Emotion About Motion

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by Eric Peters EricPetersAutos.com

Recently by Eric Peters: He Ain't Hurtin' No One…

The fixation on speed — and only speed — as the Number One Road Safety Issue is emblematic of the emoting that drives policy in this country.

It's of a piece with the emoting about guns — “assault rifles” in particular. Hysterias erupting from a wellspring of ignorance.

An inept/careless driver operating at 40 MPH can be a greater hazard to himself and others than a skilled and attentive driver operating at twice that speed. Even on the same road. Just as a .22 fired from a revolver can kill you just as dead as a 7.6239 fired from an u201Cassault rifle.u201D Indeed, if handled carelessly, a .22 revolver can be infinitely more dangerous than the u201Cassault rifle.u201D

But emotions target the u201Cassault rife.u201D Not careless handling.

Just as emotions roil over u201Cspeeders.u201D Not careless driving.

Speed laws are based (leaving aside the issue of revenue for the moment) on the lowest common denominator. A cop once told me so, openly. It was said in the context of a question raised about what to do when one finds oneself stuck behind a hyper-cautious senior driver operating significantly below not just the speed limit but the flow of traffic. As in, 25 in a 40. The cop stated: u201CWe'll all be old one dayu201D and that we should be patient — and not attempt to pass. He also said he’d ticket anyone he witnessed doing so, if they exceeded the posted speed limit (even for a brief moment) while doing so — or if they did so over the double yellow, even if they only transgressed it for a few seconds (just long enough to pass the codger) and even if the opposing lane of traffic was completely free of oncoming traffic.

The law accommodates the least common denominator — and punishes anyone who rises above it and dares to assert it.

Punishment no longer correlates to harm done — or even plausibly threatened. It is enough merely to fail to abide by whatever collectivized, least-common-denominator edict is promulgated by the authorities. To disobey “the law.” That is all that matters.

Most people accept this as reasonable and equitable — which only demonstrates that they have no conception of either.

They'll say to a cop who pulled them over: u201CI know I was speeding, officer…u201D as their preface to some hopefully exculpatory excuse that will soften the cop's heart and result in him giving them a u201Cbreak.u201D But their language reveals they have already accepted their guilt.

They almost never ask: u201CWhat harm have I caused?u201D Because that would be a challenge. Instead, they supplicate — which is a polite way of saying, they beg for mercy.

In court, it's pointless — as a matter of law — to argue that one's driving was faultless. It would not matter even if you got the cop to so testify, openly. Because your driving capabilities are not at issue. The only thing that's on the table is: Were you in fact driving u201Cxu201D MPH faster than the law says you may?

This is exactly the same dynamic playing out as regards “gun control.” As in the case of the man in NY ( a “troop,” no less — who ostensibly fought for “our freedoms”) who found himself charged with multiple felonies and facing years in prison based solely on his possession of “high capacity” ammunition magazine arbitrarily forbidden by the bureaucrats. It is exactly of a piece with being “pulled over” for the non-crime of “speeding” — though of course the consequences in the case of the “speeder” are (usually) not as severe.

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Eric Peters [send him mail] is an automotive columnist and author of Automotive Atrocities and Road Hogs (2011). Visit his website.

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