Most states now have mandatory”buckle up” seat belt laws. But – strangely, when you think about it – no state requires that a motorcyclist wear more than a helmet. So, on the one hand, you can’t legally ride around unbuckled inside an air bag-equipped 4,000 lb. steel cocoon. But you can legally ride a 170 mph sport bike wearing shorts, a t-shirt, no gloves or boots … so long as you’ve got a helmet on.
This isn’t an argument for mandatory “gear” laws. It’s just an observation about the inconsistency and arbitrariness of traffic laws.
Here are some more examples:
The legal threshold defining “drunk” driving continues to go down – it’s .08 BAC nationwide and groups such as Mothers Against Drunk Driving have been pushing for even lower standards, down to as little as .06 or even .04 BAC – yet it’s an established fact that most alcohol-related accidents involve drivers with BAC levels of .10 or higher. This has been well-known for years. But instead of focusing on the hard-core, problem drinkers who are responsible for almost all the booze-related accidents, the authorities spend more and more time trying to catch people with increasingly trace amounts of alcohol in their system who haven’t actually done any harm and who – for the most part – aren’t likely to cause any harm, based on the facts about who actually gets into accidents.
This is why we have “sobriety checkpoints” – because otherwise, drivers with slight amounts of alcohol in their systems would mostly fly under the radar and not be identified by police because they don’t drive erratically or cause wrecks. Their only crime, arguably, is running afoul of an arbitrary (because it’s based on politics, not science) BAC threshold that’s as unreasonable as the old 55 mph National Maximum Speed Limit.
Meanwhile, another irony:
While the anti-drinking (anything, ever) crusade becomes ever shriller, few states do much to weed out Senile Citizens – who, unlike people with .04 or .06 BAC are in fact the most accident-prone group of drivers after teenagers. Or tailgaters – who do their thing with near-impunity.
When was the last time you heard about a massive police campaign to go after them? Tailgaters are everywhere; enforcement next to nil.
Instead, cops go after seatbelt scofflaws and people who run 5 mph faster than the speed limit – even though tailgating is always dangerous, by definition – while “speeding” isn’t and not wearing a seatbelt threatens no one else.
Next up, driver’s licenses:
American citizens get put through all kinds of rigmarole related to their driving privileges. For example, most states require proof of motor vehicle insurance; in Virginia, my home state, the DMV conducts random spot checks – asking that proof be provided of coverage of all vehicles registered to the person holding a license. If they catch you running around without insurance, severe monetary and other penalties come crashing down around your head – even though you haven’t caused a cent of actual damage to anyone.
Meanwhile, Pedro and Jesus – who aren’t even supposed to be in the country – not only get U.S. driver’s licenses, they also easily escape the consequences of actions such as driving around without insurance and totaling other people’s cars – because they’re illegals and after all, what can you do? When they smash into you – or the DMV wants to see some paperwork – they just disappear.
One set of rules (and punishments) for us. Another for the illegals.
Speed limits make no sense, either.
You can be driving a stretch of Interstate highway, cross a state line – and even though the road and conditions are exactly the same, suddenly the speed limit drops by 10 mph. What was legal a moment ago is suddenly not. It has zip to do with “safety” – even though that’s the canned speech you’ll get when the trooper pulls you over.
In 1994, the year before the 55 mph National Maximum Speed Limit was repealed by Congress, running 76 mph on the freeway in my home state of Virginia was prima facie “reckless driving” – because it was more than 20 mph faster than the posted max speed limit of 55 mph. Today, it’s only 6 MPH over the new legal maximum of 70 MPH – and a minor ticket.
Of course, the tens of thousands of “reckless driving” citations issued to Virginia motorists nailed for doing 76 mph or thereabouts during the Drive 55 era were not rescinded. Neither were all the tickets issued for doing 64 (or even 60) in a 55 – even though now the same roads are (once again) posted at 65 or 70.
The money extracted from the literally millions of victimswas not refunded, either.
Bottom line: Irrationality and arbitrariness is the defining characteristic of U.S. traffic law – and American law, generally. And arbitrary, irrational laws are a big part of what defines life in “Third World” countries – the banana republics we once sneered at but which we increasingly have much in common with.
Arbitrary laws punish Joe – but leave Jeff alone. Jeff likely has pull. So he runs under the radar. Joe hasn’t got a lobbyist in the legislature – or money to stuff the pol’s pockets with directly – so he gets targeted.
This is what it’s coming to. We see it all around us – from the four figure “abuser fees” that New Jersey and Virginia tried to impose that crucified motorists over relatively trivial traffic violations while people who commit physical assault get maybe a couple days in jail – suspended – and a much smaller fine – to the current “click or ticket” harassment campaigns that henpeck unbuckled drivers … while bikers only need to put a helmet on.
It’s enough to get your back up, if you think about it too much.