Every so often, some spring cleaning is required to tidy up and put one’s house in order. We are getting an early start on the seasonal ritual at the NMA offices, and in the process, turned up an interesting opinion piece written by a member who is still very active today. We won’t name names because the focus should be on his words, which have a relevancy today as they did in 1992. That is particularly so on the heels of an announcement by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration that it has awarded $562 million in highway safety grants to the states for 2020, much of which is earmarked for high-visibility enforcement campaigns that are evaluated by how many tickets are handed out, not strictly by safety improvements.
Please Call Me a Professional Speeder
We hear a lot about enforcement schemes aimed at the “professional speeder.” The cops are always announcing another ticket-writing blitz against the guy who makes a business of driving fast, on every freeway trip, all the time.
But what’s wrong with being a professional speeder? Where I come from, professional means skilled, judicious, knowledgeable, and careful. A professional doesn’t make mistakes and can be counted on to perform properly, every time, under all circumstances. I’d consider it an honor to be called a professional speeder if only my car would go fast enough, and it didn’t attract police attention.
On the highway, professional speeders include a lot of people who drive for a living, whose families depend on them, and who take pride in the job they do. Truck drivers, bus drivers, delivery men, messengers, sales representatives, repairmen, and a lot of professional people are also professional speeders as a matter of economic survival. These are the people who make society work. They are not the people who are causing a problem on the highways.
Instead, the police need to be chasing the amateur speeder. This is the character driving unpredictably, at speeds he’s not used to, in suspect equipment, under conditions that call for caution. The amateur speeder is the beginning driver, or a drunk, or someone short on brains and maturity. With a little training, the police could learn to spot these guys and write tickets for real accident-producing behavior. They’d probably welcome the chance to do some real police work, instead of simply sitting by the side of the freeway, reading the numbers on a radar unit.
Of course, under our present system of traffic law, there is no legal way for the police to distinguish between one kind of speeder and another. And, it’s a lot easier to fulfill a ticket quota by writing up the salesman doing 75 on a wide, straight freeway than the clown doing 45 on main street. The phrase “too fast for conditions” is meaningless when the speed limit is too slow under almost all conditions, and all drivers are speeders, professional or otherwise.
So the next time your state legislators or highway patrol proudly announce another campaign against professional speeders, ask them publicly if they know what professional really means. And then ask them why they’re chasing the wrong people.