GPS: Global Parenting Surveillance

When I’m heading down the highway, I get a little nervous every time I pass a cop, wondering ifGps
he’s going to stop me for DWB (driving while brown). It has happened a couple of times, once in Ohio and the other time in Georgia. Both cops asked me to get out of my car and one made me sit in his car while he checked if there were any arrest warrants on me. (There weren’t! Thank goodness I had paid all my library fines.) Neither cop ended up giving me a ticket, but I wouldn’t put it past an officer to claim I was speeding. So perhaps I need to get a global positioning system (GPS), just in case I need to beat a speeding ticket, as a teen-ager in Sonoma County, California, is trying to do. Shaun Malone’s parents installed the GPS in his car to keep track of him and his speed.

The case represents the first time anyone has contested a speeding
ticket in Sonoma County courts using a global positioning system, which
pinpoints speed and location using lightning-fast calculations and
satellites. …

All GPS systems installed in vehicles calculate speed and location, but
the tracking device in Malone’s 2000 Toyota Celica GTS downloads the
information to his parent’s computer.

Wow! In the future, all parents will sit in front of their computers at night, monitoring  their children’s activities.

Mother: "Call the police, dear. Someone must have stolen Johnny’s car."

Father: "How do you know?"

Mother: "Well, he told me he’s meeting with the church youth group, but his car is parked in front of the strip club."

Father: "Don’t jump to conclusions, dear. Perhaps they’re spreading the word over there. That’s what they did last week at the tavern."

Mother: "Such a good boy, our Johnny. I don’t know why we’re checking on him."

The family says, based on
the data, that Malone was going the posted speed limit of 45 mph on
Lakeville Highway the morning of July 4 at virtually the same time and
location where a Petaluma motorcycle officer used radar to cite the
teen for going 62 mph.

The case pits one technology against another, each with its limitations.

Carl Fors, president of Speed Measurement Laboratories Inc., a Fort
Worth, Texas-based company that specializes in radar technology, trains
police around the country in the use of radar. He said it is subject to
both human and technical error.

In one notable example, he said
an officer he observed using radar clocked a rock going 72 mph. The
error was caused by the heater fan blowing air inside the officer’s car.

No surprise. There’s always a lot of hot air blowing inside those squad cars.

GPS can be hampered by cloud cover, power lines, tall trees — almost
anything that blocks the signal from the satellites. And there’s
nothing to say that the person using it hasn’t tampered with the device.

A teen-ager wouldn’t be smart enough to tamper with a GPS, would he?

Mother: "I’m so proud of Rajiv. He has really turned his life around. He used to hang out at the mall, but now he’s always going to the temple, even on Saturday nights."

Father: "Yeah, and the most amazing part is, he never goes faster than 10 mph!"

If you enjoyed this piece, you'll love Melvin's novel Bala Takes the Plunge, available in North America through and You can also find it at major bookstores in India and Sri Lanka or online at FlipKart, IndiaPlaza, FriendsofBooks or other sites. A number of readers have written reviews of the novel. An excerpt of the novel can be read here.

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