TWIM: Are speeding tickets a government conspiracy?

This week’s Justify Your Existence is Alfredo Munoz of S.O.S. Ticket. You’ll recall earlier this month there was some dust kicked up at a new service from this ticket-fighting brigade setup by a former police officer. That service alerts drivers to radar speed traps, so they can slow down and not get a ticket.

The article (which Kate thinks has an editorializing headline but I think is a legitimate question, even though I didn’t write it) is cut off online. Here’s the missing text:

Alerts are given to drivers by text message on their cellphones. Doesn’t that encourage dangerous cellphone use while driving?

We can walk and chew gum at the same time. It takes a second to read, and you can hold the cellphone in front of you as you read it, to keep your eyes on the road. It doesn’t worry me. We’ve studied this. Ads on the side of the road or drinking a coffee are more of a distraction than a text message.

I talked with Munoz last week in the small company’s log-cabin-like offices in Old Montreal, around the corner from the municipal courthouse. He sat me down on his expensive-looking leather couch and we talked for a while about the ethics of his service and tickets in general.

Munoz, a young technically-proficient businessman, not only didn’t agree that what he was doing was morally questionable. He feels he’s helping society through this service:

  • It keeps the idea of speed traps in drivers’ heads, so they’re conscious that they need to slow down
  • Because it relies on members reporting speed traps, it’s not 100% and won’t encourage people to drive faster because they can never be sure a cop isn’t there
  • Everyone speeds anyway. It isn’t less safe
  • Speeding tickets don’t make highways safer, they just bring in more money to the police
  • Dangerous driving is caused by 16-18-year-olds who are taught about signage and the highway code but not how to drive safely or keep a car under control in an emergency

Munoz sees S.O.S. Ticket as the only true force representing regular car drivers. He philosophizes that nobody has ever changed the world by being liked by everyone.

Whether he does more good than harm is something for you to decide.

6 thoughts on “TWIM: Are speeding tickets a government conspiracy?

  1. blork

    I completely disagree with your assessment that reading a billboard is more distracting than reading a text message.

    A billboard flashes by in a second. You can look at it and still watch the road (they’re designed that way). Nothing to it. Compare that with the process of receiving and reading a text message:

    – Phone rings. For many people, that alone is a huge distraction as they wonder “where’s the phone? Who could it be? Should I answer?”

    – Get out the phone. Maybe it’s in your shirt pocket (easy). Maybe it’s in your pants pocket (difficult when you’re driving). Maybe it’s in your knapsack in the back seat, and you’re the kind of person who must answer, so now you’re driving while reaching into the back seat and fumbling around with a zipped up knapsack.

    – Open the phone (if it’s a flip) and navigate to the message. You’re changing you’re eye’s focus from virtual infinity to eight inches or so. Doesn’t sound like much, but it can take a second or two, especially for people over 40. (When reading a billboard, you never have to refocus your eyes.)

    – Now the tricky part: cognition. Reading a text message on a screen uses the brain in a whole different way than reading a billboard. Studies have shown this. The amount of attention given to the text message is an order of magnitude higher than is given to the billboard.

    Now do all that while negotiating traffic in the rain, while the radio is on.


    BTW, if you don’t believe me regarding the amount of attention needed, here’s something related to think about. Compare someone walking down the sidewalk and talking on a cell phone with someone walking down the sidewalk and talking to a person who’s with them. The cell phone person is often oblivious to surroundings. They’re in their own little world over there. But the person talking to another person is aware of their surroundings and flows with it.

    Unfortunately I can’t cite the studies, but I have seen them referenced, and there is also tons of anecdotal evidence. Talking on a cell phone is NOT the same as talking to a person in the flesh. (And reading a text message is not the same as reading a billboard.)

  2. lefty

    Mr Munoz is an entrepreneur looking to make a buck in this capitalist world we live in, fine, have at it. But what pisses me off is that this latest undertaking places other drivers at risk while these ‘radar spies’ go about texting away and trying to drive at the same time! These are two mutually exclusive tasks. But won’t this whole scheme be made moot when Quebec passes it’s “ban on handheld cell phone use while driving” law in the near future?

    Either way, he smacks of a man playing fast and loose with the road safety of the general population and every single one of his lame responses to your questions can be effortlessly torn to shreds! Thanks blork for taking care of his ridiculous insinuation that retrieving a text msg is akin to chewing gum while walking, or glancing at a billboard for a second. What a joke.

    Let’s tackle the ‘Autobahn’ is safe and there are no speed limits. While about 60% of the autobahn has no posted speed limit, the other 40% does. But the real measure of why those highways are safer is right behind every Mercedes and BMW steering wheel; the driver. Yes, a skilled driver who knows when to pass and more importantly, knows when to be passed. Drivers who use their turn signals and almost all wear their seat belts. And the fact that their highways are designed and not just assembled like in Quebec has to help in reducing road accidents.

    Favourite Munoz quote:
    “I’m a businessman, that’s clear. But I have a social conscience.” LOL

  3. Fagstein Post author

    To clarify:

    The tips would be reported to SOS Ticket verbally, not through text message. So there won’t be drivers composing messages on the highway. They will, however, be receiving them.

    And Munoz actually agrees that the driver makes all the difference. He thinks that we don’t get enough driver training here, and that more education, not ticketing, is the answer.

  4. Edna

    Umn … so he’ll only be texting the good drivers who are speeding in school zones? That’s fantastic. He’s a hero.

  5. Pingback: Fagstein » Another radar trap alert service of dubious morality

  6. dudejo

    i’ll agree that more actual driving training would help.

    my driving test only checked whether or not i was properly obeying laws.

    my safe driving and emergency recovery is almost entirely self-taught. mostly because i play a lot of Gran Turismo, a racing game that encourages proper driving techniques to go fast.

    by this, i mean how to keep the car gripping at high speeds and how to recover should the car start sliding. how to control your throttle and how to judge braking distances. you can’t screw around with this game like you would in, say, Need for Speed.

    i know the real thing is better but i DID manage to avoid crashing in winter when it counted the most.


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