We are in Wellington for a weekend in the "big city." Brent is ecstatic to be somewhere with any sign of life on the street after 8:00 p.m. I note this both because it is true....we do live in a small town, and I haven't mentioned Brent for awhile and he likes the occasional reference in the blogosphere.
The cab driver is headed back to the hotel. It is probably about 10 o'clock or so. Rainy night out. Not terribly treacherous. Not terribly late. Which is to say that conditions are good on the roadway. All of a sudden, I see a barricade of flashing lights just in front of us...cars slow down...there is obviously some heavy duty police activity underway.
Seatbelt check mutters the cabbie.
Seatbelt check, he repeats. The cops set up these check points to make sure people are buckled up. If not, I get a ticket and a big fine.
Brent sighs with impatience. This scrutiny will cost us a few extra minutes...and extra bucks. But I am just fascinated by this extremely practical approach to safety. The cab inches up and the cop shines a megawatt light into the window. Next, he pokes a little machine at the driver. Our cabbie expels a couple of breathes - sort of spits at the thing - and states his name. Apparently the device is a breathalyzer with some type of recording device attached to instantly capture a possible DUI infraction. The officer glances at the two of us, safely belted, and waves us on.
We've passed. The driver is sober. The passengers are belt compliant. Simple and straight forward law enforcement.
I think about how Chicago dispatches its "traffic officers." They bundle up already obese men and women who haven't passed a physical since grade school...place them at extremely congested intersections...give them a whistle ....and let them loose. As far as I can tell, even in the most acute cases of rush hour traffic, these guys have absolutely no impact. Buses still run red lights to back up the next three cycles of turning lights. Pedestrians still jaywalk. Drivers turn right from the middle lane causing all sorts of backups. But boy can those cops blow a whistle and gesture with a menace.
Back to the roadside blockade.
I continue to marvel at how a simple approach to complex issues can trump money, size, and sophistication. Arguably the Chicago police force is one of the best trained and most effective in the country. But, here on this little island "down under", they are going door to door [car door to car door] to tackle one of the most dangerous crimes of all - DUI. This is grass roots law enforcement at its best.
Just good common sense.