The Washington Times

Dear Automated Traffic Enforcement: Thank you for your “Notice of Infraction” dated Jan. 16 accusing the driver of the Saturn station wagon we own of going 36 mph in a 25-mph zone in the 3000 block of Cleveland Avenue NW on Jan. 3 at 12:15 p.m. The photograph of the rear end of our vehicle, and especially the enlargement of the license plate clearly showing all six characters in it, is something our family will always treasure.

We regret to say that rather than paying you the $50 you would like, we have had to check the box on the back of your notice that says, “I deny commission of the infraction” and also the box that says “I request mail adjudication.” We note that in order to do this, we must also include “a NOTARTIZED sic waiver” of the right to an in-person hearing. We have checked the dictionary and have been unable to find the word “notartized,” or any form of it. There is a word, “notarized,” which means attested to by a notary public, but we find it hard to believe that you could really mean to put people through the inconvenience and expense of going out and finding a notary public just for the purpose of signing away their rights. If you really did mean that, surely you would have gone to the trouble of proofreading your own document. In any case, we hereby NOTARTIZE that we request mail adjudication and we will keep all the rights to which we are entitled, thank you very much.

Now, about the infraction. We find your evidence entirely persuasive that our vehicle was going down Cleveland Avenue Jan. 3 at 12:15 p.m. at a speed of 36 mph. After all, we believe in driving at a safe and reasonable speed. Cleveland Avenue in this stretch is a divided four-lane boulevard, and your photograph has refreshed our recollection that on Jan. 3 the roads were dry and there were no other vehicles present, either ahead of us or in the oncoming traffic lanes across the wide, grassy median, nor any pedestrians.

Not that we would take that as reason to exceed the speed limit. But, of course, southbound Cleveland Avenue proceeds on a substantial downgrade, such as to cause vehicles to rapidly pick up speed on their way toward the next intersection, necessitating that drivers ride the brake most of the way down to keep even close to the 25 mph limit. Drivers, we would observe, are often taken by surprise at how much acceleration a downgrade can impart to their vehicle. The way we figure it, when you hit 36 mph, that would be pretty obvious, and you’d start riding the brake.

We are unaware of whether you had additional hidden cameras mounted on Cleveland Avenue that would document what we would expect, namely, gradual but increasing acceleration from zero to about 36 mph, then a sharp deceleration caused by hitting the brake, yielding a stable velocity in the range of, say, 30 mph. And were we stopped and ticketed under these circumstances by an actual human being, viz., a police officer, we would think the officer a martinet drunk on his own power. But you’ve got our Saturn going 36 in a 25, and there’s no denying that.

We’d gladly send you $50 (well, gladly in the sense that we’d be glad to be rid of you and wish you well in your further endeavors in “automated traffic enforcement,” confident that others who receive your notices will react to the experience with their confidence and pride in local government boosted just as much as ours has been). But there’s a problem, isn’t there? The $50 isn’t all you want, is it? You want an admission of guilt, too.

You want the owner of the car to “declare under penalty of perjury” that the owner was driving at the time of the infraction or to say who was. No “no contest” pleas allowed, we guess. (Is that because without an admission of guilt from the driver, you haven’t really proved that an infraction has taken place, since the law provides that people can be charged with speeding, not cars?)

In any event, we’ve got a problem. The Lindbergs are a one-car family at present, and neither of us can recall who was driving down Cleveland Avenue Jan. 3, certainly not to the point of being willing to “declare under penalty of perjury.” The way we figure it, we were going from our Cleveland Park home to drop Mr. Lindberg off at his downtown office, which is not an unusual occurrence, but what we can’t recall with any certainty is whether Mr. or Mrs. Lindberg was driving. We have no fixed pattern in that regard, and as to what the particulars were Jan. 3, who can remember?

We suppose we could just guess and pay the fine, and then you would be gone. But then we got to thinking about that nice photograph of the back of our car that you have in your possession and that “under penalty of perjury” declaration you want. We can’t tell from the picture you sent who’s driving. But look at that beautiful enlargement of the license plate you provided. If you enlarged the whole image, would you be able to tell who was driving – at least if it was a man or woman. So you see, if we just guessed, we’d be afraid that if we had guessed wrong, you’d be sending us another friendly notice, this time informing us that we had committed perjury. It would be nice to think that that’s not something you would ever do, but then again, why wouldn’t you?

So we are at a loss here. Please let us know what to do. And we hereby declare and NOTARTIZE that all information provided here is true to the best of our knowledge.