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AI Mistakes Bus-Side Ad for Famous CEO, Charges Her With Jaywalking (caixinglobal.com)
576 points by breitling 5 months ago | hide | past | web | favorite | 397 comments

Heres further proof the justice system is screwed. Yesterday I was stopped while driving for not having current tags. Registration was renewed but I didn't have the sticker yet. Cop looked at my paperwork said all good be back in 5.

Come to find out, I haven't had a valid license in 5 years.

There was a mistake in court 5 years ago when I paid a fine (speeding ticket). I have a receipt from court saying all settled/money received but court says they never got money.

So, after talking to a lawyer yesterday I will be paying another $250 for lawyer fees + court costs to get out of the mistake made by the court in another state 5 years ago.

I am lucky. I can pay that. It sucks but some people would be out food money if they suddenly had to pay $500 to drive again.

But, I did nothing wrong (except for speeding 6 years ago which I paid the fine and haven't had any issues since) and am stuck paying for the courts mistake.

>I am lucky. I can pay that. It sucks but some people would be out food money if they suddenly had to pay $500 to drive again.

Absolutely, court fees and fines disproportionately punish those with low incomes. Increasing enforcement of low level violations by surveillance tech and/or AI is going to crush a lot of people if we don't change that fact.



Finland, I believe, scales fines proportionally to your income. Not perfect (the rich can more easily hide their income than the not so rich), but a good start.

The problem isn’t so much that the rich can hide their income more easily, it‘s that the value of money doesn’t increase linearly. The more money you have available, the less valuable any additional unit of money is to you and the less it hurts if money is taken away from you.

Proportional fines help, but they aren’t perfectly fair.

I suppose there's nothing requiring the proportion-curve for fines to be linear - but that might get silly and have other consequences. I guess the question comes down to value - finding something that the wrongdoer values (and remove it) that is in proportion to the damage to society they did. I would guess, that for the rich that we're talking about, time and/or freedom are more important than money.

The other end of the scale is interesting too - how do you disincentivise/punish for people who don't have any money and just aren't going to pay any fines you give them (i.e. the homeless)?

Then fine by Net Worth and not by Income. Fine by Tax paid. And made it like the Tax system the more you have the higher percentage.

There are people who just park their car anywhere and paid parking tickets, they really don't care because it was too small amount of money.

If anything, people should realise the level of inequality has become. How unfair and unjust the system has made against the bottom half of the population.

I don't think it's possible to find a fair solution that's purely financially based. On the one hand, the poorest members of society might be unable to feed themselves on even a $50 fine. Unless you propose to bankrupt somebody for a speeding ticket, there's just no way to make any amount of fine sting as much for the richest members of society.

Scale linearly to 5% of gross income before deductions, minus minimum wage/poverty line.

Then someone on minimum wage of $30k will just get demerit points while someone on gross income over $200k will pay $8,500. Given that their “taxable income” after deductions is around $80k they will feel that sting.

How about fine based on a small fixed amount plus an increased income tax rate for some time?

Yes - a well-known example was Anssi Vanjoki (former Nokia director) getting a fine of 116,000 euros for driving 75 km/h in a 50 zone. http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/europe/1759791.stm

I have heard of other countries that have similar systems.

Huge fines for the rich are amusing but scaling that part of the cost doesn't address the core problem very well.

Actually, a fee of 14 days of income sounds crippling to someone who's poor, so that's an example of it not helping at all.

It should be noted that many countries that have proportional fines seem to consider speeding to be somewhere close to the severity the American legal system assigns to drunk driving.

It shocks me a little to think of a 14 days worth of income fine for going 45mph in a 30mph zone, yet when I think of the massive death toll from driving it's very possible my attitudes are not where they should be.

It's a bit of a tangent, but all the roads I've seen labeled 30mph or 35mph would be quite safe to take at 45. The flow of traffic is 5mph over anyway. But this is with residential roads universally at 25mph. I'm not sure what kind of road he was on.

I used to think like that when I was young. Then I learned I was short-sighted, and that every time there are traffic rules (including speeding) they (almost) always make sense. Sometimes they don't, true. If you then have contacts within the (local) government they love to get proper feedback from citizens.

To give an example: there's a school nearby where the sign says 30 km/hour. It is an important road people who live in my neighbourhood, connecting them to their home (commute, shopping, etc). I drive on my bicycle crossing that road. Do I assume people drive 30 km/hour or 50 km/hour? Cause many people drive 50 km/hour there. When kids go to/from school people might drive 30 km/hour, I don't know exactly how that works. Many might not even know there's a school there. Even though the sign says there is, perhaps that gives the mental note: "..but it is Saturday." If we're going to arbitrarily ignore traffic rules whenever we see fit, it is going to lead to chaos.

Urban speed limits aren't set by what speed your car is safe to drive at, but rather what speed is safe that you're less likely to hit pedestrians and other cars.

A road has to be designed a certain way based on the speed. You can't just put up a speed limit sign, and speed limit signs are very often not based on what's safe.

You don't seem to be addressing the criticism of your argument, which is that urban speed limits are determined by likelihood of collision with another car, a bicycle, or a pedestrian in the event of an unexpected need to brake hard. This depends on more than just the physical engineering of the road.

There are lots roads with the same environment or with environments less likely to lead to collisions with cars, bicycles, and pedestrians that nevertheless get lower speed limits.

This isn't the case in New Zealand. It's normal for all rural roads in New Zealand to be posted with a 100 km/h limit, with speed recommendations (not limits) on the corners.

Even winding mountain passes, which wouldn't be possible to take at 100 km/h without a race car will still have a 100 km/h limit. It's up to the driver to make a judgement as to how fast they can safely drive.

How do you determine "safe to take at 45"? Kinetic energy increases quadratically to speed, so your braking distance is much larger and doesn't scale linearly to speed so, no, just because you feel your car can safely take those roads at 5-10mph over the limit doesn't mean it's safe, the environment dictates the speed limit, not the road conditions per se.

> How do you determine "safe to take at 45"?

I look at the roads that do have speed limits of 45mph.

> the environment dictates the speed limit

Yep! And the roads I'm talking about are built in the same way with the same environment as the 45mph roads.

I'll back down my "all" to about "90%" though, I remembered a short road where 35 actually fits.

But in general, if we accept that the 45mph roads are actually safe at 45mph, then there's a lot of 35mph roads would be equally safe at 45mph.

> so that's an example of it not helping _at all_.

Not helping at all sounds exaggerated?

Surely that fines scale with your income make them more even?

Of course a fine may STILL hit harder on someone with less income - but surely this is more "even" than if the rich guy also got a fine of say 500 € which is pocket money for him?

Absolutely. Those with less income are going from day to day without any significant savings, those with more may well have enough saved to survive several months.

But this is still not an argument against fines scaling up with your income, is it?

That just screws the middle class (~$40k to $150k). The cost of waging legal warfare against the ticket will still be greater than the inflated fine while the wealthy will easily be able to afford the kind of lawyer who can get an overworked traffic court judge and the cop who has to take a day off from fieldwork to agree to more reasonable terms.

The solution to fines is to simply get rid of fines and instead use a more aggressive "point" system. I'm not wealthy by any means but the threat of a $200 ticket has zero impact on my driving habits whereas the threat of having my license suspended if I get 2 tickets in a 12 month span (a hypothetical example of possible punishment btw) would definitely change how I drive.

I can't really think of any crime that carries a fine rather than revocation of certain rights where this wouldn't work. The only issue is that of enforcement, you have to make the threat of getting caught a second or third time real enough that the punishment becomes psychologically meaningful.

License suspension is already used a lot. In fact, it's such a deterrent that states started using it for various non-traffic related punishments, such as failure to pay child support or drug conviction: https://www.npr.org/2014/03/10/288587071/reconsidering-drive...

Taking someone's license for not paying child support has always struck me as stupidly counter-productive, if you want someone to work and actually be capable to pay their child support.

It's also completely unrelated to the crime. How would you punish somebody who already doesn't have a driving license?

> The solution to fines is to simply get rid of fines and instead use a more aggressive "point" system.

You're assuming the problem that fines address is modifying driver behaviour. It isn't. The primary problem fines address is revenue.

That's quite the brush you're painting with there. Is the primary motivation behind fining the same everywhere?

If the primary motivation anywhere was to alter driver behaviour, a points based penalty system is all it would take. Monetary fines in traffic infringements are entirely for revenue.

