Tortured Traffic Laws

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At some point – I think it happened back in the late ’80s – a government bureaucrat decided it was “unsafe” to ride a motorcycle without wearing a helmet. Not content to wear one himself (assuming he rode motorcycles; in all likelihood he – probably she – never did) a law was passed requiring that all motorcyclists wear helmets. Bureaucrats in other states – possessed of the same strong, bizarre and wholly improper determination to parent other adults – passed similar laws. Today, in most states, it is illegal to ride a motorcycle without wearing a helmet.stupid laws pic 1

But it’s legal to ride without any meaningful protection for the other parts of your body. Not even shirts (or shoes, for that matter) are required. Shorts, T-shirt (or no shirt), flip-flops or sneakers… it’s all good (well, it’s all legal). So long as you’re wearing a helmet, you’re fine as far as the law is concerned. But you won’t be fine if you wreck.

The in loco parentis bureaucrats apparently never thought of this – or haven’t yet gotten around to passing laws requiring that motorcyclists also wear protective riding suits, boots and gloves.

We should not give them ideas.

Virginia still has an active ban on radar detectors. The only other place in the U.S. where they’re illegal is – big surprise – that nexus of freedom, Washington, DC.traffic law radar detecttor pic

But the ban is actually a boon to those with balls enough to flout it. Because most cops assume (rightly) that most people (being sheeple) will Obey The Law – and so, will not possess much less use a bacon detector. Which means those few who do possess and use them have a leg up on the cops – who in general won’t be as sneaky about running their radar. After all, if the sheeple-people haven’t got detectors, why hide?

The cops are also less likely to use “instant-on” radar – which was designed specifically to counter radar detectors. Instead of a steady beam up ahead for your detector to detect, the cop looks for cars he believes to be speeding – and then hits them with the signal. Your detector might screech – but it’s probably too late. Instant-on is widely used in other states where radar detectors are legal – but much less so in Virginia, where they’re not.

So, a pat on the back to the Virginia pols who keep the radar detector ban in place. It’s made life – and speeding – a lot easier for people like me.senile driver pic

. . . .

Like the war on some drugs, traffic laws smile – and frown – on different forms of impairment. It’s doubleplusungood to operate a motor vehicle with even trace amounts of alcohol in one’s system. You don’t even have to wreck. It’s assumed you will – and therefore must be punished proactively. What about people whose driving is impaired for other reasons? If an oldster blows a red light and actually T-bones your car, all he gets is a ticket  – not a trip to jail – since senescence or poor vision are not regarded as impairment. Which is kind of like refusing to categorize alcohol as a “drug” perhaps also worthy of a “war” being waged upon it.

. . . .

How are you supposed to execute a safe pass if you can’t do it quickly?

The law says it’s illegal to drive even 1 MPH over the posted speed limit. Apparently, this is unsafe – by definition. But it’s also pretty unsafe to attempt to pass someone doing say 42 in a 55 zone when you’re not allowed (legally) to exceed 55. Even in a passing zone. Even if only briefly – which would be inherently safer than attempting to creep by in the limit space (and time) allotted at no more than 55 MPH.stupid laws 2

They’ve got us coming – and going.

On the one hand, passing is still nominally legal. On the other, to do it legally requires so much time (and distance) as to render the maneuver practically impossible – or terrifically dangerous. If you pass safely – by bringing your speed up enough to get around the slow-mover expeditiously – you’ve committed a traffic infraction – “speeding” – even though your action reduced the chance of an accident happening. You’re supposed to either pass unsafely – but legally.

Or not pass at all.

Cops, of course, never face this conundrum themselves. They are legally sanctioned to drive as fast as necessary to catch up to scofflaws – or get through/around traffic impeding their progress. Apparently, one is immune from the axiom that “speed” “kills” when in uniform. Maybe we should all wear uniforms, since we’d be so much safer then.

PS: Did you know that it’s illegal to curse on the highway in Maryland? Apparently, it’s ok on secondary streets. Also, it’s ok to pick up roadkill (and eat it) in West Virginia. But not ok to drive with a blindfold on in Alabama.

Seriously.

Throw it in the Woods?

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  12 comments for “Tortured Traffic Laws

  1. Mithrandir
    February 26, 2014 at 11:13 am

    Eric,

    Well written.

    Does immunity from the laws of physics apply to all uniforms or only some uniforms? ;)

    In Paragraph 7

    Instant-on is widely used in other states where radar detectors are illegal – but much less so in Virginia, where they’re not.

    Do you actually mean to saylegal?

    • eric
      February 26, 2014 at 1:36 pm

      Thanks, Mith – for the kind words and the catch (fixed)!

  2. Doug
    February 26, 2014 at 1:29 pm

    The cops are also less likely to use “instant-on” radar – which was designed specifically to counter radar detectors. Instead of a steady beam up ahead for your detector to detect, the cop looks for cars he believes to be speeding – and then hits them with the signal.

    Bull! This is what they say is legal procedure but, in reality, these badged turds don’t determine if a car is “speeding” before hitting it with Instant-On. They shoot at anyone at whom they have a clear shot.

    • eric
      February 26, 2014 at 1:36 pm

      True, Doug!

