answer is that the fine will be enforced with violence (even to the point of death) if you sufficiently refuse to pay it. For those who bristle at this statement as ridiculous or extreme, I suggest you think through (not act out) the entire process of refusing to be harassed by a cop after being pulled over for repeatedly failing to pay previous tickets. The cop does not care how much the tickets were for or why you didn’t pay them. If you sufficiently resist he (or she) will kill you.
Now let’s skip to the latter part, the supposed effect of writing tickets, saving lives. This could be taken two ways. One is that the ticket saves your life by keeping you from doing something hazardous to your health. The other that it keeps you from hurting others by curbing your behavior.
In either case, the underlying theme here is that the state is your nanny, watching over you and helping you play nice with others, since you can’t think for yourself and don’t know what’s best like they do. You also have no vested interest in not crashing into other people with your car.
Taken together, the sign should really read “I enforce random taxes on you with the threat or use of violence in order to save your life and the lives of others because you are too stupid and must be told what to do.”
At its core, this is telling us that the state has the power of life and death and bestows it on us at their whim. They can give life, by the mere act of issuing a “ticket”. The state giveth, and the state taketh away. The state is god. Bow before them.
It’s so interesting to me that the state is always interested in gaining our acceptance, or at least assent, that the acts they engage in are not just OK, but even good. The whole idea that they have to put up a billboard to tell us why they harass us reinforces the idea that they think we are too stupid to know that they’re simply helping us.
It also shows that no one really believes them, or they wouldn’t have to try to convince us. This last part, at least, is a good sign.
In order to prove the billboard’s thesis that writing tickets saves lives, one would have to hold all other factors constant and demonstrate a direct link between the number of tickets written each year and the number of traffic deaths.
Of course this is impossible. And for any decrease in the rate or actual number of deaths there are all those factors to consider. Perhaps cars got safer. Maybe the medical care is better. No doubt there are lots of others which none of us are privy to.
Here is the 2013 Annual Traffic Statistical Report from the Delaware State Police. I won’t dispute any of the numbers in it, but I see no clear link between traffic tickets, arrests, and deaths presented. If you can find it, please let me know.
If the DSP wanted to at least provide some correlation (since proof of causation is impossible) between tickets and deaths, wouldn’t they publish that data clearly in the report?
Also, if they really believe that writing more tickets will save more lives, then why are people still dying? Why did they allow 101 people to die last year? They could simply have written more tickets and saved those people.
The point is there’s no basis in fact for their statement. And you know what we call something with no basis in fact: a lie. But that’s what the state does, all the time.
Police employees write tickets for several reasons, none of which are to save lives. The main reasons are revenue, power, and control, not necessarily in that order.
Not surprisingly, I was unable to locate data on the actual revenue from tickets written by the DSP. I filed a FOIA request for it, but I’m not holding my breath. If I get something, I’ll publish it.
But everyone knows that the police have ticket quotas. If they were only interested in your safety, then why have quotas? Here, try this Google search for ‘police ticket quota‘ and see what pops up. Quotas do not exist for your safety. They exist to generate cash for the state. Period.
The other reasons are power and control. The state seeks to rule over everyone, to control every aspect of their life, and to criminalize virtually everything. Those especially suited to being cops are people who suffer from libido dominandi, the lust to dominate others.
No, Trooper Billboard, you do not write tickets to save lives.
You write tickets because you’re an agent of the state, paid to harass drivers and generate revenue for you and your employer, something you’d probably do anyway, even if they didn’t pay you, just for the fun of it, because you’re just that kind of guy.