Gardai – deux points

The title refers to R receiving a speeding ticket from a Garda yesterday. It occured on the recently finished (then refinishined, then refinished…) outer ring road in Waterford. I was with her at the time and I was bloody annoyed at the attitude of the Gardai. The speed limit on the Road is 60km/h. So anyone not from Waterford is thinking it must be in an urban area. Well, actually, it’s not. It’s one of the best road surfaces in Waterford which mostly travels through semi-rural areas with the ocassional shopping centre, business park or housing estate. It also happens to be a dual carriageway with roundabouts every few kilometers, enabling a relatively fast journey around Waterford.
So why give it a speed limit of 60 km/h which after all is after all under 40 miles an hour? This is not much faster than built-up and genuinely dangerous urban areas.
The official reason from the local authority and the NRA seems to be the assertion that it’s used by cyclists and pedestrians. Well there are 80 km/h and 100km/h regional and national roads with cyclists. Many of these have worse surfaces and are not dual carriageways. Equally, the road in question has wide walkways and cycle lanes for much of it. You only have to drive around for a few hours to realise that the driving norm is exceeding this bizarre speed limit.
The RSA like to tell us that SPEED KILLS. I’ve writ it in bold capitals so it’s easier to understand. The standard RSA message involves bludgeoning you into submission rather than careful consideration of facts, causes, effects or anything so educated. When driving from Waterford to Cork/Dublin/Limerick it’s relatively easy to spot what really kills. Unfortunately, the RSA haven’t found a snappy message but here goes

  • Idiots who engage in blind overtaking, due to corners or hills. If you do this you are an idiot. There’s no way around it. You’re an accident waiting to happen.
  • Professional Lorry and HGV drivers who speed. There are many of these and when they’re involved in an accident the potential for multiple deaths is high.
  • Kids with modified cars who think they’re on a race track
  • Those who drive while intoxicated
  • Those who speed in wet or slippery conditions
  • Motorcyclists who are apparently exempt from speed regulations

R was caught doing a MASSIVE 84 km/h. Let’s convert that into a real speed.. so that’s just over 52 mph on a FRIGGIN DUAL CARRIAGEWAY. There were 2 members of the traffic corps. blocking the road with their cute little guns, like a schoolyard game of cowboys and indians. Despite the fact that we were overtaken by 2 other cars our large black SUV was pulled over, for some reason. We shared this distinction with a BMW 3 series coupe. R was given her 2 points and asked to “slow down!”
Yep, we got the message alright. She’s going to drive much slower in future as you never know when some chancer is going to hop out in front of you with a gun and give you a fine for driving 52 mph on a dual carriageway. The message is clear that others in less expensive automobiles will be waved on. Is this a stealth method to reduce the budget deficit?
Yet, it seems like there’s a serious road accident involving multiple deaths every week, mainly caused by the bad habits outlined above.
Like gardai hanging around driving test centres, the doling out of financial penalties for minor offenses to law abiding citizens only emphasises the public perception of a group who’d prefer to shoot fish in a barrel than effectively tackle the incidents of serious crime and violence we see on our streets. This perception may be inaccurate but it lingers (as illustrated by this article in a local paper).
The root of lawlessness is in seemingly arbitrary laws applied in an arbitrary manner.
Or as Calvin Coolidge so eloquently explained to the Massachusetts State Senate…

“Men do not make laws. They do but discover them. Laws must be justified by something more than the will of the majority. They must rest on the eternal foundation of righteousness. That state is most fortunate in its form of government which has the aptest instruments for the discovery of law.”

I’ve heard senior gardai questioned about a penchant for picking on easy traffic offenses on good stretches of road on several radio shows, including the popular Ray Darcy show and also on Newstalk. They always deny the claim, yet the question persists suggesting that the public simply don’t believe them.
For the past few weeks, local newspapers have contained reports of extreme violence involving guns, knives, petrol bombs and other instruments of terror as part of a feud in a particular section of our community. A mostly unarmed police force appears ill-equipped to deal with such reckless attitudes to human life. I sympathise with the gardai in such situations as they’re endangered while trying to uphold peace and justice. They’re largely a mechanism here of an executive which has failed to protect them through legislative reform. A recent survey revealed that more than half of the serving gardai want to carry firearms for personal protection.
However, the view that an unarmed police force will aim for the softest of targets in one that is widely held.