Friction

I spared a bicyclist’s life last week when he swerved in front of me.

Do you want to believe I acted out of kindness? Fear? Instinct?

Pick whichever you like. I would do the same thing if I placed no value on human life and were certain I would win in court.

There’s a cost to being in an accident, no matter who is at fault. That time waiting for the police to come scrape guts off my car, talking to lawyers, and so forth is time I don’t get back. I have insurance for out of pocket expenses. I don’t have insurance for the inconvenience your suicidal tendencies cause me.

That’s a good thing. Hurting others should hurt, at least a little. The legal system needs friction to avoid going out of control.

When I got rear-ended on the highway I didn’t think “whiplash! jackpot!” I thought, “I need to be more careful braking hard.” Because I didn’t want to deal with the hassle of another accident that the system would assure me was not my fault.

A lot of complaints about the legal system are where this friction is absent or overcome by an incentive for hurting others.

What if you really got 20 points for taking out a pedestrian and 50 for a bicyclist? Maybe you’d act like the people who get a bounty for going after drivers.

Think traffic cops. What if police had to pay a $75 filing fee to ticket you, instead of you having to pay $75 to plead not guilty? (That’s what you pay in Massachusetts to tell it to the judge, win or lose, on top of the fine if you lose.)

Think predatory towing companies. You didn’t cause $150 worth of damage by stopping for a few minutes in an empty lot. So why can some company cause $150 worth of damage to you? This is a special law to reward thieves in tow trucks. If somebody walks over your flower bed you have to sue for trespass and spend half a day in court for a few dollars in actual damages. If you park in an ambiguously marked space it’s easy money.

People make a living out of hurting people, and the system rewards them.

This is why I have advocated banning traffic fines.

If you get a ticket on some military bases you can take it to U.S. District Court. In this courtroom, a nuclear terrorism plot unfolds. In that courtroom, VW pleads for mercy for cheating on emissions. And in yours, you explain that you were not driving 23 in a 20 zone. You get a professional judge just like the others. Everything by the book, and if you lose you get a point on your license.

That’s all. A point.

Too many points and they tell you not to drive on base any more.

The military cares about obedience. Civilian government cares about revenue.

The opinions expressed in this post belong to the author and do not necessarily represent those of the National Motorists Association or the NMA Foundation. This content is for informational purposes and is not intended as legal advice. No representations are made regarding the accuracy of this post or the included links.

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