The age of fear

I have often wondered how much better driving would be if police were afraid to run speed traps. Obviously it’s not an experiment we can do ourselves. Nature has done it for us.

I haven’t seen a police car near the illegal 20 mph speed limit sign recently. My town stopped traffic enforcement over two weeks ago. Around the country police chiefs are doing a PR dance. They don’t like to admit not enforcing traffic laws, but in the back of their minds is the opening scene from Repo Man.

In Saint Louis the entire traffic division is quarantined. In California the Highway Patrol wants you to keep it under 100. A traffic attorney in New York tells me his business has gone away. Some places have even turned off speed cameras.

But in a sort of conservation of authoritarianism, any reduction in routine nuisance traffic stops is offset by something more serious.

The governor of Rhode Island ordered police to stop any car with New York plates. It’s been established that an out of state license plate is not a legal basis to stop a car. But I’m sure state prosecutors have better things to do than uphold the constitution. Later the governor expanded the order to apply to all out of state plates.

Florida has a roadblock at the border. Maine has armed vigilantes. My police force is chasing parked cars out of neighborhoods where they aren’t wanted. An online petition calls for the Cape Cod Canal to turn into a moat to keep homeowners from returning from the mainland. Certain homeowners, the ones who qualify as “them” rather than “us”. It’s a recurring theme around the country. Pay your taxes to the town and stay in the city where you belong. In our town, but not of our town. One commenter compared the situation to the balkanized dystopia of the science fiction novel Snow Crash.

And all the while we hear cries for more. If it’s a great time to be a driver, it’s also a great time to be an authoritarian.

The barricades have not gone up yet in my area and you don’t need a travel permit. Traffic is light. I look forward to a relaxing drive to a park. Unless the governor closes the parks too.

The reprieve won’t last. Federal guidelines say police should be the first to be vaccinated. Then they will lose their fear. You can cough at them all you want. They’ll charge you with assault or terrorism, but they won’t be afraid to take your money.

Or maybe it’s not like Snow Crash. That was a relatively cheery dystopia by standards of the genre. You could still order a pizza. Maybe it’s more like Arslan, with hard borders and cruel punishment. Because who wants to let a good crisis go to waste?

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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