Anecdote time: a friend from one of the nation's major universities was involved in a road authority funded study to evaluate the safety impact of newly installed speed cameras at several intersections.

They found there was none. Said road authority pulled the plug and pretended like the study never existed after that.

Anecdote of my own: In my country, monetary fines in traffic infringements are explicitly not for revenue. They mix into the total state revenue and form a minuscule fraction of it. The police sees none of it.

This distinction is made very clear, for example in a parliament answer by the justice minister: "...it is clear that the purpose of fines is not to increase the revenue of police departments but first and foremost to deter traffic violations and increase traffic safety."

> Anecdote of my own: In my country, monetary fines in traffic infringements are explicitly not for revenue. They mix into the total state revenue [...]

You're contradicting your own claim.

Just because someone in a PR position says the purpose is not to increase revenue doesn't make it so. It doesn't matter where the revenue goes, the fines generate revenue. If they didn't care about revenue, they'd use penalty points - with the added benefit of not fucking over the lower and middle classes.

Just because something is revenue doesn't mean that the purpose is entirely to increase revenue. That is the claim you made. I have presented a counter-example to that, where revenue increase is clearly not the only reason for monetary fines. We have the stated purpose of the legislation -- you can call that PR or whatever you'd like but the stated purpose is not revenue increase -- and you have the fact that these revenues do not benefit any police departments or anyone directly. Instead they make up an absolutely tiny fraction of the total revenues of the state.

Just for fun, I calculated this fraction for a given year. The revenue from all traffic violation fines accounted for a whopping 0.1% of the total state revenue.

So apparently the only purpose of these traffic fines are to raise the state revenue by 0.1%, despite the explicit stated purpose of the legislation and any evidence to the contrary. Does that make sense to you?

Is this one of those things where you just know you're right because you feel it in your gut and nothing can ever convince you otherwise?

You are entirely correct, I was just using the common example at hand to make my point.

> while the wealthy will easily be able to afford the kind of lawyer who can get [..] more reasonable terms.

That will be the case with any effective punishment. You can be sure they'll fight points just as hard. Ofc still way better than a flat fine.

>The solution to fines is to simply get rid of fines and instead use a more aggressive "point" system.

The points system disproportionately advantages the working poor. Speaking from experience, we have a mixed points+fines[1] system in Poland.

A wealthy person can easily weasel his way out of the points by either having a lawyer argue in court, or - especially in case of automated enforcement like speed traps - simply pay a third party (usually poor person who drives little or not at all) to accept the blame & penalty points in his stead by formally admitting to having been driving during the infraction. I've seen many ads for such exchanges.

Since several kind of jobs directly depend on being able to drive, the law customarily provides a way to shed the points in an expedited way. Typically it involves taking part in road safety courses and/or extra examination. You pay, you attend - or not, if you pay a little extra on the side - and your points get cancelled out. This is much more doable for somebody with expendable income and ability to shuffle work schedule around.

Absent such ability to shed or cancel out the penalty points, any working poor or middle class person who depends on ability to drive to earn the keep is under constant threat of loosing the job. Not a good position to negotiate with the employer.

tl;dr: The points system is unfairly burdensome for the working poor due to the system being much influenced by money. All the points do is to hide away the fact that money gets shit done.


[1] the fine are fixed, and rather mild from middle class' perspective.

We got a point system in The Netherlands. If you get too many points, you lose your license. However it only counts for new drivers. Which doesn't make sense at all, as its elitist towards the older adults.

Until you take a look at statistics on age vs. number of accidents. Young people (<30) and new drivers in general are massively over represented.[0] So this isn't elitist, it's just based some very clear statistics.

[0] https://www.swov.nl/feiten-cijfers/factsheet/18-tot-en-met-2...

I maintain that, for the UK at least, that banning male drivers under the age of 25, would save enough lives and money that the backlash would be worth it. Plus you'd probably get a big upswell in support for public transport initiatives.

Except the law with the point driver's license doesn't count for young people (that'd be age discrimination), it counts for new drivers.

If you are driving slightly over the speed limit, it is a traffic violation with a fixed amount fine. If you are driving 10% or 15% (don't remember) over the speed limit, it becomes a criminal violation which then takes your reported income into consideration.

Those fines hurt.

Does that mean unemployed people just don't get fined when they speed,etc?

This is something that Melbourne, AU has recently grappled with - do you give public transport ticket fines to homeless people? You can give them as many fines as you want, but they're not going to pay them, and will just end up making it harder for them to get out of the cycle they're trapped in. I believe homeless no longer get fined for not having a ticket here. You can argue technicalities and loopholes all you want, but at both extremes (very rich and very poor) the 'normal' system of fines just doesn't make any sense.

I take your point, but there is a big difference between being homeless and being without income. Retirees are the most obvious example, but there are plenty of 'normal' people who don't have an income that basically get to speed and park illegally for free under this sort of system. Unless of course, we put in a minimum fine for everything and charge extra based on income beyond that. But this does nothing to help the poor and ends up just being a punishment for having a good job.

I also think people imagine the super rich having to pay huge fines under this kind of system, but it's the same problem as with taxing the super wealthy. Their income is actually very low relative to the wealth they are accumulating.

Retirees still have an income (public or private pension), as do (in civilised countries) the unemployed (in the form a dole/unemployment benefits), but yes, a minimum charge + extra seems to make sense (perhaps with an exception for homelessness.

> ends up just being a punishment for having a good job.

No; it's a punishment for breaking the law, with (ideally) the punishment scaling to create a similar deterrent to everyone in the society.

I think if it scales to a maximum amount its fine especially for driving related violations. For example nobody needs to be paying 25 grand for a speeding violation thats absurd regardless of income. But its interesting. I believe in Mexico its based on your hourly wage and x amount of hours. So if you have no job and you get a ticket you owe nothing, at least thats how it was when my sister got a ticket in Guadalajara in '07.

It's not based in hourly wage, it's based on daily minimum wage.

If you have no job, you still get a ticket, unless the police officer let's you off the hook or you bribe him (which is very common). I'm not condoning bribing police officers.

Why is that absurd? Can you explain that? I was searching for reasons, but didn’t find any.

Sounds like you need a minimum too then...

Isn't socioeconomic oppression kind of the point of all this, though?

It's not just the implementation of the justice system that needs correction; it's working exactly as designed. We have to change the entire design, not the little implementation details.

NOTE: not specifically about jaywalking, but about fines/fees being disproportionate punishment in general

Jail disproportionately punishes those who are working. (they lose their income source, then they can't pay bills, then their house gets foreclosed, etc.)

Ditching punishment entirely means free-for-all anarchy until somebody takes that opportunity to impose a government with punishments.

What options are left? Torture? Execution? Ignoring the masochists and the suicidal, those don't disproportionately punish people.

In the case of jaywalking, the answer is simple. You just make it legal. Cars can slow down. For routes that need to be able to move at high speed, you build in grade separation.

Jaywalking was just a "growth hack" that needs to be reverted. Society needed fast transportation, and it was developed at any cost. The cost is now too high, so we just roll it back. No torture required....

> In the case of jaywalking, the answer is simple. You just make it legal. Cars can slow down.

Mmmm I dunno about that. Drivers have minimum reaction times and cars have stopping distances. Giving pedestrians the right-of-way in every situation seems like a recipe for a lot of collisions.

It could work, but I think it would involve re-designing countless intersections to provide higher visibility of pedestrians for drivers--not a bad goal, but I think a pretty unfeasible one.

UK has never had jaywalking laws. Most countries don't. We have crossings too, of course, which are optional, but sensible to use when it's rush hours etc. There's no sign that our collisions or injuries are disproportionately high.

A pedestrian crosses when they feel it is safe to do so, and anywhere along the road they choose. Having started to cross they have priority over traffic. Lately some drivers are less inclined to give way to pedestrians, but the law hasn't changed, and they are still legally obliged to do so. Motorways, of course, have no pedestrians.

The word was originally from jay-drivers. Which was a forgotten American term of abuse for carriage drivers who did not stick to the correct side of the road! Once cars arrived the industry lobbied and jaywalking became a term of abuse for pedestrians, and eventually a law.

I googled this quickly, and I'm seeing the UK has 36 deaths per billion miles driven [1] and USA is 1.7 [2]. Can you cite your sources that the UK isn't disproportionately high? I could be reading the numbers wrong.

[1] https://assets.publishing.service.gov.uk/government/uploads/...

