Traffic tickets cost more than just fines

Everyone tries to give college students advice. Most of which is all nice and sentimental.

Here is some advice that all college students can live by: Do not run traffic lights in the city of Atlanta…at least until you are 21 years-old.

More importantly, can anyone tell men when the traffic light in the city Atlanta became mandatory to follow?

I never got the memo, and apparently the majority of my fellow drivers in the city also have not gotten the memo. I always thought traffic lights in Atlanta were similar to the 55-miles-per-hour speed limit on the connector, more of a FYI than a real, important law.

So I got a traffic ticket for failure to obey a signal at Peachtree and Forth. Like a good citizen, I was going to just pay the ticket and be done with it.

Unfortunately, it is not that easy. First, I had to wait for the ticket to be registered with the Municipal Courts of Atlanta, which apparently can take up to seven business days.

Why it takes seven days to put a ticket into a computer system, when it only takes three minutes to hand write a ticket is beyond me, but the court system says it does.

In actuality, it takes longer.

So I kept on calling the telephone number on the back of the ticket like the officer told me to do in order to find out the amount of the fine, but I had no luck. On the seventh day I talked to the operator. She told me to just send in the check, because it takes some time to get into the system.

Apparently the courts believe that I was just going to send them a check for almost two hundred dollars without any record of it in their system. I may be dumb, but I ain’t stupid.

At this point I had lost all faith in the telephone method and tried to find an alternative. Turns out you can check it online.

When I checked it and found that it was in the system, I sent in the check. Almost a week goes by and the check never cleared my checking account. Finally, last Monday I called up the courts again to see if they gotten my check and if so, did I need to be in court on Wednesday since apparently paper work is not the courts system’s forte.

It turns out if someone is under the age of 21 and he gets a moving violation in the city of Atlanta, he must appear in court. Why the officer who gave me the ticket, the information on the back of the ticket or the first lady I talked with at the court all failed to inform me of this little fact seems way under a level of reasonable expectation from the courts. Regardless, last Wednesday I had my day in court.

I was thinking that I would show up, plea nolo and be done with it. The solicitor had another idea in mind. Since I am under 21, I got put into the TLC Program, which means I have to complete eight hours of classes and eight hours of community service, all because of a traffic light ticket. Am I the only one thinking Eighth Amendment violation here?

So I attended my first class last Friday night off of Donald Lee Hollowell Parkway. I had never heard of Hollowell before then.

It turns out that the road used to be called by another name. Bankhead. I have nothing against Bankhead, but I at the very least would like to have known about that before I had signed up for a class there that was supposed to last after the sun had set.

Tomorrow I have to attend a class called VIP MADD. Does that make any sense? I did not drink and drive. Drinking and driving kills people. I know this.

Unfortunately I am pretty sure that unlike other VIP events, this one will probably not have an open bar. It is even worse because instead of watching College Game Day, I have to listen to the people who made it so that all of us between 18 and 21 cannot legally buy and consume alcohol. Talk about pouring salt into a wound.

Originally the community service part did not upset me that much, but then I actually had to do it. It was not work intensive; it was just boring. Besides, is cleaning up dog poo the best thing I can do for the Atlanta community?

But I will give the court system credit for one thing: if their goal is to discourage people from ignoring traffic lights, then they are doing a great job.

But the unfortunately, I believe they are accomplishing more effectively through making people deal with screwed up system then teaching the faults in what the people did. I screwed up, and I am willing to admit that, but it really should not require this much effort for a damn traffic ticket.