Too many laws, or laws enforced arbitrarily, simply become a trap for the unwary. Such was the case for a Maryland woman driving on Interstate 95 in bad weather, with wind speeds gusting up to 40 miles per hour. Because the winds were ferociously buffeting her car, the woman (who remains anonymous) dropped her speed from the maximum limit of 65 MPH down to 63 MPH.
Little did the woman know that the easiest target for law enforcement is people who break the little laws, not the big ones. As far as one highway patrol officer was concerned, driving two MPH below the speed limit in the left (or fast) lane is going to get you a moving violation. Not just any violation, but (a) a fairly expensive one, coming in at $90; and (b) a black mark against the driver’s record for committing a moving violation.
The woman later told reporters that she was “really shocked.” Her first thought was, “Oh my God, you’ve got to be kidding me.”
The woman plans to fight the ticket and AAA is on her side. According to John Townsend, speaking on behalf of AAA Mid-Atlantic, the violation sends drivers “the wrong message.” Drivers should not have to cope with a police force that thinks “We will tolerate you driving at more than the speed limit, but if you drive below the speed limit then you’re penalized for that.”
Interestingly, those more concerned with convenience than reason, are applauding the officer who ticketed her, not for speeding, but for going a mere 2 MPH below the limit in the fast lane. Travis Okulski, who writes at the car blog Jalopnik, said
There are a lot of little things that annoy me on the roads. One is a slow driver in the left lane on the highway. Seems like that annoys Maryland cops too, because they just ticketed a woman for doing 63 in the fast lane in a 65 zone. Good for them.
Of course, the AAA thinks the ticket is “silly” and “sends the wrong message.” It’s actually the opposite. The message it sends is 100 percent accurate. If you feel you need to slow down due to road conditions, feel free to do so. Just don’t do it in the left lane.
The problem with Okulski’s rant and the officer’s ticket is that both clearly violate Maryland land. The Maryland Transportation code section governing maximum speed limits says that “A driver may not drive a vehicle on a highway at a speed that exceeds these limits.” The woman wasn’t exceeding the speed limit.
Maryland law also says that “A person may not drive a vehicle on a highway at a speed that, with regard to the actual and potential dangers existing, is more than that which is reasonable and prudent under the conditions.” One of the reasons it may be prudent to slow down is “because of weather or highway conditions.” The woman slowed down slightly on account of inclement weather.
It’s true that Maryland law says that “a person may not willfully drive a motor vehicle at such a slow speed as to impede the normal and reasonable movement of traffic.” Considering, however, that the drivers in the fast lane are prohibited by law from going faster than 65 MPH, it’s doubtful whether the woman’s 2 MPH decrease in speed to accommodate weather conditions “impede[d] the normal and reasonable movement of traffic.”
If the woman had been driving more than 5 MPH below the speed limit, on a clear day, both the officer and Okulski would have had a point. However, to the extent that 63 MPH is only 2 MPH below the maximum speed limit, the only conclusion one can draw from ticket is that the highway patrol is encouraging drivers to speed in the fast line – which, of course, violates the law.
And that’s the problem. There are so many rules, both spoken and unspoken, in today’s America, that it is impossible for people to avoid infractions that will lead to police action or a law suit. The same officer, on another day, can just as easily hand out a ticket to someone going 66 miles an hour in the fast lane. If people cannot know or understand the law, they will lose respect for the law and, eventually, break the law.
The effect of too many rules is the same as the effect of too few rules: anarchy, with government officials deciding what the law is at any given time.
(Written by Bookworm; first published at Mr. Conservative.)