I’d Like a Refund, Please

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You’ve heard about “class action” lawsuits. A group of people who’ve all suffered a common harm at the hands of a single offender get together and sue jointly for damages. I think all the people who were victimized for the 20 years the 55 MPH National Maximum Speed Limit (NMSL) was in effect (1974-1995) ought to consider doing something along those lines.

“Drive 55″ – as it was styled – came into force in 1974, just before Tricky Dick Nixon was almost frog-marched out of the Oval Office over the Watergate thing and other sordid abuses of office. But Tricky Dick was never held accountable for this crime.

Though enacted – officially – as a fuel-conservation measure, people – millions of people – were issued speeding tickets for driving in excess of 55 MPH on the highway. They were dunned by the state – and then dunned afterward by their insurance companies, which used these “speeding” convictions as evidence of “unsafe driving habits.”

This went on for 20 years – until the mid-1990s – when Congress finally did something not-criminal and rescinded the NMSL.

Now, here’s the thing – the basis for my demand (and perhaps, yours) for a refund – plus interest – for all the money taken from me at gunpoint during the NMSL years: It is objectively provable that all the tickets issued for “speeding” – that is, driving faster than 55 – were just state-authorized shakedowns that had nothing – absolutely nothing – to do with “safety.”

Clovers always defend speed limits – all speed limits – as being by definition the “safe” speed to drive. The corollary of this, of course, is that to exceed any speed limit is – again, by definition – “unsafe.” This is their thought process – their defense of/justification for both speed limits themselves as well as enforcement of speed limits. Ok.

Now, a quick history lesson – and summary of the situation today. Prior to the imposition of the NMSL, the legal speed limit on most American highways was 70 MPH. Many were posted 75. Some – as in Montana – had no formal speed limit at all (the “reasonable and prudent” standard obtained). By definition, therefore, those speeds were “safe” to drive. Clovers cannot argue otherwise. It was “the law” – and “the law” is neverwrong – and must always be respected as well as enforced.

Well, the law changed in 1974. Fine. But how can it be that what was “safe” (because legal) the day before the NMSL went into effect – driving 70 on a highway posted 70 – became no longer “safe” the next day, merely by dint of changing a sign? The road was the same; the cars were the same; the drivers had not changed.

Only “the law” had changed.

Well, ok. You can make the Cloveritic argument that it’s “the law” – and only “the law” that’s relevant. However, Clovers also make the argument that “the law” (when it comes to speed limits) is also – by definition – synonymous with the “safe” speed to drive. But how is it that what was “safe” one day became “unsafe” the next? And how can it be that – when the NMSL was repealed in the mid-1990s – what had been “unsafe” the day before suddenly became “safe” once more?

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The Best of Eric Peters

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