async="src="/ Taking the Long Way Home: License to thrill

Wednesday, July 2, 2014

License to thrill

I came home from my wonderful weekend getaway to find an unpleasant surprise in the mail. I received not just one, but two red light camera tickets. To those of you who live in a much more civilized part of the world, red light cameras are a money making scheme in the guise of "traffic safety". If you stop for less than 3 seconds at a red light before you make a right hand turn, the camera snaps a picture of your license plate and it's guilty as charged. As you might imagine, these red light ticket cameras are a huge money maker for the towns that use them. The cameras are popping up all over the suburbs and the city of Chicago. People hate them so much that some towns around here (including the one I live in) refuse to install them. The cameras are owned by a private company, and they too make a hefty profit. The good news is that these tickets can't go on your driving record. So I've got that going for me.

But apparently, I'm hell on wheels, since I got two of them in a week, in two different towns. At $100 a piece, this is a costly mistake on my part. I need to remind myself to count one-one thousand, two-one thousand, three-one thousand every time I stop at a red light. Or I could check my phone while I'm waiting. But that's illegal! Or just not turn at all. That'll show them. Yes, I'm bitter. Can you tell?

My husband lectured me on my driving. This is what I heard:

Do you ever just tune out your spouse? As if I didn't feel badly enough. Think of all the things I could do with $200? That would have covered the entry fee to the Chicago Marathon this year! When I told my father, his response was: "those damn bastards!". My dad always says the right thing to make me feel better.

But believe it or not, this post isn't even about my leadfoot driving ways. I have been giving all of this a lot of thought. And all that thinking leads me to this:

Do you run like you drive? Or vice versa?

Are you Speed Racer?

Or are you Cautious Clay?

I drive to work on a really busy suburban arterial road. My commute is truly a test of patience. Along the way are a lot of shopping centers, gas stations, offices, and other miscellaneous businesses. People are pulling in and out of entrances along the road all the time. Going painfully slow while they look for an address or a store, slamming on the brakes, and often not signalling a turn. I find myself changing lanes to avoid people turning and pulling onto the road. Sometimes I change lanes because people are going too slow. Or too fast, when I have someone tailgating me. At times, it reminds me of an obstacle course. Or....

A race course? Indeed it does. When you run a crowded race, do you start out slow, letting people pass you? Or do you zig zag between people, jockeying for a smooth patch of pavement? Do you hate getting behind a slow pack of runners, and stew while trying to find an opening so you can get ahead and back on pace? Do you get annoyed at people who are pushing your pace while they are trying to get around you? Have you ever gotten behind someone who stops suddenly and you have to maneuver to avoid slamming into them?

OMG, running a race is just like driving!

I'm sure by now you've figured out how I race. I'm so glad there aren't surveillance cameras on the course. I'd probably get a ticket. Or two. Only if I don't stop long enough when I'm turning right...


  1. 3 seconds at a red light? Who knew? Sorry about the tickets. Bummer. Fight the power! :)

    1. Sucks. What can I say? There's no fighting these, sadly. They have me on video cam.

  2. Oh my gosh--so funny you write about this. I think I am quite conservative with my driving, but..I have received more than a couple of these. My husband LOVES to give me a hard time about this. We can go to red light jail together!

  3. it will be interesting to see what happens with the red light cameras in your area. we had them for a few years, but they stopped using them because the company that runs them was making money, but the city was actually losing money

    1. I hear the state is looking at them as well because research shows that they don't prevent accidents; that the intersections they are at are no more safe than before.

  4. Ha ha! Funny comparison! I move a lot more in traffic than I do in a race - cause my car's fuel seems to be more reliable than mine.

    A local friend protested her turn on red ticket. They said they watch the video and wait to see your car rock back after you stop to turn right. Sigh. Really stinks :( Sorry you got those!

  5. I did not know that either! I got one of those dumb camera tickets too for going 7 miles over the speed limit downtown. I seriously remember so much traffic so no idea how that happened. I certainly won't be setting any speed records during races either. :)

  6. I JUST got one of these too! Dated 5/17 the day I took my older daughter to track sectionals. We were rushing to get there. The video shows me and 5 other cars all coasting thru. THose damn cameras are total money machines. Grrrrrrr!

  7. Ha! Love this post! We have red light cameras in DC too and they SUCK!! They also have cameras to record speed too, so don't even THINK about speeding. Just another way to make the city money. I didn't know that it doesn't go on your driving record though! As for the race...yes, I am that person that zig zags trying to get through an opening so I can get in my own groove. And I have been behind someone that has stopped short, that has got to be one of my biggest racing pet peeves!! Move over to the side if you are going to stop!!!