I occasionally deliberately break the rules.
I park in a short term spot near work once in a while when I’m in a rush because the only other public parking is blocks away. I leave my car beyond the mandated period knowing full well that I might get a ticket. And when I get the ticket, I do something that it seems fewer and fewer people are willing to do – I accept the known consequences for my actions, and I pay it. On time. Without complaint.
I have occasionally had a speeding fine, too – the last one was well over a decade ago, but I got three in one week when the speed limit changed in Woden near the Westfield and I didn’t realise. It was well signposted, and if I hadn’t driven on autopilot and actually read the signs I passed, I would have realised. So I paid my fines. It was an expensive month.
Watching people lose their heads over the speed limit change in Civic this past month, I’m questioning what they consider the law to be in place for? Is the fact that there are consequences for breaking it really that earth-shattering a realisation? Or is it just that people are fine with rules when they apply to others, just not when they find themselves on the receiving end of a consequence?
The cries of unfairness at the speed limit being dropped to 40 km/h in a high foot traffic area is confusing to me. Who is this unfair to? The pedestrians who may have a safer journey across the major intersections on Northbourne Avenue? The drivers who have to slow down for approximately five minutes of their drive? Don’t all of these people already understand the social contract we have in place, where we all benefit from a democratic and structured society in return for following the rules?
People seem determined to argue that things like speed and red light cameras or parking fines are just ‘revenue raising’. Well, the revenue only gets raised if people do the wrong thing. If you don’t want to pay a speeding fine, don’t speed. If you think the signposting wasn’t fair, then you probably need to pay better attention when driving.
And as this very publication has pointed out, there are numerous mechanisms in place to allow you to dispute a fine if you think it is genuinely unfair – another positive aspect of the democracy we’re lucky to live in.
It seems like so many of us are determined to have our cake and eat it too – we want safe roads for our children and families, but we don’t want to be held to the safety standards ourselves when it isn’t convenient. We want our government to maintain our roads, hospitals, schools and other amenities, but if they gain revenue from lawbreakers, that’s unacceptable.
As far as I’m concerned, the exchange is both fair and transparent. Do the wrong thing, pay the consequence. Do the right thing, and save your pennies. The choice and agency are actually in your hands.