Thursday, April 22, 2010

Parallel parking: if you aren't good enough at it, you can get a ticket -- a "public safety" issue? a "recession" issue?

Well, here’s a good one for “public safety”, probably not rising to Oprah’s concern about texting or even talking on cell phones hands free while driving.

Yesterday, in Princeton NJ, I had to parallel park on the main street, and couldn’t easily get completely in the lines. When I came back from the campus 20 minutes later, a police officer was writing a $40 ticket for “parking outside stall”. That means, not close enough to the curb.

I’m not good at parallel parking, and rarely have to do it. But in 40 years, I’ve never gotten a ticket for this before, not even in the District of Columbia, which is supposed to be so strict. I suppose some states, like Massachusetts, are probably stricter about this than even many towns in New Jersey. (In fact, a Bing search shows that some towns on Long Island, NY charge $90 for a stalls ticket.)  It makes some sense from a safety point of view. If the car isn’t close enough to the curb, the next car has to jut out just a little more to pull out, or the driver (me) getting out of the car runs a slightly greater risk of being struck.

Most states require a parallel parking demonstration as part of a first-time driver's license test.

The stuff I find online suggests you don’t have to pay out-of-state parking tickets unless you return to the state. In these days of FICO scores, that doesn’t sound smart. Any municipality could easily turn over an unpaid out of state ticket to a collection agency. I used to work for such an agency.

Is this a bona fide "public safety" issue, or more a matter of municipalities looking at every way possible to balance the budget with fines -- even from visitors.

Update: April 23

Check this story from WJLA about Washington DC mayor Adrian Fenty and school chancellor Michelle Rhee about unpaid parking tickets, "Fenty, Rhee Owe Hundreds of Dollars for Parking" by Malachi Constant, link here.

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