      • ЯΞ√ΩLUT↑☼N
        February 28, 2014 at 5:34 am

        If you get ticketed by radar/laser, check the distance from where the cop was when he stung you (as alleged on the ticket) to the nearest corner or rise. You’ll find they usually match.

        As Doug noted, this isn’t legal procedure – at least not here in Oz. Their rule book states they must have a “visual tracking history” of at least 3 seconds before blasting 904nm laser or aircraft impeding radar at you. Reason being is that they can cross-reference this visual tracking against the reading to ensure the device is measuring more-or-less accurately.

        It’s rarely ever done though. Besides, their rule book has been described as mere “guidelines” by a few magistrates here, rather than letter of the law.

        In any case, in Oz all measuring devices used for trade or revenue (fruit scales at the supermarket or the home elec/gas meter must have pattern approval and a tracking number attached or printed on the device in clear view either from the National Measurement Institute or the National Standards Commission (NMI or NSC number). This is a Commonwealth law and the fines for non-compliance are massive.

        If you guys in the US check your elec meters you should see the specific numbers from your own measurement bodies which are also listed on your bill.

        Naturally, your cops might> be using devices approved under your measurement bodies and are fully compliant, but here in Oz they’re not – even cop car speedos need this certification.

        Several greedy magistrates here have waved this requirement aside and got red faces at subsequent appeals – because when pressed, nobody in the courtroom can produce a valid law or act that absolves speed measuring devices of this certification requirement.

        Besides, it’s always a good idea to contest every fine you get and, at least ask in court when the laser/cam/radar was last calibrated and certified for field work, approved by whom under what qualifications and clearance etc. You’d be surprised how many have missed their calibration date and been used on you anyway.

        Then again, the officer/prosecutor/camera operator can’t possibly define exactly how well the unit was treated since last calibration until the cop pointed it at you – at least not honestly on the stand.

        They also need to be properly shielded. Most are normally plugged into an unshielded cigarette lighter socket, causing glitches and incorrect readings from fluctuating alternator voltages.

        Pays to ask the right questions.

  3. Randy
    February 26, 2014 at 7:33 pm

    I never considered what an advantage the Virginia radar ban could be. Good deal.
    I used detectors for many years, starting with a primitive FuzzBuster unit in 1978.
    Stopped using them a few years back due in part to false alarms and laser. Beaten many an instant on radar by being quick on the brakes, and got finger shakes from cops who knew what I did but didn’t have a reading. Even got pulled over a time or two for this but knew the cop couldn’t write me up for speeding.

    As for passing, here in Georgia there are many stretches of rural road with 3 lanes: two in one direction and one lane going the other. The 2 lane part is designed for passing and often goes uphill for passing trucks and slow traffic. Over the last 10 to 15 years these passing lanes have been turned into 2 lanes, with the center striped yellow and “No Passing” signs. These are designated as “Turn Lanes”, even along rural stretches with nowhere to turn! This has been done gradually over the years and now includes maybe 85% of the former passing lanes.

    I’m convinced that there is an anti-car faction at work somewhere that wants to make driving as frustrating and inconvenient as possible.

    • dom
      February 26, 2014 at 8:12 pm

      “I’m convinced that there is an anti-car faction at work somewhere that wants to make driving as frustrating and inconvenient as possible.”

      Amen to that!

    • BrentP
      February 27, 2014 at 12:37 am

      I’m convinced that there is an anti-car faction at work somewhere that wants to make driving as frustrating and inconvenient as possible.

      Indeed there is. They are politically organized and foundation supported. Lots of useful idiots following along. You can find them online if you wish to mess with them as I have. They don’t know what to do with car guy bicyclists. Especially those of the old bicycle militancy like me. Today’s bicycling politics is nothing more than a tool for an anti-car agenda IMO. Their desire is to reserve as much of the public way for anything but cars as possible. The old militancy was for equal rights, but today they want special rights and IMO ride like small children, not adults.

      BTW, the login and captcha means I’ll be posting less since I prefer my posts come from my own personal machines no matter where I am. The command line browser, lynx, doesn’t do captcha. I’m not too keen on opening up a PC with remote desktop capability.

      • Helot
        February 27, 2014 at 4:11 am

        Hmm, I didn’t know I was a car guy bicyclists.
        The things you learn online, eh?
        I think maybe I’m a motorcycle guy bicyclists, too.
        When I ride a bicycle I often find myself twisting the right-hand grip wishfully seeking full throttle while missing my motorcycle.
        It’s still fun though. Especially on the curves.

        Anyway, It’s a bummer the captcha is tripping you up BrentP.
        I enjoy your posts, even when I disagree with them.
        I hope you find a workaround. Or something.

        I do Not like captchas, but this is the best captcha I’ve ever had to deal with. I don’t even have to tilt my head sideways, or squint, trying to figure out wtf I’m seeing.

  4. February 26, 2014 at 8:54 pm

    Nothing’s as enjoyable as being behind three RVs or tour busses all in series and all going 10 mph below the speed limit. That’s basically one big long pass — good luck doing it successfully without going “too fast!”

  5. Garysco
    February 26, 2014 at 11:12 pm

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