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Today, I signed up for traffic school. I hate traffic school but at least I have the option of doing it online rather than in a classroom that ruins my entire Saturday. Complaining about traffic school isn’t the reason for this post. My intent here is to complain about how I ended up having to take traffic school.
It all started like this….
It was the day before Thanksgiving 2012 and I was flying out to spend the holiday with family. I was going to meet my father in law at the BART station and take the train to San Francisco airport. I had figured it was a good idea to park my car at the BART station instead of paying for airport parking. I could have used the BART station closest to my house but the hour plus ride on BART wasn’t really worth the time. Instead I would go to the station closest to the airport at Millbrae.
I figured I had plenty of time so I was in no hurry to leave my house. I had planned to pick up a lens for my camera that I had rented on my way. It turns out that I had poorly estimated the time that I needed and was cutting things close. My father in law, who had planned his time much better than I, was way ahead of me. He had already arrived at the BART station, boarded the train, transferred to another train, got to the airport and was almost through security by the time I approached the BART station. I had thought that there was a direct train from Millbrae to SFO. I was wrong. I would have to take a train to San Bruno and then transfer to a SFO bound train. This process would take about 20 minutes. I had about 50 minutes till my flight was set to leave. I kept calling my father in law to see where he was. He was already at the gate by the time that I boarded the first BART train. I made it to the airport eventually. Ran like a mad man from the SFO BART station to the stupid, robotic AirTrain that takes you between terminals. Luckily for me, my flight was leaving from the first terminal that it stopped at. I got off and nearly pushed people out of my way as I ran to the security line. By this time, I had about 20 minutes till my flight was scheduled to leave. There were only a few people in line ahead of me at security. I prayed that they wouldn’t ask to inspect my bag as I had a good amount of electronic equipment with me which could set off such a thing. I got through security about as fast as I could have possibly hoped and ran for my gate. I arrived about 10 minutes before the plane was supposed to depart. Usually that is right when they close the doors to the gate but it turned out that they were just starting to board. I called my father in law because I did not see him at the gate. It turns out he was standing right next to me. We boarded the plane and made our trip without incident.
You’re probably thinking right now, “How does this have anything to do with traffic school?” Allow me to explain. A couple of days after I returned home, I find a letter in the mail from the “City of Millbrae Automated Photo Enforcement Program”. It turns out that the city of Millbrae has decided that a good way to generate revenue under the guise of public safety would be to put up a red light camera at the intersection with the BART station entrance. You might be saying to yourself, “If you ran a red light, you deserve a big fat traffic ticket. Running red lights is very dangerous.” And I would agree with that but that isn’t what I did. I made a right turn on a red light which is perfectly legal in the state of California. The problem was that I … kinda … sorta rolled through the stop that I was supposed to make before making the right turn. If I were to go to any street corner right now, I will probably see more people doing what I did as opposed to making a complete stop. It happens so often in California that we call it a “California Stop”. It turns out that the fine for this “offense” is the same as if I were to barrel through the middle of the intersection at a red light.
When I inspected the letter, it showed a photo of my car clearly making a right turn. I had my signal on. The brake lights were on and in the photo of the driver, you can see that I was looking to the left to make sure it was clear to proceed. It is also noticeable that there is a green light for those cars making a left turn out of the BART station in the opposite direction of where I was heading. I could have argued that I should have had a green arrow allowing me to make a right turn without stopping. I could have also argued that it wasn’t me driving since the photo of the driver was only of a profile and not my full face. The incriminating evidence was at the web site that I was directed to on the ticket. A photo alone wouldn’t prove that I rolled through the stop light. But the video, choppy and pixelated as it was was pretty damning.
A few days later, I got a citation from the county courthouse. The fine was $495! I desperately wanted to fight the ticket but I had waited too long. There wasn’t enough time to put up a good argument. I decided to pay it seeing as I am eligible for traffic school. I ended up paying the fine plus the “administrative fee” to allow me to sign up for traffic school. In the end, this debacle cost me about $560.
Just thinking about it pisses me off. It’s not so much about the money. I’m not rich but I’m also not broke. $560 isn’t going to force me to eat Top Ramen for the next month. It’s the way that they force the money out of me. It’s legalized extortion.
If I were to set up a camera and take photos of people committing traffic offenses and then send them a bill with the threat of legal action and/or increased insurance rates, I would be in prison. But since it’s a government agency that does it, it’s okay. I understand that the state of California and many of the cities in California have poorly managed my tax money and are now extorting their residents for more but don’t lie to me and tell me that it’s in the interest of public safety because we all know that is a bunch of bovine manure.
If there is anything that you get from this, please learn from my mistake. Stay away from Millbrae. If you live in Millbrae, move out as soon as you can. If you are planning to visit the city of Millbrae, go somewhere else. Millbrae doesn’t have anything that you can’t get from any of the other neighboring cities. The place is a poop hole anyway.
And just as a side note, I used to know the former mayor of the city and he was a real jerk off. I probably shouldn’t be surprised that his “jerkiness” lives on in that arm pit of a city.
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