March 29, 2006

Pushing the limit

In my previous post I claimed I'm not a criminal. That's not entirely true, according to Officer R.D. Helms (any relation to Jesse?) of the Charlotte P.D. According to him, "on or about Saturday, the 11 of March, 2006 at 12:00AM in Mecklenburg you did unlawfully and willfully operate a motor vehicle on a street or highway at a speed of 53 MPH in a 40 MPH zone (G.S. 20-141(B)(G))."

This is far worse than your typical bullshit speeding ticket, for a number of reasons:

1) When I got pulled, I only had two minutes left of a three-hour trip.

2) In two months I'll turn 25, at which point my insurance will drop dramatically--if I don't have any points on my license, that is.

3) With my highly effective visual radar, I managed to spot the cop a hundred yards away--but the font that Charlotte uses to write "POLICE" on their cars is fairly low-contrast (light blue on white), and so I thought it was just an innocuous late-model American sedan.

4) I was going 53 on a mostly empty 4-lane highway. That's perfectly reasonable--it should be unlawful for that to be illegal. Pull me over if I'm driving unsafely or endangering someone, don't pull me over because the numbers allow your county to turn a profit. Speed limits are more suggestions than laws. Go do some real police work.

This ticket (my third, although my record is clean thanks to a few lawyers and some other, cheaper tactics) made me draw the following conclusion: all highway speed limits in this country should be raised by 10 miles per hour. It won't happen anytime soon, but it should, and here's why: cars. They've gotten much better. Modern engineering justifies raising the limit. Model Ts needed 30 MPH limits; cars built in the last 15 years need 75 MPH limits. I drive a 4-cylinder car made in '99 and it is comfortable going... 99. Even at that speed, which I rarely ever reach, passengers feel like they're going 70.

From my perspective, raising the limits is a no-brainer. But I'm a healthy twentysomething with close-to 20/20 vision, I'm an outstanding driver, I've been driving for a decade, I've driven six-digit miles, and I'm driving a newish car. Not all of America can say the same.

So along with raising highway speed limits, we should also raise the age on driving, increase public transportation options, more frequently test the elderly, and revamp the state inspection system.

All of this would be a moot point if the act of raising speed limits made the roads more dangerous. There are way too many accidents as it is, and as long as I'm young, a car accident is what I fear the most in terms of uncontrollable threats to my life. But I did a little research and found that raising highway speed limits does not result in more accidents, in fact in some situations it results in less. And anytime you find an issue that I agree with the National Review on, I think we have a consensus.

Of course, when it comes to tickets, there are always ways to keep the points off your license. Unfortunately I can't do it in person this time--I'm outside New York right now, in Connecticut. The court date in Carolina is a month away and by then I'll hopefully be settled into my refrigerator box in the city. Thus I've gotta hire an overpriced, southern-fried lawyer with a 4th-tier law degree to represent me. As I said to a girl at the Georgetown Law Barrister's Ball this past weekend, after she curtly introduced me to her fiancé: "sweet."

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