[2] https://injuryprevention.bmj.com/content/11/4/232

That disparity is unbelievable. Even allowing the 15 year difference. The UK consistently comes surprisingly well toward the safest end of global road safety stats, and has as long as I can remember. By way of sanity check, it would mean walking in the USA is safer than driving a car in the UK (1.9/bn m). That's not credible. :)

Sourced from gov.uk [0] (ods spreadsheet file), pedestrian fatalities, in 2016, are 7.1 per million population in the United Kingdom; 470 pedestrians killed, and 18.5 in the USA; 5,987 pedestrians killed, confirmed for USA by NHTSA[1].

For overall road traffic deaths, in 2015 UK 2.9 per 100k population (1,770 total deaths) 22.9% pedestrians, USA 10.6 per 100k (32,719 total deaths, approx 5x the UK population, 18x the total reported deaths) 14.1% pedestrians, source WHO, table A2 [2].

Every international comparison and US source I found prefers per 100k or million population and agrees with the above. I stopped there, so can't compare the gov.uk doc you linked, or why the US data in BMJ differs so markedly.

[0] https://www.gov.uk/government/statistical-data-sets/ras52-in... (Download RAS52001)

[1] https://crashstats.nhtsa.dot.gov/Api/Public/ViewPublication/... (PDF. Note they report per 100,000 not million, so it's 1.85)

[2] http://www.who.int/violence_injury_prevention/road_safety_st...

What is being counted?

Have I got this right?

In the UK it appears they're counting the deaths per billion miles that people walk.

In your BMJ article it appears they're counting deaths per billion miles that people drive.

Ooh I missed that whilst looking with my early morning coffee.

Pedestrian deaths per billion miles that people drive seems an odd choice of measure.

You're right - it's "fatalities per billion miles walked" vs "fatalities per billion miles driven".

People in the US cover more miles more often. The UK is only small.

> UK has never had jaywalking laws. Most countries don't... A pedestrian crosses when they feel it is safe to do so, and anywhere along the road they choose. Having started to cross they have priority over traffic.

That's really interesting! I wasn't aware of that.

What happens when a driver hits a pedestrian? Is there an investigation into whether the driver could've stopped in time?

Loosely the presumption of guilt lands on the car driver for failing to stop in time, just as it would if you ran into the back of someone, or hit a cyclist.

There are of course circumstances where a driver has little chance, like a kid running from between parked cars after their ball, someone not looking, or a cyclist running a light.

The police generally investigate the scene and assess what happened, measure out distances, skid distances to assess driver speed, and seek witnesses etc if there's reason to think circumstances aren't straightforward or there's serious injury or death.

There's also some degree of marshalling on busiest roads by putting up railings in some places to encourage crossing at safer spots, or the crossing a few yards away.

Super interesting. I have to admit my bias is to say that it seems difficult to assess when the pedestrian became visible to the driver (which would affect whether they could've stopped in time), but I'm also totally willing to admit that I might be nitpicking and it's a fine system.

Thanks for the response!

The point here, though, is that it doesn't matter whether the driver could've seen them, because culpability rests with the driver by default (except, as mentioned, in situations such as motorways, where pedestrians aren't allowed).

In very general terms, as a pedestrian in the UK, you have no particular right to step into the road other than at marked crossings, but as soon as you do, you have total right of way, no matter how stupid it was of you to step into the road.

There are various crimes in the vein of 'obstructing a public highway' and so forth, so you aren't completely free to be an asshole, but even if you are, it's still on drivers to avoid hitting you; in my experience, this tends to make drivers more careful and aware of nearby pedestrians, so I'm fully in favour of the status quo.

I'm sure it works fine in practice, but it's still not ideal if you can put one foot into the street and oblige cars to slam on their brakes.

If you're driving a car and someone walks in front of the car you'll slam on the brakes.

This is independent of legality. I'd hope that it'd be the case even if laws were passed that explicitly punished braking in such a scenario.

Anyway, in the UK, it's illegal to walk down the side of a motorway. But basically anywhere else is free reign for pedestrians.

People don't generally walk out in front of (fast moving) cars because they're not suicidal.

In a place like London it's fun to watch (and take part in) the stand-off between cars and pedestrians though.

I womble through crossings all the time. The lights are advisory for pedestrians. They're designed that way; the green man exists for the elderly and children.

When I said "can", I meant by the rules, not the laws of physics. The car is morally obligated to try not to hit anyone no matter what, but that's not what I'm talking about.

And the picture I have in mind isn't someone suicidally leaping in front of a car, it's someone taking one step to order the cars to stop. This would be fine if there was a "reasonable stopping rate" clause, but it doesn't sound like there is.

So what? People don't do this deliberately very often because there's always the risk that the driver doesn't stop. If you try edging into the road you'll get honked at.

The concept of jaywalking has never made any sense to me as a Brit; it's like that joke sign meme of "Danger of death and £20 fine".

If your response to "this works but is not ideal" is "people don't abuse it very often" then I think we agree. I'm not arguing for any particular change.

There's quite strong evolutionary pressure on people not to abuse it. The ones that do often don't last very long.

That's pressure not to jump in front of cars. You don't have to jump in front of a car to trigger this rule, you just have to put one foot into the road.

It's unclear to me what the problem is, here.

Are you picturing bored teenagers doing this as a joke or something? In practice this is incredibly rare.

Such 'feral children' will be causing way worse problems elsewhere anyway.

If you're driving in London and someone gets a bit close to the edge of the footpath and looks like they might walk out, yes, you slow down and get ready to stop. If you actually think they're walking out, you brake hard.

Because you don't want to hit them.

But on a very basic level pedestrians have right of way in old world cities anyway.

There are junctions in Central London whereby cars often struggle to pass even when the light is green (Kings Cross station is a good one, taxi drivers like to "push" people out of the way by edging closer)

> In practice this is incredibly rare.

That's why I said I'm sure it's fine in practice in my first post.

>If you're driving in London and someone gets a bit close to the edge of the footpath and looks like they might walk out, yes, you slow down and get ready to stop. If you actually think they're walking out, you brake hard.

>Because you don't want to hit them.

You don't want to hit them.

Entirely separately from that, if they force you to slam on your brakes, when you are not being reckless, they should be chastised.

> It's unclear to me what the problem is, here.

Giving someone right of way when they're going to cross the road is fine. But it should not be absolute and instant, forcing cars to brake at 100% power.

Someone on a footpath, giving no signs of wanting to enter the road, could do so in one second. It takes longer than that for a car to stop.

To solve the problem, give cars enough slack to stop at medium braking intensity before the right of way kicks in. That's all. Lack of right of way isn't permission to hit them. It just means they're wrong to be sprinting across the street.

> it's someone taking one step to order the cars to stop. This would be fine if there was a "reasonable stopping rate" clause, but it doesn't sound like there is.

Rest assured, no car driver ever stops in this situation unless the pedestrian is at a zebra crossing.

If as a driver, you aren't willing to slam on the brakes, to avoid killing someone, because you feel you have right of way...

You shouldn't be driving.

Your first goal, as a driver, should be avoiding accidents. Your second goal should be following the rules of the road.

A human life is more important then enforcing your claim to the right of way.

"Aha, you fool! You have obstructed my right of way and now you must die."

"These mortal fools with their ignorant and mislead readings of traffic code!"

No, that wouldn't be ideal - but that's also not how it is.

>What happens when a driver hits a pedestrian? Is there an investigation into whether the driver could've stopped in time?

The driver would be more guilty as they should have been going with a suitable speed and pay attention to the road when driving inside the city.

Living in a major city myself, I can think of several intersections where one could be traveling the speed limit and paying attention but be completely unable to stop in time for a pedestrian crossing unexpectedly.

There are numerous streets and corners that are really poorly lit because of scaffolding/debris/etc.

If there was poor visibility for the driver, there's almost certainly poor visibility for the pedestrian too. Most are sensible enough to walk a little further to where they can get a bit better look at what traffic is coming.

If I did hit someone at a visibility blind spot I'd expect to be shouted at by the cop too for not slowing down to a speed suitable for the visibility, and that the speed limit is a maximum sir. In that special sarcastic voice, common to all British cops. That might be later reflected in my fine or penalty. :)

Hah, fair enough!

For some reason I'm imagining the worst-case scenario of a pedestrian completely oblivious to what's going on around them and just crossing without looking on a busy street, which I realize is pretty unlikely.

