Speeder madness

Reading Eric Schlosser’s essay “Reefer Madness,” I was struck by the parallels between the war on drugs and the war on speed.

There are several correspondences. I’ll start with the most obvious: hypocrisy.

When I was in college my writing professor polled his class on marijuana. 10% of us raised our hands for legalization. That was close to what professional polls found in the general public.

Somebody wasn’t telling the truth. More than 10% of students had smoked, and some of the votes for legalization were from libertarian non-smokers. Most smokers said they wanted smoking to be a crime. If the laws the 90% supported were actually enforced, a quarter of college students would be out of school because they couldn’t get student loans or jobs with a criminal conviction for drug possession. Or because they were in prison for dealing. Or because their parents couldn’t afford tuition after paying the lawyer to try to keep older brother out of jail.

In the legislatures, hippies who spent the late 1960s in a haze of smoke were coming into power and shared the same attitude.

Anti-drug groups created a huge fear of what might happen if people were allowed to do exactly the same thing they were already doing.

If you ask people about speed limits, you’ll find the same fear about what might happen if we allowed people to do exactly the same thing they are already doing.

We already know what would really happen. Our lives and pocketbooks would be a little safer.

In 1995 Montana’s rural speed limit became “reasonable and prudent.” Police weren’t ticketing for speeds under 90 or so on the Interstates. Traffic safety didn’t change.

A driver conspired with the Attorney General to have that law thrown out, and for a while no speed was illegal per se. They couldn’t write you a speeding ticket for 200 mph.

Police could still ticket reckless drivers. In fact, the guy who got the speed law thrown out still went to jail for reckless driving. What they couldn’t do was harass safe drivers by writing speeding tickets. That system worked better than the one we have today. There was never a safety reason to impose a general speed limit. It was just for public relations.

To keep people from making fun of them, lawmakers decreed that half of drivers should get speeding tickets.

If traffic laws were enforced every driver, even the ones calling for enforcement, even the ones who think they obey the law, would be guilty of enough offenses for license suspension. Usually within 5 minutes.

Too bad we can’t enforce the laws against people who make them.

I guess we could deploy State Police to hang out around City Hall and write councilors up for 26 in a 25. But we don’t, and that’s a shame.

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.

Not an NMA Member yet?

Join today and get these great benefits!

Leave a Comment