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By Jordan W. Charness

Peter was so excited when he came bursting into my office at 8:30 in the morning.

“I’ve got a great idea to make us both millions!” he exclaimed. What had gotten Peter so excited was the fact that he thought he had found a new way to beat rush-hour traffic and make a few bucks at the same time.

The truth of the matter is that traffic has been building right across Canada for the past several years. Even some of the smaller cities and towns now have rush-hour traffic jams where none existed before. The economic slowdown has not really taken that many cars off the road, although perhaps people are not trading in their old ones and buying new ones quite as quickly as they used to.

Even our fluctuating gasoline prices have stabilized somewhat at a point that people are getting used to, even if they don’t appreciate shelling out so much money to fill their gas tanks. The move towards more ecologically-friendly cars will not necessarily lower the number of cars on the road even though their carbon footprints may be smaller. What all this means is that traffic jams have now become a way of life.

In order to alleviate some of this traffic and to convince people to leave their cars at home many municipalities have initiated traffic lanes that are dedicated to buses, and or taxis, and or car pools. These dedicated lanes provide a restricted and swift means of passage capable of whisking people to or from work at a fraction of the time that it would take them if they were stuck in traffic.

However, in order to benefit from these dedicated traffic lanes, drivers must follow the rules – and not all the rules in all cities and provinces are the same. For instance, some places allow carpoolers to travel in bus lanes while others restrict those lanes to just buses and/or taxis.

For some, a car pool consists of a driver and at least one passenger while other places require at least two or three passengers in order to benefit from the restricted lanes.

So what was Peter’s brilliant idea? He had found a web site where he could import, at a very reasonable cost, blowup dolls that would resemble passengers and could be placed in the passenger seat of a car so that a driver could drive in a carpool lane and have it look like he really was carrying passengers and was allowed to be there.

Unfortunately for Peter, he was not the only “genius” to think of such a scheme. Several people have tried to beat the system by bringing along all types of fake passengers only to find that the police are not as dumb as the scofflaws would hope. Police have no trouble recognizing a blowup doll in a coat even if it is moving at a fair clip in a carpool lane.

Take the case of the man from Gatineau who was recently pulled over in Ottawa, not once but twice, for having a teddy bear dressed as a toddler buckled into a rear child seat in a car during the morning rush hour. The police were not amused and issued him a $144 ticket, and reminded him that local law requires at least three real passengers in order to be allowed to use the bus, taxi and carpool lanes.

Boy, were the police surprised to find the same man and the same teddy bear driving in the carpool lane the very next day. One more $144 ticket was issued and you can bet that the police will be on the lookout for Teddy Bear Man to make sure that he does not continue repeating his offense.

Needless to say Peter put his million-dollar plan away.

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