Yeah, that's not how it goes. If it does go that way (some people for example might have mental issues and go into the street, or be disoriented etc), it's not usually held up to the driver if they are hit, except if it's shown that they could have realistically prevented it.

Then you need to go slower than hhe limit.

At least in my country, there are two forbidden concepts in traffic law of "excessive speed": one is driving over the defined limit, another is driving at an inadequate speed for the conditions. If you get into an accident because you couldn't stop, but could have if you had been going slower, you're guilty of the latter (that's the gist, exceptions apply).

The speed limit is called a limit for a reason. If prevailing conditions make it unsafe to drive at this speed then you're supposed to slow down.

Basic Rule Of Speed: Only go so fast you can stop within visible distance. If there is not enough room for oncoming traffic, make it half the visible distance.

>There are numerous streets and corners that are really poorly lit because of scaffolding/debris/etc.

Well, the city should light them properly and clean them up then?

From my original post:

> It could work, but I think it would involve re-designing countless intersections to provide higher visibility of pedestrians for drivers--not a bad goal, but I think a pretty unfeasible one.

"Having started to cross they have priority over traffic" - Not true and potentially dangerous misinformation.

Jaywalking controls are stupid because: 1. They restrict the freedom of pedestrians. 2. They encourage extra pedestrian crossings, which increases the number of hazards to drivers. 3. They move responsibility for pedestrian safety from pedestrians to drivers.

As a Briton, it always feels like living in some authoritarian, ultra-controlled future to be at a roadside in another country, with no cars within range, and not to be allowed to walk across to the other side.

> "Having started to cross they have priority over traffic" - Not true and potentially dangerous misinformation.

It is true at junctions. Rule 170.


> 3. Road junctions

> 170. Take extra care at junctions. You should


> Watch out for pedestrians crossing a road into which you are turning. If they have started to cross they have priority, so give way

Also more generally. See Road users requiring extra care, Pedestrians (205 to 210).

The onus is on both to take adequate care, and on drivers to stop in time. The presumption of fault is on the driver. Which is not the same as saying pedestrians have free reign to leap into the path of oncoming vehicles, anywhere they like, expecting traffic to stop on a sixpence. Even though that sometimes seems the done thing in London. After all, pedestrians are expected to only cross when it's safe to do so.

So I'm not quite sure what the GP is getting at, except it's often unwise trying to provide a few sentence summary of anything lengthy on HN. :)

>>In the case of jaywalking, the answer is simple. You just make it legal. Cars can slow down. > Mmmm I dunno about that. Drivers have minimum reaction times and cars have stopping distances

Actually in many countries like the Netherlands and the UK, inside the city pedestrians have priority (right of way) over traffic everywhere. If a pedestrian crosses you stop, no jaywalking BS.

That's dangerously wrong. No, pedestrians do not have right of way over traffic everywhere inside cities in NL (though you could be forgiven to think it is that way by observing traffic).

Pedestrians do have right of way inside 'woonerven'.


Now, the fact that pedestrians do not have right of way does not mean cars are going to flatten people with impunity, of course every driver will do what they can to avoid an accident with a pedestrian. But if you step out in traffic on a busy Amsterdam street there most certainly will be an accident, even if everybody will do their best to avoid you, and you will be liable in that case, even if you're part of the mess.

Probably "right to cross" would be a better term. What I'm getting at is pedestrians can cross the road in cities, without it considered jaywalking/illegal, and cars will generally just stop for them if they see them wanting to cross.

Of course if you just jump into traffic in the last minute you'll be hit, and it will be on you.


You can cross if you are not within 30 meters of a zebra crossing. Crossing on a red traffic light is still considered jaywalking.

Wait, is it just inside the major cities? Not everywhere?

All cities, major AND minor (and villages).

You wouldn't except this to happen to the equivalent of the New Jersey Turnpike, of course. So, on high speed highways, on the other hand, you're often not allowed to randomly cross, except in specific areas.

Interesting. Thanks for the response!

Note that this is not the case everyone in Europe necessarily. But you can cross outside zebra crossing in the UK, Netherlands, Greece, Denmark, Sweden, Finland, and Norway.

In some countries like Italy or France it is legal as long as there's no explicit zebra crossing nearby (e.g. without 50 or 100 meters).

In most of the countries, crossing the equivalent of highways or interstates is illegal (except in designated overpasses and such).

Regarding the question about what happens to drivers, here's an example for what's the case in Belgium "any physical damage to a pedestrian caused by a traffic accident shall be compensated by the insurance of the drivers involved, regardless of the responsibility of the pedestrian, except if that pedestrian is over 14 and wanted the accident and its consequences to occur."


The only issue I have with keeping it illegal is that so many people already do it. I don't commute by car but I drive a couple evenings a week through the city, and in every single intersection on my trip (5 miles) I see people jaywalking. I see people do it right in front of cops, and nobody cares.

What is the purpose of a law that few people follow, and which is never enforced? Shouldn't the laws of a republic reflect the will of the citizens?

I definitely see your point, and I have mixed feelings on it to be fair (for the very reason you noted). I think it's more about establishing right-of-way for me, more than punishing pedestrians for jaywalking.

I don't think it's smart to allow pedestrians the right-of-way at all times, but I'm also learning that other countries do this already so I'm certainly willing to admit I could be wrong here!

> I don't think it's smart to allow pedestrians the right-of-way at all times, but I'm also learning that other countries do this already

I don't think there is any country with a rule like that. I do think many people are articulating a different rule [1] badly, making it appear as-if.

[1] Pedestrians can cross roads everywhere, but only if it's safe to do so and don't obstruct traffic. During the crossing transverse traffic does not have right of way momentarily.

In Germany I think it's different. If you cross when you aren't allowed the car has the right of way. I have actually no idea why this isn't the case in Canada. Seems pretty reasonable; light shows 'walk' symbol and you cross knowing you are in the right of way, but the hand stops flashing and if a car hits you then your dead and wrong. Seems a really reliable system that will safely predict outcomes consistent with obliging behavior.

To be honest, I walk quite often and yet I'm absolutely against pedestrian rights as they are today and I believe it's totally impractical and against any common sense having the laws in favour of pedestrians as they are now, nor do I believe it makes roads safer for anyone. In fact if you apply human psychology/behavior inclusive of a person's ability to focus on multiple obstructions, notifications, etc, I'd be willing to bet that drivers are by far overwhelmed in modern cities and that it's reckless disregard for public safety that pedestrians are given absolutely no accountability for their actions beyond dead right or right.

It's because the streets were originally for pedestrians. Cars invaded the space previously used by people walking. Why does wearing a big box give you the right to own the road? By that logic I should be able to ride my bike on the footpath and blame any pedestrians I hit.

This is not historically correct. Streets exist for carts and chariots and carriages. These are drawn by horses, oxen, mules, donkeys, and stranger things.

Those were probably killing jaywalkers in ancient Rome.

Pedestrians only need paths, which may have staircases and stepping stones.

Humans can coexist well with those things, unlike cars.


This is how it works in Sweden and I believe we have even fewer road casualties than the US.

Interesting! I didn't know that.

Also curious as with the other poster: What happens when a driver hits a pedestrian? Do they do an investigation into whether the driver could've stopped in time/was traveling the speed limit/etc?

To my knowledge, jaywalking is legal in Boston, where I live. The pedestrian is presumed to have the right-of-way.

I don't think that's true, it's just a very minimal fine (which I would be completely fine with):



Here's an article from 2010 saying they hadn't given a single ticket in Boston or Cambridge in years. To my knowledge they still don't give out the tickets. I've certainly jaywalked in front of cops in Boston, Cambridge, Somerville, and Quincy without penalty for decades. So even if it's in the state law it's not enforced around Boston.

I lived in the Seattle area for a couple years and that's the only time in my life I ever saw a person penalized for jaywalking and I was shocked to see it. One of the reasons I'm glad to be back in Boston.

>Also curious as with the other poster: What happens when a driver hits a pedestrian? Do they do an investigation into whether the driver could've stopped in time/was traveling the speed limit/etc?

Yes. And the driver has the burden of proof. They drive in a city, so they should have appropriate distance from anything in front of them, and go slow enough to stop. What if it was a kid running into the street?

Here's the lowdown from a UK solicitor:


> so they should have appropriate distance from anything in front of them, and go slow enough to stop

This doesn't make sense. Crossing pedestrians go across the road, so if you are driving on a lane next to the sidewalk, then you could only go in first gear hovering the brakes, because any pedestrian on the sidewalk could start to cross the road in ~one second or less and would have right of way. Basically all streets would be zebra crossings. Obviously not how it works.

