Should There Be "Stupid Fines"
Some in Sonoma County are expressing discontent over careless actions by those who have been warned yet still driving across flooded roads and end up having to be rescued by authorities, including local fire departments and the Sheriff's helicopter. Some say those careless folks should be fined to pay for their rescue. I'm not so sure, although I agree, at least in part, but where do you draw the line?
We see time and again instances of people disregarding warnings and getting into situations where rescuers end up putting their lives on the line to save them. One that comes to mind for me is high surf warnings on our jetties, yet we see people out there romping around in front of large waves. Granted, I can't recall any recent rescues out there but there have been some in the past, one being some college students who drove a car out on the south jetty during high surf and had their car washed into the channel. One of those kids drowned. Another managed to make it back onto the rocks.
So, no fines in that case since nobody had to rescue them. Plus, I don't think warnings had been posted in that instance, either. Maybe common sense should have sufficed as a warning but, for legal purposes, it would seem a sign warning of dangerous conditions should be available.
I'd like to see the Coast Guard post signs on access points to the north jetty when we have high surf warnings. I'm almost of the mind that if someone goes past the signs designating a dangerous area, they should be ticketed for that alone. But while that might save people from getting washed into the sea, it seems a bit too nannyish for me. If they get washed into the channel and survive after being pulled out of the water, a fine seems appropriate since they had fair warning.
There's any number of other situations in which fines are appropriate. I was surprised to read in the comments to the Press- Democrat article that there's insurance that can be bought to help pay for those who require helicopter rescue from situations they've gotten themselves into in the outback.
My main concern is if those fines end up considered a source of revenue for agencies and end up being raised simply to bring in more money. That, and the tendency to increase restrictions once we have them in place. Then we might see signs everywhere warning us about the danger we face in driving and having to pay when we get in what might seem an unavoidable accident.
Am I being paranoid about that? I don't think so, because when you give the government a hammer, it doesn't take long for everything to look like a nail.