This article first appeared as the cover story in the NMA Foundation’s quarterly magazine Driving Freedoms Fall 2017!
You probably joined the NMA because of its mission to protect drivers’ rights; or because you believe deeply in one or more of the issues we advocate. That makes you unique, an exception among the 88 percent of U.S. adults who are licensed to drive but are unaware of how much driving rights and highway laws are politicized; about how much road control has shifted from safety to promoting social and revenue goals.
For most of us, driving is a pleasure as well as a necessity. The rights of motorists to move freely are constantly challenged by overly restrictive regulations and enforcement activities that enhance revenue or secure the jobs of law enforcement but are justified as promoting safety. Even though NMA members often seem to be the only opposition to unreasonable traffic laws, that should not alter our resolve to reform unfair laws and practices.
As an NMA member, what can you do to speak for the silent majority?
The Basics of Motorists Rights Advocacy
—Reread the NMA’s Motorists Bill of Rights and use these principles in your advocacy efforts. (see below)
—Subscribe to Driving News Daily, a Monday-Friday email that delivers motorists news and views straight to your mailbox.
—Understand why the 85th percentile speed limit principle is important and why it is now threatened by Vision Zero and Smart City movements.
Traffic engineers maintain that speed limits should be established according to the 85th percentile of free flowing traffic. This means the limit should be set at a level at or under which 85 percent of people are driving. Numerous studies have shown that the 85th percentile is the safest possible level at which to set a speed limit.
—Support the NMA’s national efforts even if only by making online comments. Oppose calls by organizations such as the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety and the National Transportation Safety Board to blanket our nation’s roads with speed cameras and arbitrarily low speed limits. Stand up with us against Vision Zero and Smart City efforts that often brand motorists as pariahs.
—Any time you see or hear a recommendation to limit drivers’ freedom of choice, speak out: write letters and opinion pieces to your local newspapers, and let the NMA know so we can help.
—Be Involved locally by speaking out at public meetings whenever the discussion is about restricting the speed (or even the presence) of motorized traffic, a typical ploy of Vision Zero proponents. In many cases, proposed ordinances and bills include veiled language to eliminate the 85th percentile method from the traffic engineering vernacular.
—Serve as a watchdog, one of the most important aspects of advocacy. The NMA can help with talking points.
—The most important thing is to keep up the pressure. Ask your family and friends to help!
NMA’s Motorists Bill of Rights
- The right to traffic regulation based on sound engineering principles and public consensus.
- Clear guarantees that revenue collected from highway users for highway purposes be used for such purposes, and that all streets, roads, and highways be properly maintained, signed and regulated in a manner that expedites travel.
- Freedom from unreasonable search and seizure and the guarantee that all traffic stops will be based on probable cause.
- The right to choose the type of vehicle and related equipment that best meets an individual’s needs and preferences.
- Protection from discourteous and reckless drivers including those who deliberately impede traffic, who threaten other motorists with their actions, and those who are impaired or incompetent.
- Freedom from unreasonable surcharges, fees, taxes, and fines.
- Complete access to all public streets, roads, and highways, free of arbitrary restrictions, exorbitant fees, or governmental attempts to dictate personal travel choices.
- Freedom from driver license suspensions or revocations for non-driving violations or matters of personal conduct.
- Protection from arbitrary and exploitative insurance industry practices.
- The right to a fair and impartial trial for traffic offenses, including a trial by jury if requested by the defendant.
Join the National Motorists Association today and stand with those like-minded folks that believe driving your own car is worth it!