How do I know? Because they were definitely watching me
I have become good friends with my local post office delivery guy. There was a time when our only interaction was that I would wave to him as he zipped by on his motorcycle.
We don’t get much of what is now called “snail mail”. Who does? Having clawed our way into the 21st century, my lovely wife and I conduct and receive most of our official and personal correspondence using the newfangled internet. That all changed this past February when the postman rang the bell at our gate.
As our dog barked, I opened the large metal doors to find our local postal worker waiting patiently in anticipation of me signing for a notice from ANSR (the Portuguese National Road Authority). Naturally, I had to go back and get my ID to prove that I was the legal recipient named on the envelope.
When I eventually tore off the ends of the letter along the perforated lines and opened it, I was able to discover that I was being fined €60 for speeding while cruising toward Faro on the eastbound lanes of the EN125. The document featured a black-and-white photo of my car from the rear with the tall Edifício Oásis (with the Faro Gym on the ground floor) looming in the background, alongside a fuzzy close up of my actual license plate. Caught. I was going 83 in a 70 zone.
Then I noticed the date of the infraction – 2022-04-17; in other words, April the year before, about nine whole months before. “Wow, it took them a while,” I said out loud. I decided then and there to slow down when approaching Faro from the east, even before I got into congestion around the Forum shopping mall.
Too late. For the next few months, there was an almost weekly buzz on the intercom out by the gate. Yup, it was the postman who was accumulating quite a collection of my autographs (I still needed my passport every time and got in the habit of bringing it when the bell rang). I learned the mail carrier’s name (José) and our little dog no longer barked but instead received a pet on her head from our new pal as we exchanged pleasantries.
When José would notice a disappointed look on my face, he tried to reassure me by pointing out that I wasn’t alone. “I have many, many others,” he would say with a sly smile. “Many!” He would then display a thick handful of similar notices. We did discuss how this deluge of speeding tickets didn’t make his life any easier and his trip around the neighborhood much longer, having to stop at over a dozen mailboxes during every round (he doesn’t come every day).
If this was an IQ test, I’m proud to report that I have not (YET) received a ticket dated later than February when I got my first notification. It did occur to me that if the purpose of the fines was to deter me and my neighbors from inappropriate rates of speed, then more timely notifications might have been useful.
Of course, going the speed limit is the ultimate solution and, to be honest, there are and were warning signs posted along the road promising a certain degree of enforcement. However, as I kept up with the current traffic cruising along in the area, few seemed to pay much attention to the signage.
That has changed. You may have noticed that as you approach Faro from the east, just past the turnoff to Montenegro and the airport, the traffic really does seem to slow down.
As José pointed out, I wasn’t alone, and many other drivers seem to have gotten the message. Now in the 70 zone, I slow down to around 50 (It isn’t easy … the car wants to go faster.) and then when the sign says 50, I proceed at a stately 30.
Good ol’Pat is now the little old man crawling along in the slow lane. It gives me no satisfaction to be passed with a honk from motorists who apparently have not entered into regular correspondence with the ANSR, or tourists maybe.
As we all know, the average Portuguese driver seems to be in a bit of a hurry and anxious to pass, so this speed limit situation may well be ongoing.
This situation also turned out to be an example of false economy, for me at least. Literally half of those times I was clocked while approaching Faro, I was on my way to Staples to have copies made. We’re renters and my lovely wife and I decided that we didn’t need a printer and those expensive ink cartridges. Instead, when necessary, which wasn’t that often, we would nip down to the copy center and sometimes pay as low as 80 cents for some black and white copies.
It was a good idea, until they installed the radar, which I decided to ignore and the copies started costing over €60 a pop. We could afford a chrome-plated copy machine at the new rates we were paying. In fact, we could have hired a monk to transcribe our documents in gold leaf.
I’m writing this essay as a cautionary tale. If you see a sign promising radar enforcement of the speed limit, believe it. If nobody else is slowing down, do it anyway. They’re leading you astray and don’t have local knowledge to the contrary.
According to recent reports published in the Portugal Resident, more radar cameras are being installed. The SINCRO network (National System for Speed Control by Fixed Radars) has expanded (from today, September 1) to include 37 more new cameras nationwide with three brand new devices in the Algarve.
There’s going to be another one in Faro on EN 125-10 (at km 1.4) and two new electronic eyes in the Albufeira area along the EN125 (km 74.6) and on the A2 (oh, oh … at km 233.1), which should be a real money maker.
There are suggestions that fines for speed established by radar “are rare”. I’m here to tell you … not that rare in Faro.
By Pat the Expat
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For the previous 10 years, Pat lived in Panama which used to be rated above Portugal as a top retirement destination (but not any more), where he wrote a column for a tourist publication.