Drivers have no problem avoiding other cars, which move much more quickly, are much less manoeuvreable, and have longer stopping distances. Strikes me that avoiding people on foot ought to be pretty simple.

That's true of other cars, too. They're big, change direction slowly, and are covered in bright lights. Pedestrians are small, can (and do) change direction quickly, and often wear dark colors, even at night.

Cars are also much more predictable. They have lines that show where they're going, (usually) signal before changing direction, and (IME) are much more likely to obey red lights. I rarely see cars simply ignore a red light, but I see pedestrians do it all the time.

Cars aren't often completely unlighted and painted in dark matte colors while they are in the roadway at dusk or night times.

Cars don't suddenly become visible unexpectedly unlike pedestrians, so that seems like a strange argument to me--with the notable exception perhaps of right-on-red, which isn't universal for sure (presumably for this very reason). Even then, the moving traffic has the right-of-way there.

Most countries use the middle way between illegal and always-right-of-way (which obviously does not work, not even for cyclists)

This manner of thinking is why we have issues such as black people being disproportionately affected by Marijuana laws or large fines/punishments for relatively benign things such as jaywalking.

The way we doll out punishment in America ends up being a slap on the wrist for the rich and wealthy and devasting for the poor and minorities.

Well, like Anacharsis told to Solon (the lawmaker) in 6 BC Athens:

"[Your] laws are no different from spiders' webs. They'll restrain anyone weak and insignificant who gets caught in them, but they'll be torn to shreds by people with power and wealth".

That's a nice quote -- I wasn't familiar with Anacharsis, so I read up on him. For what it's worth, considering he came to Athens in 589 BC[0], I think your date of 6 BC is a little off. [0]: https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Anacharsis

For what it's worth, I meant 6th century BC (seeing that I mentioned Solon et al, and not Romans being around).

Ah, that makes sense. Thanks for the clarification. Have a great day!

Fines should be some percentage of income.

Here in Finland the record speeding ticked is over 100,000 euros.

One guy in Switzerland received $1 million speeding ticket for driving his Mercedes SLS AMG over 280 km/h. That's how hit should be.

Scaling fines up to higher incomes for things that don't really matter (jaywalking, minor traffic violations) seems antithetical to the individualistic core of American culture. We typically try to equalize society by raising the floor for the many, rather than lowering the ceiling for the few.

> things that don't really matter

If they really don't matter, why forbid them at all?

For things that are worth forbidding, scaling is surely necessary to create a meaningful disincentive for the rich, without destroying the poor by setting very high flat fines.

Depends what you think the fines are for. If they are to discourage behaviour, it makes sense to me to try to make them equally discouraging to everyone, which requires scaling.

The time spent while pulled over is a pretty big discouragement to everyone. Time cost scales with wealth.

But victimless "crimes" don't need punitive discouragement the way other harmful activities might. Jaywalking, speeding, turning right from the left lane, these things happen hundreds of times a day in a city, and spottily enforced huge fines are not likely to address whatever societal harm these activities might cause. There are probably better ways to spread and encourage the small social norms that allow society to function. Leave large fines for large harm.

Fixed percentage equalizes the disincentive.

The goal of fine is discourage. The same fine for all relative to income provides more equal discouragement.

>We typically try to equalize society by raising the floor for the many, rather than lowering the ceiling for the few.

When it comes to crimes like that, you want to absolutely lower the ceiling for the few as well, and scaling fines is the way to do it.

..the individualistic core of American culture. We typically try to equalize society by raising the floor for the many, rather than lowering the ceiling for the few.

That's what they teach you anyway. The reality - e.g. ridiculously expensive medical bills, widespread poverty - is rather different, so I hear.

e.g. see The US has a lot of money, but it does not look like a developed country https://qz.com/879092/the-us-doesnt-look-like-a-developed-co...

It's not just US culture, the Constitution itself prohibits "excessive fines" in the 8th Amendment. The framers were pretty good at predicting future kinds of vigilante justice that people thought up.

Fines could be proportional to income and/or wealth. Court fees could be waived for those who paying is a hardship. Bail is already often scaled based on wealth, so this isn't unheard of.

You seem to be willfully misunderstanding the point. But I suspect that’s intentional. If you really think this, please do some reading on the subject of how court fees and small-scale civil violations and all the consequences of those things can lead to a vicious cycle of financial destruction for families on the edge of economic self sufficiency.

I'm not misunderstanding it. I'm saying there is no good solution here.

Feel free to propose a punishment that isn't disproportionate to somebody. I don't think such a punishment exists, aside from crazy edge cases like "do not enforce the law".

Go ahead. Try to make a suggestion that won't punish some people more than others.

In case it makes you feel any better about the system of fines, we can say that the disproportionate impact is itself a punishment for the lifestyle choices that lead to being poor. OK, that is awful, but it's some sort of justification.

Arguing over fairness may be a dead end. But what about the practical question of incentives? How can a flat fine provide a significant disincentive to the very rich (without being so high that it would completely wipe out the average person)?

How about we start with what we currently have, then make incremental improvements?

It’s funny but at the end of the day what youre talking about is the realization of idiocracy through our implementation of shitty “automation” using software.

I mean basically you have a computer system where the court system, law enforcement and DMV are all saying your license is expired for failure to pay...when you actually paid. Now you are getting more tickets and basically stuck in an infinite loop of hell.

I’m currently going through the same thing with my Bank (BOA), where my car window was smashed my wallet (credit and debit card stolen) and cards were used by the 2 theives at footlocker for ~$500. The bank software even caught the fraud first and texted me about suspicious activity on the cards before I knew what happened, the cards were reported stolen, I have a police report, but Bank of America keeps denying my claim saying they investigated and the purchase was legit because my “chip was present” even though they know the card was stolen and used by the theives. When I talk to a person it’s always “oh let me reinitiate a new claim and I’ll make detailed notes, you should definitely get your money back, that makes no sense.” Automated claim comes back “denied. Valid transaction, chip present.”

Like you I will probably have to take legal action to sort this out, at least in my case I’m a lawyer and can file a small claims case without paying a lawyer, but i will have to front the filing fees out of pocket and it will still cost me time/effort.

Pretty much. The same exists in the UK in all sorts of fields.

My preferred strategy is repeated escalation mixed with what I'd call some variant of baby language.

"You owe me X, please send me X, your internal processes are broken, please send me X".

"No, I don't care about your internal processes, you owe me X, please send me X."

"You haven't sent me X yet; can you send me X or do I need to initiate legal action?"

So far this has always resulted in me actually getting the X I'm rightfully owed. One day it probably won't. Sigh.

Amazon in particular have been amusing WRT this. "Our internal procedure takes X days..." At that point I usually cut them off and remind them that it's none of my business how they run things internally; what I want is resolution for the issue I'm facing.

I’ve always had excellent, and prompt customer service from Amazon. I’m curious to know what kinds of issues have you encountered where you were unhappy with how they dealt with it?

I recently ordered over £1000 worth of items which on arrival had been replaced (or incorrectly packed) as random household items of low value.

It took almost a month to get a refund whilst Amazon 'investigated'. Yes, it was eventually fixed, but not without a huge amount of 'process says this and that' warbling.

It's weird how someone like this always pops up when someone complains about customer service.

I would never think of banking with BOA after all their shenanigans during the financial crises. A couple years ago I moved all my accounts from another major bank (one that rhymes with 'shittybank') to an online-only bank to avoid just this kind of nonsense. I miss a few conveniences but haven't had any cause to regret it.

> can file a small claims case

> it will still cost me time/effort .

In my country, costs can be added to the claim. Is it not the same in the US?

In the US we separate attorneys fees from other “court costs”. Typically a winning party in my county would win their costs (in a hypothetical case like mine that would be the initial filing and maybe the cost to serve the court filing on the Bank).

Attorneys fees are more complicated and the general rule is actually that each party bears it’s own attorneys fees, but there are many execrations from statutes authorizing them in certain types of cases and situations or if a contract includes a provision providing for them. It’s possible one or more contracts I have with the bank includes such a provision, I’d have to look at my credit card agreement (it may even require mediation, but that’s part of the small claims process in my jurisdiction anyway). Also It’s typically not allowed that a lawyer representing themselves can be awarded fees.

