Trade your ticket for driver training

Education over punishment

"You don't care about safety! All you guys want to do is suck money out of my pocket!"

Here was a speeder who was very definite in his opinion and not afraid to state it. He was wrong, I did care about safety, but my traffic cop toolbox didn't contain many officially sanctioned options for dealing with it.

When I saw a traffic violation, I really only had three options—ignore it, warn the driver for their behaviour or write them a ticket.

Which option I chose had a lot to do with the circumstances present. Was the action a danger to themselves or others? Would the driver benefit more from a warning and a few words of education or was it serious enough to warrant writing the ticket?

Sometimes, what the driver had to say at the roadside made it apparent they had no intention of following that particular driving rule in the future.

If the action was not significant and driver was receptive, the warning and an explanation of why they should not do that would brought the contact to a successful close. However, that only dealt with one particular driving behaviour and did not contribute to any further skill assessment and improvement.

Knowing that I was about to retire, I thought to myself, "What are they going to do, fire me?" So I wrote the ticket and after I had served it I told the driver I had a deal for him. Spend the cost of the ticket on himself at the driving school of his choice, bring me the receipt and I would run the ticket through the shredder.

He took the deal and returned to the detachment within a couple of weeks with the receipt. He said he had learned he was not shoulder checking properly, failed to turn out of and into the correct lane at intersections and wasn't coming to a proper stop at stop signs.

I handed him all copies of the ticket and told him that he could do what he wished with them.

A traffic court justice mentioned in a conversation we were had he wished more officers would do something like this as a form of restorative justice. He offered the example of the Victoria PD traffic unit and I was able to find a similar program run by the Surrey RCMP detachment.

Personally, I thought it neatly filled the commitment to the education goals of both the Canadian Road Safety Strategy and the B.C. Road Safety Strategy education element. This driver and those around him benefited far more from the driving school's advice than he would have learned from paying the $138 penalty for speeding.

Of course, he could have chosen to treat the ticket in the usual manner by payment or dispute but I think we were both pleased with this outcome.

This article is written by or on behalf of an outsourced columnist and does not necessarily reflect the views of Castanet.

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About the Author

Tim Schewe is a retired constable with many years of traffic law enforcement experience. He has been writing his column for most of the 20 years of his service in the RCMP.

The column was 'The Beat Goes On' in Fort St. John, 'Traffic Tips' in the South Okanagan and now 'Behind the Wheel' on Vancouver Island and here on Castanet.net.

Schewe retired from the force in January of 2006, but the column has become a habit, and continues.

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The views expressed are strictly those of the author and not necessarily those of Castanet. Castanet does not warrant the contents.

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