Can Ocean City Enforce Maryland Vehicle Laws On Out Of State Cars? Well, They're Gonna Try

Jack Baruth
by Jack Baruth

You know Facebook’s passe when the cops are using it to talk to citizens. In this case, it’s the Ocean City (MD) Police Department, warning visitors to the H2O International event of their “zero tolerance policy” for traffic violations, vehicle modifications, and compliance with Maryland motor vehicle regulations.

Even if the motor vehicle in question is registered somewhere else.

This video shows “stanced” cars, featuring “poke and stretch” running gear where the tire is deliberately chosen to be considerably narrower than the rim. Think of it as the opposite of the 285-width-tires-on-a-7-inch-wide-wheel thing that SCCA National Solo types do. Most of these cars have some sort of air-ride suspension so they can be dropped on or near the ground, which causes some fairly outrageous negative camber. The Ocean City Police vigorously prosecutes cars like this at H2O, going to far as to impound them, as seen happening to a stanced TSX at around the three-minute mark.

I cannot recommend that readers watch the entire video but I did, mostly to get a sense of who goes to the H2O thing. I wasn’t surprised: by and large it’s awkward young men of all ethnicities, with a bunch of puppy fat and goofy clothing, having fun and harming no one. They’re very excited about having a cooler full of Bud Light or playing beer pong or just hanging out on the sidewalk. There’s a little bit of dangerous driving in the video but frankly you can see worse on the Chicago or Detroit freeways every day of the week.

So why bother them? Well, they have money. They’ll pay fines, they’ll pay tickets. Most of them are very nice kids and the last thing they want to is have a warrant out for their arrest, even if it’s not in their home state. They’ll lead chants and yell at the police from a distance but this ain’t Ferguson or Watts and nobody’s actually going to do anything on either side. In fact, you could argue that the police harassment is desired by the participants, at least on a subconscious level. For the rest of their safe, reasonable, middle-class adult lives they’ll be able to remember how they once drove a stanced-out Jetta to Ocean City and called some cop an asshole. It’s cathartic and helpful and I’d bet you that if there were no cops at H2O this year a lot of people would miss them. It’s their Woodstock. It’s their chance to fight the system, and if the system doesn’t show then there’s nothing to fight.

Some major percentage of you will have watched 90 seconds of the video by this point and decided, “I don’t care if the OCPD harasses those mooks. Hell, I rather approve of the idea that you shouldn’t be allowed to drive some bagged-out rustbucket with fifteen degrees of negative camber and a nightmarishly unsafe tire installation on the freeway.” Well, I don’t want to come across all Martin Niemoller on you, but these amiable morons with their visible wheel lips and ironic T-shirts and NISMO posters in their mothers’ basements are sort of canaries in the coal mine for the rest of us.

Until the day comes that California manages to impose its state vehicle regulations by fiat on the rest of the United States — and may that day never come — the presence on your vehicle of an out-of-state tag should be an absolute and unquestionable defense against motor vehicle specification enforcement of any type. Yes, that freedom could certainly be abused; think of all those twentysomething children of divorce whose fathers live somewhere else. Yet the minor abuses do not justify the major abuses that could be commonplace were it to be any other way.

As an example: Residents of southern states where deep tint is legal and virtually necessary due to the sunlight should not be afraid to drive through Ohio where every cop has a light meter and expects that your windows will not be any darker than the factory tint on a Somerset Regal’s windshield. If you live in Kentucky and don’t have to run a front plate, you shouldn’t have your car impounded in Ohio because it doesn’t have a front plate. Conversely, Ohio-registered cars from counties where there is no emissions checks shouldn’t be subject to drive-by monitoring in California.

As a society, we’ve come to expect that, although the vast majority of laws are the same everywhere in the country, there are exceptions and those exceptions should be respected. For that reason, the holder of a “shall-issue” concealed-carry permit from Indiana shouldn’t expect to be allowed to carry his gun on the New York subway. Nor should a Montana rancher be granted a special dispensation to graze his cattle in Central Park.

So long as personal vehicles remain the key to American freedom of mobility, however, it is critical that they be allowed to travel unimpeded through this country, with their owners free from the fear of persecution or impounding. The protection of Ocean City’s residents from “stanced” cars is not sufficient justification for a departure from this national understanding. So today I’m standing shoulder to shoulder with every awkward twenty-something with “illest” in his Subaru. Every tatted-up wanna-be thug with a private-school background and a poke-and-stretch setup on his M3. Every floor-staring, bowl-haircut, Magic-the-Gathering-playing doofus* with two thousand hours’ worth of labor in his Rabbit pickup. I’m standing shoulder to shoulder with them to demand that we treat them, and the rest of us, like hard-working, decent American citizens who are causing no trouble and deserve no punishment.

I’m speaking metaphorically, of course. I’m not sure I’d go within ten miles of that place for ten thousand bucks.

* It takes one to know one. Untap, upkeep, draw!

Jack Baruth
Jack Baruth

More by Jack Baruth

Join the conversation
2 of 125 comments
  • Jthorner Jthorner on Nov 09, 2014

    The author's argument is silly. The laws of the land wherever you are apply to you, and your vehicle, no matter what your passport or vehicle registration says on it. Just as my US Passport is not a defense visa-vis breaking laws in China, so to does the home state of a vehicle mean almost noting when that vehicle is operated in another state. The funny thing is that the obvious solution is national vehicle standards, but the crowd that loves to shout "freedom" would never stand for that obvious solution.

  • John R John R on Dec 02, 2014

    "...but this ain’t Ferguson or Watts..." It could be worse. It could be Penn State after Paterno was fired, or the University of Kentucky in 2012, or Seattle after they won the Super Bowl, or Philly after the Phils won the World Series. But I kid...kinda. In all seriousness, Ocean City is a pain in the ass. I always try and con my family to patronize Delaware beaches instead. The visitor "taxes" are a bit less draconian.

  • Varezhka The biggest underlying issue of Mitsubishi Motors was that for most of its history the commercial vehicles division was where all the profit was being made, subsidizing the passenger vehicle division losses. Just like Isuzu.And because it was a runt of a giant conglomerate who mainly operated B2G and B2B, it never got the attention it needed to really succeed. So when Daimler came in early 2000s and took away the money making Mitsubishi-Fuso commercial division, it was screwed.Right now it's living off of its legacy user base in SE Asia, while its new parent Nissan is sucking away at its remaining engineering expertise in EV and kei cars. I'd love to see the upcoming US market Delica, so crossing fingers they will last that long.
  • ToolGuy A deep-dive of the TTAC Podcast Archives gleans some valuable insight here.
  • Tassos I heard the same clueless, bigoted BULLSHEET about the Chinese brands, 40 years ago about the Japanese Brands, and more recently about the Koreans.If the Japanese and the Koreans have succeeded in the US market, at the expense of losers such as Fiat, Alfa, Peugeot, and the Domestics,there is ZERO DOUBT in my mind, that if the Chinese want to succeed here, THEY WILL. No matter what one or two bigots do about it.PS try to distinguish between the hard working CHINESE PEOPLE and their GOVERNMENT once in your miserable lives.
  • 28-Cars-Later I guess Santa showed up with bales of cash for Mitsu this past Christmas.
  • Lou_BC I was looking at an extended warranty for my truck. The F&I guy was trying to sell me on the idea by telling me how his wife's Cadillac had 2 infotainment failures costing $4,600 dollars each and how it was very common in all of their products. These idiots can't build a reliable vehicle and they want me to trust them with the vehicle "taking over" for me.