In my country, there are no lawyers in small claims court, so there'd be no attorney fees. The only cost other than time is usually the amount of money charged by the bailiff you hire to deliver the Summons or whatever the document is called.

So if a client refused to pay you $3000, you take them to small claims court for $3500 or whatever (you have to convince the court that these extra charges for the bailiff fees, your transport to and from court, etc, are just).

Isn't human error more likely the cause of the bad records?

It's a shame that costs for fighting issues like that aren't automatically awarded. I have no idea about the relevant laws and how they might be shaped to protect the institutions involved, but it would seem to be a sane way to deal with this type of thing, and provide a small amount of accountability for the institutions (and therefore _some_ incentive to fix systemic issues).

Yeah I was kind of shocked when the lawyer said yesterday I'd be on the hook for more costs. I almost assumed it'd be free or credited since it was taken care of and is probably an honest mistake.

But, I guess that proves what they say about assumptions!

Don't know how it works there. For traffic court here, NJ, I've always taken matters into my own hands. The last ticket I received was for failing to update my address. I argued to the prosecutor that the law only required me to have an address where I received mail. He only cared that I updated it by the time I made my appearance and quickly dismissed. However, the court cost was actually more than the ticket and I made a point to ask him to waive that as well, which he did.

There are other sorts of 'administrative' fees that are nearly impossible to waive. Things like license reinstatement, points surcharges, and costs from MVC (DMV) usually can't be waived by the court as it isn't the court that imposes them.

If you are hiring a lawyer to help with this, sure you will have to pay his fees, which are probably going to be several hundred dollars at least.

Did you try just going into the office of the clerk of the court with the receipt and saying "hey there's been a mistake."

The office of the clerk of court is hours away in another state. And its been the weekend so hasn't been open. Based on the traffic record I pulled on myself yesterday it shows payment never received from the court, although I have a receipt for $312 bucks paid. Maybe a simple fix but Im paying to have someone take care of it. Since I now have a court date in another city I live hours from during a work week.

You might be able to talk to them on the phone and fax them a copy of the receipt you have.

I’m just impressed you still have the receipt from six years ago. Good job!

I've had two parking tickets in my life - one a few weeks ago and one almost a decade ago - Ive still got both receipts, on the off chance something like this happens.

I assume that it's not a receipt like from a store, but a governmental "receipt" - a document proving payment of fine, which is something I'd definitely save on purpose.

(I'm not from the US, I have no idea how yours look - in Europe we have that on an A4 paper)

Did you not change your address and license when you moved states? That's typically required within 30 or 60 days, although a lot of people do ignore those laws.

Why change something. Now they get even more money. Sad but true.

sorry, I have no idea what you're trying to say.

In effect the state received an extra $250 by making this mistake, so there is little incentive for them to fix it.

fair enough. But that's a pretty adversarial way to think about the state (as an opponent of the citizen). I'd prefer to think that in most democracies, laws are usually designed or at least intended to protect citizens from abuses like that. That said, I think the U.S. has a less-than-stellar reputation for citizen-friendly laws. :(

I don't think a minor clerical error demonstrates that "the justice system is screwed." Mistakes will happen and they operate at pretty high volume.

I was on the receiving end of one of these years ago. Pulled over and arrested for missing payments on a few tickets. The tickets were paid prior and they eventually realized their mistake, but I still had to pay the jail processing fee.

It sucks, and things could certainly be better, but saying that the entire justice system is "screwed" is a pretty harsh indictment.

Every time I see people from the US saying stuff like that I am reminded how "justice" in the US is basically a money game instead of real justice.

Why. Is. This. Not. Free? Righting a wrong done to you, specially small ones, should be completely free.

I was pulled over multiple times in NJ while driving with a valid, registered out of state license plate. Somebody's LPR software is conveniently flagging valid plates as an excuse to make traffic stops.

Surely part of this process is to sue the courts to cover your legal fees and time?

Wait, why doesn't guilty party pay the court fees and lawyer expenses?

Hold the government employees liable (monetarily and criminally if they cause a loss of rights) for their mistakes and the problem will fix itself in quick order.

If employees were personally liable for costs of mistakes, no one would do the work - too much personal risk involved. Also, the degree of blaming anyone-but-me would be off the charts, crippling the organization. Having some type of accountability is important - incompetent people should not be allowed to keep their job, and institutions should have some incentive to improve, but not sure putting all the burden on individuals is the right answer.

What if you had to pay the cost of every bug you created? I'm sure a lot of us developers would be digging ditches instead. :)

There are many jobs for which the doer is personally liable. They are required to be bonded and insured so that if anything happens, they don't go bankrupt or otherwise avoid compensating for damages. And there are still people to do the work.

Not sure that's the best solution here, but the assumption that "no one would do the work" is likely not correct.

Good point. Although if they're required to be bonded as part of the job requirements, that means they still don't feel the full effect of the cost of their mistakes which is what I think was being proposed. That said, it's a lot closer along that spectrum because I assume their ability to be bonded/insured will be affected by subsequent claims against the bond.

I'm also not sure exactly how bonding would work in jobs where blame is hard to determine, or not attributable to a single individual (ie systemic issue). Perhaps that's one of the reasons it's not done more commonly.

True. Collective responsibility is a much better solution - then it is in bosses' best interest to create such environment that mistakes have as low impact as possible. And it's up to the whole team to make that happen. Similar to how it is done in (properly managed) software development companies.

Except they are usually granted immunity by statute. It came up in conversation the other day with a group of friends, the question of 'citizens arrest'.

In my state, NJ, anyone can bring a disorderly person in front of a judge or detain someone who's suspected to have committed a major crime. However, it never happens because if we were incorrect then all sorts of civil and criminal claims could be made for injuries and/or false imprisonment.

We scoured the state's criminal law and found out members of law enforcement were relieved from liability if they were wrong about the above.

The other job that was exempt from liability was librarian. Apparently, a librarian can tackle someone suspected of stealing a book and it's ok under NJ law. [1]

[1] https://law.justia.com/codes/new-jersey/2013/title-2c/sectio...

That might help. I am no expert on govt stuff so I will defer to those who are. But it does suck I don't have an ID right now. You never notice how often you use it (travel, bars, events) until you don't have one!

Passport card is something I recommend. When traveling in states out of the area, some don't like my license as primary ID. There's a second privacy benefit too, the passport card does not have your address on it for bars that scan licenses and keep the addresses in database.

> Heres further proof the justice system is screwed.

I'm confused. Do you live in China or the US. Because the article talks about China.

Can you file a punitive lawsuit against every single person involved? I mean every single person. Scorched Earth approach. Maybe they will be slightly more attentive to their duties in the future.

I dunno. Maybe. But I don't have interest in doing that. Which will probably contribute to this continuing. But its easier for me to just pay and move on. If I were to spend another 10 hours on this there is a time cost to doing so that is not worth it for me.

Unfortunately sometimes it's just not worth the fight personally. But it's understandable.

yep. My sole focus is being able to travel home tomorrow (legally) and go to work. Else, I am going to get on a bus to go home and uber to and from work for the next few days while this is worked on.

No you cannot, but I wonder how you'd feel if you were slapped with a lawsuit every time you wrote a bug.


This doesn't pass the smell test. If you have a receipt from the court showing that the fine was settled, how can they be saying they never got the money?

As an aside this is a good reminder to keep forever any receipts for settlements with courts, the IRS, or other regulators.

> If you have a receipt from the court showing that the fine was settled, how can they be saying they never got the money?

Because they're the ones with the power to give your license back, so you either do what they say or spend the next year without a license trying to work out what went wrong. They're the court - nothing happens to them when they screw up.

yep. Lawyer informed yesterday these types of cases are low priority and will often be continued for months. So each time I had a court date I would be traveling 6ish hours round trip only to have it continued. Since I have a job and am generally not able to travel for 6 hours during the week I will be paying a lawyer to deal with this mistake.

Ha I kid you not I didn't believe it would pass the smell test either.

However I got a $285 ticket proving it yesterday. Courts aren't open on the weekends so my lawyer will be figuring it out tomorrow.

I will be in the DMV first thing in the morning to try to get a new license so I can travel home (went to parents house for Holiday). I have to pay a $65 reinstatement fee tomorrow to get a new license as well.

If you're in the Raleigh area as your name suggests, I'd advise you to be there 30+ minutes before they open. Our DMVs are a nightmare right now thanks to Real ID. I had go back in September - got my number at 1:45 PM and was the last person called before the office closed at 5 PM.

