How many top end speeders out there reading this? All of you? I thought so. Top end speeding is what we used to call speeding. It’s defined by the city of Portland as going 10 mph over the limit.
Any of you commit extreme DUI? Probably some of you. More than you think. It’s what we used to call DUI.
There’s a cycle in language. I call it grade inflation. We exaggerate and exaggerate until a word becomes meaningless. Then we need a new word.
There was a time, before I learned to drive, when going 10 over the limit meant something. We used to have a policy that speed limits should be well over the average speed of traffic. This was based on safety research as well as democratic principles. Outside of speed trap towns you were unlikely to get a ticket for driving with traffic.
As a driver I have two routes to get to work. Along one the data said the speed limit should be 40, the engineers cut that to 35, and town politicians cut that to 25. On the other the data said 70, the engineers said 60, and state politicians cut that to 55. Any way to work, “top end speeding” means driving with the flow of traffic.
This is common around the country. What used to be driving within the speed limit is now top end warp speed you’re-gonna-need-a-bigger-slogan speeding.
Once upon a time the blood alcohol limit was .15%. Most people who blow .15% are obviously drunk. Then federal law said states had to have a .08% BAC limit. And, if states liked federal money, the crime of blowing .08% had to be punished the same as drunk driving. Lawmakers concerned about drunk driving had a problem: .08% isn’t drunk. How could the law distinguish real drunk drivers from federal aid drunk drivers?
Some states gave up and said it didn’t matter if you were really drunk or legally drunk. Probation, alcohol education course, points, fine, fee, surcharge, and don’t let me see you here again. Traffic court is an assembly line, not a justice system.
Arizona went a different route. Traditional DUI, with a .15% BAC, was renamed “extreme” DUI. Ignore the name. It’s plain old DUI like a million people do every weekend (mostly without meeting a breathalyzer). Federal aid drinkers are convicted of non-hyperbolic DUI and get a lighter sentence. Genuinely drunk drivers get a longer sentence. If they blow.
These BAC-based laws are weaker than the old laws. Without a breathalyzer or blood test police can only convict you of regular drunk driving, the non-extreme kind. No matter how drunk you are. Because a decade or two ago rule makers in Washington decided that falling down drunk shouldn’t be a worse crime than blowing .08%.
At work we get jars of nuts to snack on. Not just any old nuts. Ultra premium nuts. Which I can’t distinguish from any old nuts like we used to have. I don’t know if you can even buy “nuts” any more, even though all you can buy is nuts. You can go to jail for selling skim milk under the label “skim milk”, but you can’t go to jail for labeling ordinary nuts as super ultra premium nuts.
You can slap a “top end” on a driving with traffic charge, and an “extreme” on a routine DUI arrest, and the press eats it up.
This is nuts.
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