It Arrived by Registered Mail

We’d been living in Taiwan for 8 years before we got our first car, and that was only because a friend died, and his widow gave it to us.  Learning to drive in Kaohsiung included a shocking piece of registered  mail one day. It was a picture of my car from behind when I “inadvertently” made a left turn on a red light. I paid. In subsequent years we received more pictures, one of which clearly showed my wife speeding on a limited access road into town. Again, we paid.

Taiwan’s radar-equipped cameras grace high poles along freeways and city streets where there’s a temptation to speed or to  “extend the yellow light” or “rush the green light”. In the first years after these systems’ installation their cost was quickly recovered. As driving habits improve, the cameras still provide steady revenue streams to city governments.

We now live in Holland MI. The city has some portable radar speed checkers. They’re seen where drivers habitually exceed speed limits threaten safety. A fixed board shows the legal limit, and a lit display connected to a radar gun indicates the speed of approaching cars. No cameras are involved. No registered mail arrives. They operate like a front-door lock, which deters honest people but not burglars.

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Registered vehicles in Michigan do not have license plates on the front. Ownership can only be ascertained from behind. Should the municipal government here wish to go beyond warning approaching drivers to admonishing retreating ones, it would need to install a plate reading camera and radar gun on the back of the sign, and connect these to the vehicle registration database. Though there are likely legal barriers to fining people, the deterrent value of being informed might be worth it.  No teenager or errant spouse wants to be asked at home, “What were you doing on Pine Avenue last Wednesday afternoon?”

David Alexander now resides in Holland, MI after 39 years in Taiwan.