OPINION – Ever notice how life’s most effective teaching moments seldom come to us in a form that we’d voluntarily choose?
My latest one came while sitting alongside Highway 93 in Nevada with a state trooper’s brightly flashing lights strobing in my rearview mirror.
I make no excuses here. I was clearly exceeding the posted speed limit. I have long subscribed to automotive writer Eric Peters’ reasoning regarding speed limits. If the conditions are safe and traffic is light, I will drive 5 to 10 miles per hour above the limit. If conditions are poor or traffic is heavy, I’ll adjust my speed lower to what feels safe.
I refuse to accept another person’s guilt and shame for exercising my initiative by getting away with reasonably exceeding the arbitrary number posted on the speed limit sign. Besides, as Eric Peters points out, “Each time you ‘get away with it,’ you amortize the costs of the times you didn’t. So, for example, if I ‘speed’ every day and get away with it, the occasional ticket I get works out to mere pennies per offense.”
This makes sense to me. Remember, we’re not talking about driving 100-plus mph while steering with our feet. I apply this same reasoning to sitting at an unchanging stoplight at 3:30 in the morning. Once I’ve ascertained that it’s safe to proceed, I’ll go. Yes, I actually trust my own judgment to safely see me through the intersection without need for some Pavlovian cue from the light itself.
For some reason, this type of independent thinking is highly threatening to those who would rather that the state dictate their every move. They have forgotten how freedom feels. It runs contrary to what Peters refers to as the “doughy, filmy-eyed passivity that the law demands.” As long as common sense is being used, the real test of criminal behavior is whether anyone has suffered provable harm.
At any rate, speeding was not the reason why the trooper pulled me over.
He stopped me because my headlights were not on in broad daylight. You read that correctly. Certain stretches of Highway 93 through Nevada are designated daytime headlight sections and driving without illumination in the daytime can precipitate a traffic stop and a ticket.
It certainly did in my case. But I’m not complaining.
The trooper who stopped me was polite, professional, and pleasant. He chose not to write me up for speeding, even though I admitted that I was definitely going over the limit. Though Nevada no longer recognizes my Utah concealed carry permit, his only comment when I informed him that I was carrying was to compliment my choice of sidearm. Encountering a solidly pro-gun police officer is an all-too-rare surprise these days.
He explained that the headlight law was based on safety concerns since Highway 93 is a two-lane road and passing is more risky there than on a divided four-lane freeway. With that, I signed the ticket and was on my way.
Here’s where the learning experience comes in.
My oldest daughter Maycyn made a comment about how lame it seemed to get a ticket for not having my headlights on in broad daylight. So I asked her to walk through the rationale behind the law to see if we could figure out how it served justice.
I asked her, “Who was harmed by me having my lights off? Did I run anyone off the road or damage another person or their property?”
“No,” She answered, “I can’t think of anyone who was injured by you not having your headlights on.”
“Okay,” I said, “even though we can’t think of a victim, what does the state of Nevada require from me to ensure that justice is served and my ‘wrong’ is righted?”
Her answer was spot on, “They want your money. So this law really isn’t about safety after all. It’s a way for the state to take money from people.”
This prompted a lengthy conversation that lasted for most of the remainder of our trip about how laws that criminalize reasonable driving have become a highly effective means of extracting millions of dollars from motorists, in the name of safety.
It was a timely lesson on the true nature of the state that I believe she’ll take to heart as she heads off to college this fall. I consider it a worthwhile trade-off for whatever minor inconvenience was involved.
The cost of driving without headlights in a daytime headlight section of Nevada: $112.
Knowing that my daughter understands that there’s difference between laws that promote justice and those that promote revenue generation: Priceless.
Bryan Hyde is a news commentator and co-host of the Perspectives morning show on Fox News 1450 AM 93.1 FM. The opinions stated in this article are his and not representative of St. George News.
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