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Thread: Why Speed Limits are a Civil Rights Issue

  1. #1
    Join Date
    Aug 2006
    Houston, TX

    Why Speed Limits are a Civil Rights Issue

    This is an article I am trying to get published for the Florida Civil Rights Association in the Orlando Sentinel.

    A civil right is an enforceable right or privilege, which if interfered with by another gives rise to an action for injury. Examples of civil rights are freedom of speech, press, assembly, the right to vote, freedom from involuntary servitude, and the right to equality in public places.

    The civil rights movement under Dr. Martin Luther King focused on equality, opportunity and demonstrations against excessive and violent use of police force against black citizens during the 1960's. One of the more salient examples happened when three civil rights workers were murdered following a traffic stop that resulted in their arrest. Although the driver was not cited, the incident was said to have led to their subsequent murder. Police brutality (and unequal sentencing in trials) remains a large civil rights issue.

    The most common encounter with law enforcement is the traffic stop. When a police officer "observes" a vehicle exceeding the speed limit, he chooses whether or not to pull the vehicle over. He observes the driver, the vehicle and other factors before making that decision to stop the car. By virtue of traveling, we are open to numerous constitutional violations by law enforcement. If you consent to a police search, you have forfeited your 4th amendment rights. People consent because the officer threatens to detain you for an indefinite period. The ugly reality is that police officers can profile someone by race, the kind of vehicle they drive, their advertised political leanings, or any other factor. He asks a series of questions about your alleged violation, designed to get you to testify against yourself, which could violate your 5th Amendment rights. He may issue you a ticket for your alleged infraction.

    In Florida, there are no jury trials allowed for civil infractions, which is a 7th amendment violation. With a traffic citation, you still can confront your accuser in court, although you may not get your 6th Amendment guarantee of a speedy trial. The customary arraignment, occurring weeks after the alleged violation, precludes a speedy trial option.

    In addition, the clerk of courts may deny your 6th amendment rights to discover the evidence against you.

    Over 120,000 citations are issued daily in the United States. That amounts to one speeding ticket every 5 years. Speed limits are grossly under posted and over enforced. Nationally, speeding tickets comprise over 80 percent of tickets written, fewer than 5% of all accidents are attributed to "unsafe speed." Less than 30% of the motoring public complies with the current posted speed limits while 50% violate speed limits by at least 5 mph.

    Federal studies show that the safest travel speed is 8-12 mph above average traffic speeds. Studies show raising speed limits to that level increases compliance from 30% to 85% and reduces accidents by up to 25 percent. Unfortunately, no state in posts those limits on their rural highway system, but states that posted their speed limits 70 mph or more on rural interstate highways had a larger drop in their fatality rate than states keeping 65 mph speed limits. Unfortunately, artificially low speed limits can result in incidents like the one shown in the video link below.

    To reduce the likelihood of these encounters, we need to recognize speed but as a civil rights issue as well as a motorists issue. Speed limits need to be adjusted to reflect reality and only trigger enforcement action when truly unsafe behavior is observed. Citizens do not deserve to be treated as cash cows and hardened criminals at a roadside shakedown. We have the right to travel safely, with our constitutional rights scrupulously upheld.

    The FCRA is asking that the Florida legislature raise the speed limit to least 75 mph on highways deemed appropriate by the FDOT. Increased speed limits will provide immediate benefits to all motorists traveling in Florida, which could provide needed economic boost.
    Last edited by swamprat; 10-08-2010 at 10:39 PM.

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