A Seattle attorney had a traffic-camera-generated speeding ticket dismissed recently, and he didn’t deny he was speeding. He won because there were too many words on the sign warning motorists to slow down.
The sign said the posted 20 mph speed limit would be enforced “WHEN LIGHTS ARE FLASHING OR CHILDREN ARE PRESENT” in two-inch-high capital letters. But domestic law attorney Joe Hunt found a diagram in the federal government’s Manual on Uniform Traffic Control Devices that prescribes the shorter phrase “WHEN FLASHING” for that sign. Hunt argued that with more words, the posted sign was harder to read, diminishing the driver’s ability to heed it before a mounted, automated camera enforces the 20 mph school zone. According to Washington State law, automated camera zones must comply with the federal manual.
After the ruling, the City of Seattle announced that Department of Transportation crews will replace 40 such signs before school resumes in September. The new signs will read “WHEN FLASHING.” Fewer words that are more concise, more emphatic, easier to read and comprehend.
It’s amazing what a little editing can do. “Shorter language is easier to comprehend,” spokesman Neil Gaffney of the Federal Highway Administration noted in the Seattle Times.
If you ever need an editor to condense, organize and hone your own writing, look no further.
Another pair of eyes can make a big difference.
Incidentally, attorney Hunt estimated the dismissal of his $189 ticket cost him about $578 in services, equipment and fees. Hiring an editor is much cheaper than a hiring a lawyer.