Talk to Somebody Who Cares

By John Carr, NMA Massachusetts Activist

Here are some things I don’t care about when I’m driving.

I don’t care about the number on the speed limit sign. It doesn’t tell me if I’m going to crash. It doesn’t tell me if I’m going to get a ticket. At most it provides a moment of entertainment as I wonder who made up the number and why.

I don’t care if the law about passing a bicycle says leave no feet, three feet, or four feet. I don’t care if it says I can cross the double yellow never, always, or only if the bicycle is going half the speed limit.

Lobbyists fought hard for those laws and they don’t matter. I pass the same way in all states as long as police aren’t watching.

Speaking of passing, people get too emotional about “keep right except to pass” laws. Those words in the Vehicle Code don’t affect the real world. Drivers don’t know and police don’t care. Some pretext stops get written up as “keep right” violations. In states without keep right laws they find a different excuse.

Of course you should keep right except when you shouldn’t, but that’s common courtesy. (Rare courtesy in some areas.)

Do you know how crosswalk law differs between Massachusetts and the United States? Massachusetts doesn’t have unmarked crosswalks and it’s illegal to cross the street within 300 feet of a marked crosswalk.

Does that mean you can run the guy over in Massachusetts but not in California? You could call up your lawyer and ask. But don’t text your lawyer, because voice is legal and text is illegal while driving. I mean, illegal here. Not there. And over there voice is illegal too. So many different laws.

My phone rule is whatever I consider safe as long as police aren’t watching. Isn’t that everybody’s rule? It works in every state.

Back to crosswalks (real and imaginary). You probably treat pedestrians the same way I do. I try not to get their guts all over my car’s nice paint job. Brake first, ask questions later. Instinct before thought. Sometimes the only way to know for sure who had right of way is to go to City Hall and find out if the cross street is public (intersection) or private (not an intersection). Nobody does that. So what’s the point of all these laws, except to keep lawyers employed?

Do you know which states technically assign right of way to traffic entering a freeway from a ramp? (Yield to the right.) Do you care?

The highest stop sign compliance in my neighborhood is at a stop sign that doesn’t exist. Stopping traffic technically has right of way.

The main purpose of right of way law is to guide expectations. Follow custom, not law, and you’re less likely to find a truck in your lap.

So many laws to keep track of. Good thing we don’t have to.

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