Speed Traps

The fact is that the US has nothing over Japan when it comes to speed traps. A speed trap in the US usually involves one patrol car staking out an area known for speeders and catching one car at a time. Highly inefficient.

Let me tell you about Japanese speed traps. They do have a couple of similarities to their American counterparts. They are set up in an area where the speed limit drops and there is a fairly open stretch of road without too many lights and not too heavy traffic, so drivers have a tendency to pick up a little speed. But that is truly where the similarities end.

A Japanese speed trap is a well-oiled machine, and a highly-efficient revenue-generating one. It involves probably about 10 officers altogether. Here is the set up. There is one car with a machine to record the speed of cars going by. Then about 300 meters down the road is where you get stopped. There will be one officer flagging cars down to pull onto a side street. There will be a third officer directing the traffic. A fourth officer will be taking the printouts off of the recording machine and attaching them to a form. Then there are about 6 more officers who are processing the speeders and writing up tickets. It takes them about 10 minutes a ticket.

I was doing some calculations… A ticket for 15 km (9 mph) over is 12,000 yen (120 USD). A ticket for 21 km (13 mph) over is 15,000 yen (150 USD). (I was being nosy and seeing what was written on the form of the woman across from me.) So if they process 6 tickets a minute at 12,000 yen each that’s 72,000 for 10 minutes. In an hour they could easily rake in 432,000 yen (over 4,000 USD). A highly efficient money-generating system!

The crazy thing is that lately I haven’t been taking that road, and I have no idea why I did yesterday. It was the road going from near Shimane University to Kashima. The trap was set up in that little area between the two tunnels. The speed limit drops from 50 kmh to 40, and I was SO not paying attention. I was just kind of cruising along, when all of a sudden I noticed the officer flagging me down. Oh crap! I knew it was for speeding, but here is the really bad thing. I had no idea how fast I was going or what the speed limit was! That area is just so open… So they showed me the tape reading of 55, and I thought, well that’s not really so bad. But I had absolutely no idea what the speed limit there was. On 431 and those roads between Matsue and Izumo, the speed limit is mostly 50 kmh, but then it will suddenly drop to 40 kmh for short stretches. Most cars (including me) are zipping along at closer to 60 kmh. Guess I’d better watch a little more closely from now on…

At least I didn’t bitch and moan the whole time my ticket was being written out like the lady across from me. The entire time her ticket was being written, she was kind of whining and talking under her breath about how she wasn’t going to make 3:00… I wanted to tell her to just shut up. I’m also surprised none of the officers reprimanded her about her rudeness and carrying on when she was the one speeding. I think an officer in the States would have said something to her. But all of her carrying on is why I was kind of curious about how fast she was going…

Afterwards, I just sat quietly in my car for a few minutes feeling sorry for myself and the fact that I was stupid enough to get caught speeding through there. And bemoaning the loss of 12,000 yen right before Christmas. At least it won’t totally break the bank this year. Last year, it would have been a tragedy… Last year, I had extra expenses relating to a snapped-off side mirror, snow tires, and baby. Last year, a 12,000 yen ticket would have probably sent me off into complete hysterics and an almost nervous breakdown. This year it just makes me want to kick myself!

So while I don’t like getting caught by the Japanese speed-trap system, I do have to confess that I kind of admire its efficiency.

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