This morning the Portsmouth Herald carried a story about a woman, Hallie Bibeau, who stopped on the median strip of Route 101 in an attempt to rescue wood duck ducklings whose mother had been killed crossing the highway and the ducklings were still trying to cross. Ahead of her, she saw a car swerving to avoid something and she realized it was ducklings. Two were killed before her eyes. She was able to rescue two others. How many were left behind is not reported. WMUR says these were the only two survivors.
The woman was accosted by a New Hampshire Highway Patrol detective and given a ticket and summons for reasons which are not entirely clear, but apparently it had to do with some law which says you can only stop on the median for "emergencies."
The tone deaf New Hampshire state police spokeswoman is heard on WMUR saying this was not an "emergency."
The woman later delivered the two ducklings to a rescue organization--in Maine.
The facts of the case are unintelligible (a frequent problem with the Herald) but from the WMUR report, it appears the ducks tried to cross from the right hand side of the East bound road toward the West bound side of the road, across a broad median strip of grass, but the mother was killed on the right hand shoulder and some of the ducklings (number unknown) were killed crossing the road but two made it to the median strip where Ms. Bibeau rescued them. Why she was there for more than few minutes is not clear. Was she looking for others? The median strip is no "strip" at that point of Route 101 but is at least 30 yards of grassy knoll.
The woman apparently remained long enough for a passing ambulance to stop and inquire after her and leave. She was still there when the policeman arrived and apparently ordered her to move on.
Trying to imagine why the policeman would give her a ticket rather than try to help, one can think he might have said to himself, this woman can get killed out here trying to save a bunch of ducks and cause an accident in the process.
The woman claims cars were swerving trying to avoid hitting ducklings and that collecting the ducks was probably better for public safety. Where the ducks were exactly, where they were headed, how many were out there are not stated.
What did strike Mad Dog, as he drove along Route 101 East bound this morning, was that police cars are often parked in that grassy dividing strip, talking to each other and sometimes they park at the turn off to Route 95, between Exit 12 and Exit 13 and they pull cars over to the shoulder or the dividing strip because the speed limit drops, for no discernible reason, from 65 to 55 at that point and many motorists continue blithely on and are easy pickings.
So when the police stop their cars or stop "speeders" that is not a safety risk to the public. When the police sit in their cars in the same strip, that does not put anyone at risk, but when a citizen stops her car on that strip, well...
Was this a matter of control or a matter of concern for safety?
All we can be sure of is Hallie Bibeau will not have be out that $44 fine--actually WMUR says it's $100. She will likely get lots of dollars from the public to do that.
Clearly, we don't want citizens lolling along the median strip. Highway 101 is not a place to dawdle. But one has to ask who was minding the Public Relations office at the New Hampshire State Police when they responded like so many mindless robots, both at the scene and in the police station later, when they were questioned about this story, which has been played as police against mothers, mindless, ruthless, heartless police indifferent to life and death, bureaucrats mouthing empty bromides about, "our concern is always for safety," or better yet, "we did not want this new mother to make her new child motherless." As if this mother was such a complete moron or so emotionally overwrought (as women are apt to be, we must infer from the policeman) that she was about to run out in front of a car, attempting to save ducklings.
Of course, there is a statue in the Boston Commons based on the book which shows with a kindly policeman holding up traffic so a mother duck and her ducklings can cross the road. Here in New Hampshire the statue would likely show the policeman with his hunting rifle, picking them off.
The bigger questions are who controls the median strip and who controls the police?