>If you have a receipt from the court showing that the fine was settled, how can they be saying they never got the money?

I assume the payment did not triggered the right things to mark the fine as payed, or someone made a mistake a number somewhere and something failed. You should always keep your receipt for a while or forever (keep energy/phone bills for a few months)

I received a notice about not paying a ticket, 6+ years after I had paid for it. Lucky for me, I still had the paper receipt and so I went into the SF courthouse to show proof of payment. After reviewing it, the clerk told me that it looked like their IT modernization had erroneously marked my case as being unpaid. I can't imagine how very painful the resolution process would have been if I had not kept that receipt.

This is why I laugh at the “convenience” of a paperless world. Still might not help but at least a paper receipt is something.

Yep. That is most likely what happened. Really put a dent in plans but thankfully I can uber!

What about this doesn't pass the smell test?

People aren't going to trust a receipt over the system they use. It's as simple as someone checking their computer seeing that OP never paid and then forwarding it to the right place. It's not like the cop has the power to override the system because that would be nightmare in terms of accountability and potential abuse.

Yea, it sucks and it's unfair, but there's nothing unbelievable about it. For any set of rules, there are always going to be people that fall through the cracks.

yep. Oh well. Hopefully I can get a new license tomorrow and drive home and go to work. Hopefully I am one of the few who have this problem.

Add to that a justice system also mostly automated and you are quickly caught in a Kafkaesque nightmare you can't get out if something goes wrong. Imagine the justice system run like google support. Even if something is clearly wrong you can't clear it up if you are not a famous person with a big Twitter following.

A classic short story along this line is:

Computers Don't Argue by Gordon R. Dickson

A man has a complaint with his book club, but a series of errors escalate things alarmingly.

The Wikipedia article has the whole plot:


I feel weird about reading sci fi for free online. I feel like its unnatural and that it should come from used bookstores like god intended.

I miss used bookstores, most of the big ones in my city have closed down

According to one online source, 'jammygit', you bought several Phil Dick novels at one of those used bookstores. Maybe that's why you feel 'weird'.

I also regret the loss of so many used bookstores ... one of my favorite haunts. We can only try to visit the survivors much more often.

Oh my. I've read that story in the distant past. It was merely hilarious at that time. Today I was grimacing.

On the other hand, a justice system which has most of the menial tasks automated might have more resources to do the important tasks well.

Similarly, Google could have a mostly automated system detecting violations and such, and also a good human support system with power to override the decisions of the former; the two are not really incompatible.

> have a mostly automated system detecting violations and such, and also a good human support system with power to override the decisions of the former; the two are not really incompatible.

While that's true in the abstract, I don't think it's true in present society. Both private companies and government are under near-constant pressure to cut costs, and the people who are charged with implementing those cuts will be tempted to under-resource the human override team or cut it entirely. Quality of service isn't the priority.

The exact same argument can be made to those criticizing the use of automation: it doesn't matter, because that pressure means it will be used anyway. And the whole discussion becomes meaningless.

No, when economic systems pressure companies into cutting corners, it's completely fair to criticize the situation.

"Think of all of the money people are saving by allowing businesses to refuse service to disabled people."

A system with massive net positive social utility does not alone justify injustice for a few.

I know an Android dev who had his Play account shut down for an unjustified reason. It took him a very long time to reactivate it. Especially the little guy doesn't get much attention from humans. That was a few years ago. Maybe it's better now.

I'm not saying Google's support is good. I'm saying the automation is not necessarily the culprit for its ills.

I'd say that the automation enables it to be an order of magnitude worse. And it will be worse for any entity that doesn't really care about it.

It's probably worse for a few, and better for a lot. Maybe the Google automation is shutting down a hundred nefarious developers for every one legitimate developer. Without the automation all would be active; with the automation one guy gets screwed and it's hard for him to navigate his way back, but thousands of users are better off

Most justice systems are built on the assumption that it's better to let 100 guilty people go than convicting one innocent person. Once we accept that it's OK to convict innocent people as long as the averages are fine then we are heading into serious trouble.

You're comparing a merchant system with a criminal justice system. Obviously the cost or the downside of false positive is very different between those two, as well as the cost of making the judgement itself, given the difference in scale.

We are talking about the justice system here.

On the other hand, a justice system which has most of the menial tasks automated might have more resources to do the important tasks well.

They said the same thing about banking when we got ATM's. But banking has only gotten worse, more impersonal, and more frustrating and alienating for the average person.

Out of curiosity could you explain what you mean?

I'm not nearly old enough to remember prior to ATMs. But I love ATMs. I only have to go inside the bank to do things once every few years. Everything else is on the phone or ATM. And the people I deal with on the phone are almost always very helpful and knowledgeable.

I know people have a lot of trouble with some of the big banks like Bank of America and Chase. But those aren't issues with the banking industry but those specific companies. There's plenty of smaller banks and credit unions who don't exploit their customers at every opportunity.

I'm not nearly old enough to remember prior to ATMs.

I am. When ATM's started to become a thing, we were told that with ATM's automating the basics, the bankers and tellers would have more time for more personalized service, Banks would lower fees through cost savings, and we'd all have higher interest rates on our savings because the banks would save so much money.

None of those things happened. Things just got worse.

A couple of years ago I tried to get a loan. A credit union I tried to approach wouldn't let ask questions of someone on the phone, or in a branch, until I'd cleared the computer's online pre-screening.

At another bank (Chase), a banker sat down with me, but was not able to discuss my finances in any way. All he could do was punch my information into his computer, and give me the same information I would have gotten by doing the same process online.

Citibank, at least, let me talk to someone in person who seemed interested in my business. But then I went on vacation, and by the time I returned two weeks later, the offer was no longer valid and I was referred to the web site.

Again, things have gotten worse not better. Just because you're too young to know that things were once better doesn't mean they're not worse.

You're just using bad banks. I have a great private bank in San Francisco (First Republic), where I get personalized service via email, phone, or in person any time I need it. I can use any ATM in the world free of charge, and any time I want to do anything it's a quick email away. (Including opening new business accounts, complicated requests, ordering cash in $2 notes, whatever you could think of).

I'm familiar with First Republic. It's a nice bank. If you never leave the Bay Area, and the most complicated things you do can be accomplished at an ATM.

My needs are more... complex.

I'm pretty sure my needs are just as complex as yours. I run a venture fund and have a dozen accounts with them. It's just that anything I need can be done remotely. I've gone in branch (to deposit large amounts of cash or to order $2 bills) maybe 3 times in 10 years.

You are using banks wrong. That's not unexpected, most banks are designed to encourage you to use banks wrong and to in turn make this experience awful.

Last century, when I was a teenager, somebody set up a bank in the UK with an understanding of where all this is going. I have been with that bank ever since for my day-to-day banking needs.

The First Direct bank. They don't have any branches, they pay the same fees as other banks for there to be ATMs that work with their cards, and they own a web site and so on.

Instead of spending money on big solid-looking buildings people rarely visit, they run a massive 24/7 call centre, and all the call centre employees are trained to provide the entire service, since that's all they do. Absolutely every eventuality I've encountered was handled by telephoning them and then talking to a human. I often don't call them for six months at a time, but I've also had period when I called five times a day.

Two examples:

One day, still last century, I lost my wallet. Oh dear. I wanted to go out with friends, but I had no money, no cards. So I telephoned my bank. "Where are you?" they asked, because this was last century, so I was just a random voice with no indication of location. They looked up where I was, located some other bank building nearby and sent me there, then negotiated with that bank to give me cash.

This century, but a few years back, I bought somewhere to live. This involved a very large transaction. I phoned the bank, walked through exactly what I was doing and why, confirmed the transfer details and then they explained that no single employee of the bank is authorised to wave through such a transaction and I should expect to receive a phone call from another employee, who would confirm all the details again and then they could both authorise it. So I spoke to two people, for maybe a total of twenty minutes. Which considering the eye-watering sum of money that was about to just magically vanish from my account seems OK.

I don't understand why people would put up with any other sort of bank. I particularly don't understand people who are too busy to "go to the bank" on week days and then moan about it. This is 2018, I already didn't have to "go to the bank" in 1998. Get a better bank.

It's interesting that none of your examples has anything to do with ATMs, nor with the workers that ATMs replaced (as far as I know, tellers never gave out loans). Are you confident the introduction of ATMs was the reason that led to this reduction in quality of service?

