Gaggle Order: A Fairfax judge makes the right goose call in the case of a well-intentioned motorist.

Tuesday, August 4, 2009

WHAT'S GOOD for the goose might not be good for Fairfax drivers.

The actions of one Fairfax County driver have ruffled some feathers. When Jozsef Vamosi stopped to help a gaggle of geese cross the Fairfax County Parkway, he found himself ticketed for jaywalking. On June 18, Mr. Vamosi sighted three large geese and eight smaller ones attempting to cross four lanes of fast-moving traffic. In a move reminiscent of the children's classic "Make Way for Ducklings," he pulled over, got out of his car and waved the geese across, standing in the path of traffic and shouting "Move, move, move." The geese made it across unscathed, but Mr. Vamosi attracted the attention of a Fairfax police officer, who repeatedly ordered him out of the road and concluded by handing him a ticket.

On Monday, District Court Judge Thomas E. Gallahue acknowledged that it was difficult to figure out the right thing to do in such a situation. You can't help cheering for someone who takes the initiative to save a family of geese from a terrible fate. Besides, Canada geese are protected by federal law, and killing them is illegal. And had he struck the geese with his car, Mr. Vamosi might have brought traffic to a screeching halt and even caused an accident.

On the other hand, Officer Kevin J. Rusin's response was hardly unwarranted. Mr. Vamosi stopped his car on a busy parkway at a busy time of the morning, causing many drivers to slam on their brakes. This, too, could have caused a terrible accident. And Virginia law prohibits "carelessly or maliciously" interfering with the passage of vehicles, an action that carries with it a fine of up to $250.

No doubt weighing all these factors, Judge Gallahue said he would dismiss the case as long as Mr. Vamosi remained on good behavior for the next six months. He wisely noted that "I think we have to be careful when we do a thing we think is for the greater good that the consequence isn't more dangerous." And it's worth recalling that before Mr. and Mrs. Mallard completed their dangerous (if fictional) journey with little Jack, Kack, Lack, Mack, Nack, Ouack, Pack, and Quack, Officer Michael had arranged for the cooperation of the police department.

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