I don't write a lot specifically about Springfield, and when I do, it's mostly the good stuff. This is mostly because the negatives to this point are a function of this specific town. So there's this little bit of me that worries I would give away too much by discussing them. (As if anyone would even put in the effort to figure it out and I've told a bunch of you in real life, but that's how my mind insists on working.)
But now I have something I can share, something that has Trillian and I both frustrated (which Trillian would say is a gross understatement).
This town is very safe, the police department well funded with a larger than usual cop-to-citizen ratio. OK, not generally a bad thing, but do the math and you end up with a good number of cops who truly have nothing better to do than look for traffic violations.
Trillian discovered this last week when she ran out to get some breakfast for herself when I was in the middle of my liquid diet. She fully admits that driving before her coffee is not a good thing, but the circumstances are still infuriating. She was driving through a school zone--and sticking close to the speed limit, because hello we're parents and care about this sort of thing. She was at the end of the zone and speeding up. A cop about three blocks away, not in the best position to judge, says that she was doing 33 in the school zone. She know that there's no way she could have been doing that speed before the "End of School Zone" sign.
Now, in my experience--2 moving violations ticket and a sprinkling of parking tickets--every ticket gives you a court date at the bottom. If given to you in person, you sign to acknowledge receipt. Then you have the opportunity to decide whether you will pay the fine or show up on that date.
Apparently it doesn't work quite that way here and the cop who pulled Trillian over also didn't bother to explain clearly. As it was presented to her, she had to decide on the spot whether she would pay the fine or appear in court. The officer also told her that the violation would only put 2 or 3 points on her license.
When she got home, she found out that the violation, in fact, carries 5 points, which is close to a warning and almost halfway to suspension. So she contacted a lawyer and the municipal court. And found out that in signing the citation as she did, she had given up the right to appear in court. It was, technically, possible to change that, but would require jumping through a lot of hoops and likely getting a judge who would not be happy about hearing her case.
So, we mailed in the fine. And Trillian decided that she would drive as little as possible in the next year, until the points would no longer count towards warning/suspension. Which is not that big of a deal since I do most of the driving anyway.
Cut to today.
We're driving back home after running some errands in the town center. We're still about 10 minutes from home when Scooter announces he needs to pee. (Note to self, when kid is dancing around in the library, even if he answers that NO he doesn't need to pee, take him to the bathroom already!) I know that there's a gas station up ahead and that, due to a lot of construction and the time of day, it could take more than 10 minutes to get home. At this point, even though Scooter has said he can hold it, it's quite obvious to us that he won't make it too much longer. (And he's been doing pretty well recently and is horribly upset when he has an accident, but he still has a hard time recognizing the urge until it becomes an immediate need.)
There are some "no left turn" signs along the way, including one in the general area of the gas station entrance, but it's really hard to tell if it's for that or the intersection just past it. There's no traffic coming and the child looks like he'll burst. What would you do?
Well, apparently I made the left in full view of an officer. Who responded, when I told him my son was about to have an accident, "Well, I still have to write you a ticket." (mini-rant: Have to? Looking at the citation I have, there is in fact a place for a written warning. And the turn I made was not at all dangerous or normally illegal. They keep changing around the barrels and signage in this area, so it's not even like this is the usual rule here.)
Anyway, when he brought me the citation, I decided to ask a couple questions for clarification of Trillian's experience. It turns out that it is true that you have to make a decision on the spot: pay the fine or request a court appearance. But when I asked, "What if I'm not sure?", he told me that then I should ask for the court date, as I could always go ahead and pay the fine before that date. He also explained (and this just about boggled my mind) that the date listed was not an appointment, but a deadline. In fact, if I wanted to plead my case to a judge, I could show up any time before that listed; if I waited until after to appear or pay, a warrant would be issued.
I'm looking into my options and trying to gather some more information, such as how many points this would carry and the likelihood I could get them knocked off, either completely or by agreeing to traffic school.
Not something I needed, as I was already freaking out over the exam I'll be taking next week. (my Rolfer remarked that I was tenser than she'd ever seen and asked if I felt behind and if I'm something of a perfectionist. Yes and yes.) On the other hand, we've had a few moments of humor from this. Trillian and I were joking that it would have been better for our citations to have occurred in reverse order, since if I'd been stopped first and mistakenly signed, agreeing to pay, it would have cost us significantly less in fines and points.
In any case, I'll be the one driving under the speed limit and double-checking every possible turn.