The Daily Item, Sunbury, PA

Gary Grossman

July 6, 2014

Good golly, Miss Flouncy

— Miss Flouncy Bighair stood out among the several dozen targets brought down by a trooper’s radar gun, assembled that day in a sterile district court off Route 50 in Talbot County.

Upon the musculoskeletal structure of an ecdysiast, Miss Flouncy wore a fuzzy pink sweater, a pair of why-bother paintedon blue jeans tucked into zipper boots with four-inch heels, which gave her stride the yaw of a row boat on the Choptank in high wind and set her dangly earrings to a perceptible jingle at close range.

One after another, we — college boys, waterman, salesmen, handyman, shy teenagers and one elderly gentleman on a cane who was hard to peg as a speed demon — were called as a state trooper bulked up by gym hours or Kevlar condemned us with time, date, mile marker, make, model, license, registration and incontrovertible electronic calibration.

When it came Miss Flouncy’s turn and as she swayed forth down the center aisle, Trooper Hormones announced, with apologies to the honorable Judge Grumpy, that he could not locate the file on this particular defendant. Hizzoner crinkled up a half grin, which on him looked like a grimace. Then, he dismissed the case.

Now, I am not going to say what everybody thought, because, for sure, I don’t know. Also, if untrue, it may not speak well of us. All the evidence was circumstantial. But lady justice had to be double-extra blind that morning to believe appearances were immaterial to deciding whose paperwork would be lost. Just sayin’.

And I was not especially prejudiced, for I was there in support of kinfolk who had been clocked going 90 miles-an-hour and I was secretly glad to see her get comeuppance in hopes that a lesson would be learned and lives would be saved.

I have been stopped in five speed traps – Delaware, Maryland, South Carolina, New York and Pennsylvania — once by a park ranger on federal land and twice by local red-light lurkers, in New Jersey and here in the Valley.

Every stop was in the waning days of the month. Most were toggled down to failure to observe or obey posted limits — dollars, no points — and one time an especially honest young officer apologized, but said they needed local funds to match a state click-it-or-ticket grant for the department.

Like you, I don’t know, but I’ve been told there are no quotas on traffic tickets. Still, we never seem so keenly focused on traffic safety as we do at the end of the month — when job performance metrics loom large.

These thoughts resurfaced toward the end of June, when we carried a story about a local elementary school principal who had been stopped by a trooper at 11:29 p.m. on Selinsgrove’s main street for wobbling out of her traffic lane. Reports later put her blood alcohol measure at four times the legal limit and, according to experts, three-tenths of a point short of death.

The whooshing in her spinning head was the sound of a $93,000 a year job going out the window and she knew it. Her resignation was accepted before a week had elapsed.

As arbitrary and capricious (a phrase often employed in legal briefs) as traffic enforcement may be, there are few excuses and no defense of speeders and drinkers behind the wheel. In the end, it probably works, partly because of downstream enforcement in the workplace.

Everyone who drives for our business is obliged to report every traffic violation. A few years ago, I reported my excessive five-mile-an-hour “failure to obey” ticket from Mahoning Township, which wasn’t in any way a noble or voluntary example of leadership. We all agree to have our motor vehicle records scanned annually for compliance.

The deal is licensed, insured, registered and a clean driving safety record.

Our risk reduction experts constantly pose the possibility of how we would feel if someone driving on company business was in some horrible accident that hurt themselves or seriously injured or killed others. Their hypothetical always includes small children.

That’s a sobering thought. We get no complaints about the policy. 

Gary Grossman is the publisher of The Daily Item and The Danville News.

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Gary Grossman
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