I can‘t defend most banks but (I live in the in UK and) I’ve switch to Monzo who was explicitly built with that in mind: they manage to automate a lot of interactions, save on agencies, etc. explicitly to be able to invest more on services. This allows them to offer a visibly far better service. Thanks to automation, they have been profitable for a couple of months now (with a million customers) and have now switched on growth mechanisms.

Disclosure: I know several people working there but I have never used my contacts for preferential customer service, nor would I expect that the service could be better than the standard one.

Generally, I think that the incredible gains from automation are possible but require a lot of internal changes to make sense; changes that most companies do not have the leadership to conduct. This s why new actors often take advantage of those. I suspect that’s why Google replaced Encyclopedia Brittanica and countless more examples.

Monzo is great, but it's easy for them with their use-case. How do you pay in cash? How do you order foreign currency?

I'm glad somebody is eating UK banks' lunches though, since they're universally awful.

How do you pay in cash?

They've added (this week) the ability to pay in small amounts of cash through the Paypoint network (https://monzo.com/blog/2018/11/21/deposit-cash/) and I believe they'll eventually add support for paying in thorough Post Office branches too. It's still pretty limited, but it's a start!

How do you order foreign currency?

Honestly I had no idea people even used their bank to do this!

How do you order foreign currency?

Honestly I had no idea people even used their bank to do this!

I do this all the time. Citibank has a service called World Wallet where you call a number, and they'll FedEx you whatever currency you want anywhere in the world in 24-48 hours.

I used to just use the American Express offices when I traveled, but as my travel got more interesting, AmEx outlets became less common. Also, AmEx started only stocking popular currencies, while the Citi service delivers pretty much any currency that's legal where you are.

Call a number and get a FedEx? That's so impersonal.

Yes, I'm being facetious, sorry. But it's a good example of how automation enabled more than just cost-cutting.

> How do you pay in cash?

I don’t have that use case but yes, they have announced a service to do that.

> How do you order foreign currency?

I would typically use my card at ATMs in a foreign country (which comes with a small fee above a certain amount). In practice, I almost always need cash abroad for reasons covered by work-related expenses, and I keep those transactions on my Revolut account.

USAA has only one physical location in San Antonio but they've never failed to be courteous and helpful over the phone. And their app is a great replacement for a physical location for most of my banking needs.

I wouldn't blame the automation - I would blame consolidation in the banking industry into ever-larger firms, which seldom have the customer's interests in mind.

Not my experience at all. I spent a lot of time in the 80s standing in bank lines with my mom for her to do things that anyone now does with an ATM or a banking app much much more quickly. And as an added benefit, when I do need to interact with an actual human at my bank, the lines are much shorter and the whole thing is just more efficient and far less aggravating.

Has it? I don't know, the people I know never had a good relationship with their banks. Plus, there were other changes; at least in some places, banks were much smaller than today. Is it not true where you live? If it is, couldn't that have the effects you describe?

Need a source on this, I highly doubt it. Online banking and ATMs have been great for me.

If the escalation is accessible, everyone will try it. That includes anyone who got handled correctly. And as detection becomes more accurate, an even larger ratio of escalations will be blatantly wrong.

This explains why slightly inept well meaning companies shy away from such escalation paths. I wonder about the stats on appeals in court. How many are successful. How many go to an appeal at all. How costly is a single appeal / how costly is the average successful appeal.

"Escalation" implies the first decision is automated; I was suggesting more of a process where the "fact finding" is automated, but the decision is still manual.

That said, even the system you're describing and with a 100% escalation rate should be cheaper than a fully manual process. The problem is that those "well meaning" companies aren't; their goal is to minimize cost, stopping only if it drops their revenue. But no system will be good with such goals.

Some games (League of Legends, Ingress) have or had crowdsourced 1st level appeals for minor infractions.

Maybe that's the way to go. I know many volunteers answer Google's forums.

That system (the tribunal) is gone. It has been replaced by ML (probably trained by Tribunal data) and hence 99% automated.

yes i want a random dude who thinks asian people are just naturally bad drivers to judge my traffic fine

Another way to look at it is that an organization that is willing to automate everything for the sake of efficiency/profit is probably not too interested in "adding a lot more quality human support to compensate for that extreme automation".

Chances are it wants to automate 100% (or at least 99.99%) of it jobs and will strive to achieve that, while considering any human cost as "friction" or inefficiency that needs to be eliminated.

> On the other hand, a justice system which has most of the menial tasks automated might have more resources to do the important tasks well.

Justice systems are always about exceptions. Computers handle exceptions EXTREMELY poorly.

A justice system should be required to have a human on record for every action taken against another human being. The computers can be used to verify this, but they should not be allowed to be primary.

I don’t know how to compare the US justice system to Google support, but the former is already notoriously difficult, expensive, inefficient, and inaccessible to large groups of people.

The purpose of computers is to enhance the ability of humans who have a job to accomplish, not do their job for them. If we don't figure this out as a society, we're doomed.

Also the operators of a computer system should always be held responsible for any errors of that system. Mistakes by the system are your* mistakes. Any decisions made by the system must be explained by you. All costs rectifying those mistakes must be bared by you.

*Obviously "you" means your organization, company, etc. and not necessarily some random office clerk.

"I predict that within fifteen years, AI will be able to replace 40 to 50 percent of jobs in the US." - Kai-Fu Lee

If you're big enough, Google provides excellent support. I was once responsible for a product that generated $30k/month in adsense revenue. It got banned due to adult content and my attempts to clean everything up weren't entirely successful. I ended up on chat with someone from adsense and they essentially held my hand for an hour as we found and removed every bit of porn in the product.

This sounds like a lot of people's experiences with Equifax and Transunion. They make a mistake and it can take you a decade and a lot of money and effort to clear your name.

I just finished reading The Secret Barrister and it already seems to be the case, at least in the UK, that if something is wrong you can't really clear it up.

This is literally the plot to the 1971 George Lucas sci-fi film THX 1138, down to the detail: "set in a dystopian future in which the populace is controlled through android police ... ."

The justice system is hardly automated.

It's one of the least automated systems (ie, employing technology to reduce inefficiencies) of all industry 'niches' in the western world.

Law enforcement might be using technology to dole out punishment/fines more efficiently, but the actual justice system that civilians have to deal with after getting fined or charged (ie, the world of lawyers, judges, and courts) is extremely backwards in their use of humans, paper, fax machines, etc. Not using even basic technology. The justice system is famous for the extreme slowness for the amount of human-time required in processing of even the most basic small details.

By eliminating the amount of human-time (by a hired lawyer or oneself) that each person has to engage the systems (for example by missing work or paying with money instead of time) would do a lot of help the poor better deal with the justice system - and get better and fairer treatment by the system.

This is something ordinary people who haven’t run afoul of the justice system cannot understand. It must be witnessed first hand to be comprehended.

The justice system is a big boulder at the top of a mountain. Once an arrest or accusation sets in it motion, unless you are powerful and or wealthy, it will do what boulders do, it can do no different. It is not cognizant, it just is.

It takes immense resources to stop or avoid this boulder. Resources far exceeding even the well-to-do often times.

The system is there to win cases and incarcerate and my god does it do just that.

Innocent or not, the system moves humans.

Do not pray the jury hears your side, pray you never get so much as accused. Look up the conviction rates for district attorneys across the country. You tell me, does that look justice?

I'd expect conviction rates to be pretty high. It means they are only bringing charges when they have strong evidence. If conviction rates were low I'd be asking why that prosecutor was wasting his time on cases he can't win.

It means they are only bringing charges when they have strong evidence

We would hope so. It could also mean far worse things are happening. We’ve all seen documentaries and news shows of people wrongly convicted. Why do we think the only incidences are the ones reported.

I’ve watched detectives lie on the stand when a guilty verdict was already in hand. Why do that? How do they treat the innocent if that’s how they act when the facts of the case are enough to convict?

Google has support?

on a tangent...

"caught in a Kafkaesque nightmare"

I've been meaning to read kafka one day. Is there a title in specific you would recommend to start with?

I don't know how good the English translations are but I would look at "the Trial" or "Metamorphosis". This is a good short story: https://genius.com/Franz-kafka-before-the-law-annotated

Okay, I think I can do one worse.

Imagine if the justice system was like Apple's App Store acceptance/rejection system.

Sorry for putting that in your head, y'all.

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