Wednesday 19 December 2018

Speeders meet their doom: trapped at The Deadman's Inn

Sarah Carey was enraged to get three penalty points when a GoSafe van picked a sneaky spot for his speed trap

In camera: A mobile speed van monitors the passing traffic
In camera: A mobile speed van monitors the passing traffic

Sarah Carey

Curse you Maurice McCabe! Curse you! That's what I thought when I received a notice informing me that a rotten GoSafe van, lurking just inside a 60kmh speed limit sign had caught me doing 75kmh at 10am on a sunny Tuesday morning. I was being fined €80 and getting three penalty points on my licence. I was raging! The €80 I could live with. The three points drove me bonkers. What would it do to my insurance? This was just typical.

Since their introduction in 2002, half of Ireland got their penalty points wiped after a quick word with a friendly garda; in what could be described as either whole-scale corruption or justifiable discretion; one's perspective depending entirely on whether or not one had benefited from the system.

Throughout this period I have driven white-knuckled within speed limits, defiantly resisting the intimidation of tailgating speeders and the general traffic flow. Determined not to get caught and fully committed to the truism that speed kills, I have been ideological to the point of obsession on the matter of staying with the limit.

Why did I have to wait until the whistle-blowing Sergeant had successfully secured transparent law enforcement before slipping up? Why didn't I put the foot down and speed my way around Ireland when I still had the option of phoning up a superintendent for a bit of help?

No. I had to wait until "discretion" was abolished and there could be no escape from the undue punishment. Timing. That's always been my problem.

As soon as they start to enforce the law even-handedly - and put the penalty for speeding up to three points from two - that's when I lose concentration for a millisecond. On the same morning a GoSafe van decides to GoStealth in a really sneaky fish-in-a-barrel spot.

It was on the N4 heading into Dublin where there's a 5kmh stretch of dual carriageway, four lanes wide on each side, bypassing Lucan. Last week I counted 27 signs on the eastbound carriageway declaring it an 80kmh zone. Just before a big interchange with the M50 there is one sign at The Deadman's Inn where the limit drops to 60kmh - and that's where he was.

It was so mean. In fact, since I was already going slower than most other cars, if I slowed down to 60 at that precise spot I'd have caused an accident. Hardly anyone obeys the 80kmh limit in the first place. Except me of course. I only achieve this by setting the cruise control on my Citroen car so that the speed is set and a little daydreaming won't see me accidentally creep over the limit. Outside rush hour, the other traffic sails by me, apparently oblivious to the law.

I motor along veering between sanctimony at my virtuous ways and resentment that the others are getting away with flagrant breaches of the law. Then I think it's unfair that they're probably wondering why that silly woman is driving so slowly on a perfectly good road. Or at least, that's what I always think they're thinking.

Yes: it's an internal psychodrama each time I get in the car. I judge them. They judge me. But we would all meet our doom together at The Deadman's Inn. Gah!

When I got the notice I went into high dudgeon and rattled off irate emails to various politicians railing at the injustice, accusing GoSafe of entrapment and querying the financial incentives in their contract. (Like several judges I disapprove in principal of outsourcing State services including and especially relating to matters of justice). But that wasn't going to do much good.

Deprived of the opportunity to appeal informally, I decided to investigate the formal process and discovered a serious problem with it. There are two grounds for appeal. Category A covers, "but there must be some mistake officer". In this you claim that the speed camera is wrong and you're lodging a "not guilty" claim. Daring, but since I was guilty, that was no good.

Category B appeals are for those who fess up but have excellent excuses, such as rushing to hospital with labouring women or soon-to-expire relations. I briefly considered inventing a mission of mercy but official documentation was required to backup outlandish stories. Feck.

What I needed was a Category C, in which the piety of the appellant, years of compliant driving and my evangelical record on the matter of safe driving would be taken into consideration. Like they do in court. But there was no box for that. I decided to take my chance and formulated a letter laying out my defence anyway.

My case was twofold. First, that the location amounted to entrapment and second, I'm great. I even included a copy of a column I'd written about my commitment to speed limits. From a legal perspective, it wasn't exactly compelling. The fact that I'm a journalist would probably weigh against me, since if I got off I'd probably tell everyone. The next day I read my missive and conceded it reeked of self-righteousness - a quality I deplore. Now I panicked. Maybe the cops would come round and confiscate my licence permanently for being a prig.

Instead I got an awfully nice refusal letter from a superintendent called James. At first I thought - to hell with that. I'll take my chances in court. I've heard countless stories of judges who love throwing out traffic cases wholescale. I bet if I showed up and pleaded I get off. Although, knowing my luck, I'd get Judge John Dredd who'd double all the fines for my temerity.

Also, James said that he hoped that despite my treatment at the hands of the GoSafe van I would continue to publicly support the importance of safe driving. Sigh. I find it hard to say 'No" when people ask for something nicely. So, in my head, I said; "Okay, James".

The following week as I drove along the N4 I braked (but not too sharply) at The Deadman's Inn. As Carrie Bradshaw would say, I couldn't help but notice that the traffic was going slower than usual. Was it possible that the harsh tactics of GoSafe, by ensnaring so many in their sneaky speed trap had achieved the desired effect? Word had got out.

Personally I think they could have delivered the same result in the 80 zone, but I couldn't deny the discernible deceleration in the general traffic flow.

I decided to get over myself and offer up the three points for the greater good. A little humbler and with a regrettable whiff of piety, I moved on - at 60kph.

Sunday Independent

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