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Monday, May 2, 2016

The folly of moving violations

Friday, September 16, 2011

I got my last traffic ticket forty years ago. I was driving through a small town in Oklahoma on the way to class at Northeastern State University when I got caught in a speed trap. At least it seemed like a speed trap because I didn't think I was going as fast as the officer said I was. But he won the argument.

And as I was walking out of the courthouse after paying my fine, I realized what a stupid thing moving violations are. I had just turned over some of my hard earned money to a county I didn't even live in and I got nothing for it in return. It was just like driving down the highway and throwing that money out the window. So I decided on that day I would never violate another traffic law. And except for driving with a headlight out one night, I haven't.

None of us agree with all the traffic laws; that's why most of us violate them. Practically everybody on the highway drives from five to ten miles over the speed limit because they've discovered that the police won't stop them for that. In fact, if you only drive the speed limit, you think you might be considered a hazard for driving too slow and impeding the normal flow of traffic.

I don't know what the local standards are because I never go more than three or four miles over the speed limit in town but the unwritten rule in Tulsa when I was on the department there was 10 miles an hour. I never wrote a ticket for anyone driving less than 10 miles an hour over the speed limit unless they were driving carelessly or recklessly at the same time.

But to violate the law a little is in the nature of all of us. We all try and determine what we can get away with; how far we can go without going too far. And that's with us almost from birth. If a mom puts her toddler out in the front yard while she cleans up the kitchen and tells the child they can play anyplace they want but to not go near the street, every time the mom looks out the window, the toddler will be a little closer to the street, usually looking in the same window mom's looking out of, because he's trying to figure out what the limits for his behavior are. Does mom REALLY mean not to go close to the street or is that just one of those rules she's not going to enforce? And we all know that if mom issues no further warnings to her child, he eventually will be in the street.

And that's the way we continue to act throughout our lives. We all know the rules but we also know that the rules can bend but won't break. We all know there's a point at which law enforcement will stop us and either give us a ticket or put us in jail. And we want to know where that point is.

Young people are better risk takers than older people because they're both fearless and clueless. They think they're never going to die and that they can get away with anything and they're obviously wrong in both cases. But because they're immune to learning from other people's mistakes, they continue to act in the same ways that generations of them before have acted.

But as we get older, we become more cautious. It's no longer a thrill to get away with something or to dodge the police. We find safety and security knowing that the police aren't looking for us and have no issue with us. And so we either don't break any laws or we break them slightly.

I always read the police report in the daily newspaper to see how many people threw money out the window of their vehicle recently. And although many of them are young as I would suspect, some of them aren't. That just means they haven't learned the lesson yet. I also look for people I know and am not only surprised at some of the names I see but surprised also at some of the names I DON'T see because I know they're violating the law on a regular basis.

I make a good income for this part of the country but I don't intend on giving any of it away for doing something that has no positive result. How many times have you been passed by a car who's driving way over the speed limit only to catch up with that same car at a subsequent stop light? He gained nothing at all and risked being stopped by the police and fined.

How does that make any sense?

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Mike Hendricks
Mike at Night