By on January 4, 2017

Ohio State Highway Patrol Charger, Image: OSHP

I remember the day I committed the minor misdemeanor offense of reckless operation as if it was yesterday, although it was actually one day longer ago than the statute of limitations regarding minor misdemeanors in Ohio. I was surrounded by my accomplices — my “gang” if you will — and we were hell-bent on committing some serious traffic offenses.

The situation was this: We were all driving through Cincinnati, Ohio, at approximately 65 miles per hour. This is the speed limit for Route 71 on the north side of Cincinnati. Approximately five miles south of I-275, the speed limit on 71 drops from 65 to 45. There’s no visible logic or reasoning behind this; I-71 is still a five-or-six-lane road at this point. There are certainly times when the road is brought to a standstill by traffic, but the same is true of I-71 between Columbus and Delaware, Ohio, which has a marked limit of 70 mph.

As I passed the speed limit sign together with my gang of approximately 20 visible vehicles — most of which were doing about 70-75 mph but a few of which were going slower or faster than that — not a single driver touched his or her brakes. In the space of a few moments, we had gone from being legal or semi-legal road users to serious violators of the Ohio Revised Code. Had there been a sufficient police presence in the area, every one of us could have been sentenced to 60 days in jail and been subject to impounding of our vehicles.

This is clearly ridiculous, so it’s time to ask the question that is always relevant in situations like this: Cui bono?

Just in case you skipped high school Latin, college lit, and post-grad Internet arguing, Cui bono is Latin for “Who benefits?” Most laws exist for a reason, after all. There are no laws against turning into a winged goat during Federal holidays because nobody’s ever documented an occurrence of that, but there are plenty of laws prohibiting theft in all of its various forms because people have been stealing from each other since the dawn of time.

The benefit to society of a law against theft (or murder, or any of that other Ten Commandments stuff) is plainly obvious. The benefit to society of a law against reckless operation of a vehicle is nearly as obvious; just take a drive on a Detroit-area freeway some time if you want to get a sense of what life would be like in a world where the vast majority of motorists feel entirely free to do whatever the fuck they want. The difficulty arises when you are trying to precisely define the meaning of “theft” or “reckless operation.” Are the exorbitant rates charged by check-cashing operations “theft”? If so, where do you draw the line on interest? If you draw it in one place, the stores disappear (not a bad thing, IMO). If you draw the line another place, you get Scott Tucker. But no matter where you draw it, somebody out there will benefit more than others will.

The same is true for reckless operation, which is the biggest stick most traffic cops can use against dangerous drivers. The person who is doing 150 mph in a school zone? Clearly a reckless operator. But what about the person who is doing 21-in-a-20 across that same school zone? Virtually nobody would consider that person a reckless operator. But you have to draw the line somewhere. So, again — Cui bono?

The 45 mph limit on Cincinnati freeways is, to put it plainly, an utter joke. It’s a law flouted hundreds of thousands of times every week. Never in my adult life have I seen a car doing 45 mph on a Cincinnati freeway. Not once. There is no reasonable logic behind the limit. It doesn’t make people safer; all it does is increase closing speeds between people who are trying to stay close to the law and people who are trying to get to work on time. Closing speeds are dangerous; this is not disputed anywhere in the law enforcement or traffic safety communities. Yet the limit remains at 45. Cui bono?

If the above situation sounds oddly familiar to you, perhaps it’s because you live in Northern Virginia. That’s another place where speed limits on freeways have been artificially lowered for no apparent purpose, and it’s another place where those limits are universally ignored. I’ve never seen any private vehicle doing the speed limit on 495. Not unless they are slowing to a stop for traffic ahead. What’s the point of setting the speed limit so low that everybody who uses the road is breaking the law? Cui bono?

Perhaps you’ve heard of the book “Three Felonies A Day”, written by civil-rights attorney Harvey Silverglate. In the book, Silverglate argues that the law has become so complex, particularly as regards technology and chain-of-custody issues, that it is almost impossible to get through your day without committing a felony of some type. Not everybody agrees with the specific examples and assertions made in the book, but I think it’s fair to say that most of us have unknowingly done something that would be punished much more severely than you would expect. That goes double for people who work in tech. I’ve seen people violate multiple federal privacy laws, totaling dozens of years’ worth of prison time, in a single email. And don’t get me started on the Digital Millennium Copyright Act and its repugnant, pernicious effects on ordinary human beings.

The DMCA is one of the worst bits of law ever written onto the books. Yet it made it there because it served the purposes of some very powerful, very wealthy people. The answer to Cui bono? in that case is dead simple — the content-generation and computing industries benefit, at the expense of regular citizens who just want to do crazy stuff like use their old software on their new computer.

Outrageously low speed limits do not protect the freeway motorists of Cincinnati or Northern Virginia. In fact, you can argue that they increase the risk of driving on those freeways. So Cui bono? I think you know. Changing the limit from 65 to 45 on Route 71 benefits law enforcement. It creates the following benefits:

  • It turns a normal flow of freeway traffic into a river of cash into which the police can dip at will. Want to write ten tickets a day? A hundred? A thousand? It’s all possible.
  • It increases the cash value of those tickets for both insurance companies and municipalities while simultaneously making it harder to fight those tickets.
  • It allows profiling.

I highlighted the last one because I think it’s the most important. All across this country, we are having a dialogue about whether police officers single-out minorities and/or women for law enforcement. The common refrain heard after these incidents, “He didn’t do nothing!” has become such a common refrain that it’s now actively parodied on the Internet. Yet the fact is many of these controversial traffic stops have, in fact, started with a clear violation of the law.

When the speed limit is set at a reasonable level, then the police are only free to stop and ticket people who are breaking the law. But when the speed limit is set unreasonably low, then the police can stop anybody they want. You’re all guilty. If you commuted to work in downtown Cincinnati yesterday, and you didn’t jam your brake at the 45 sign, you’re now a criminal. You have very few rights. You can be the subject of a traffic stop that could escalate into imprisonment, poverty, or even death.

You don’t have to be a supporter of various special-interest groups like the National Motorists Association or #BlackLivesMatter to see that arbitrary policing is always dangerous. It opens the door for abuses of power both minor and major. It’s bad news whether you’re black or white. And it needs to be curbed wherever it occurs. That starts with reasonable speed limits. Without them, we are all reckless in the eyes of the law. Trust me, that’s not a place you want to be.

[Image: OSHP]

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143 Comments on “No Fixed Abode: Three Reckless Ops A Day...”


  • avatar
    -Nate

    Just so Jack .
    .
    BTW : you didn’t highlight that sentence, you used italics .(a thing I don’t know how to do) .
    .
    Just yesterday I was told that saying ” at risk kids ” is racist .
    .
    ? WTF ?.
    .
    -Nate

    • 0 avatar
      PrincipalDan

      Oy what idiot told you that?

      Poverty puts you “at risk” for a variety of negative things and it doesn’t matter what color you are.

      Point of fact – economics is the great leveler. Children growing up in similar economic circumstances have similar academic/life achievement regardless of other factors that people focus on (or colleges take into account in admissions.)

      • 0 avatar
        -Nate

        A charter member of the butthurt brigade I’d think .
        .
        You’d be amazed (or shocked) at the ignorance and hostility I encounter from the endless parade of young Female Social workers who only take the County job long enough to gain the experience necessary to move on to a real paying job (NEWS FLASH: The Civil Service pays for SHIT unless you’re at the very top) .
        .
        I get the feeling they don’t really give a rat’s ass about raising these boys .
        .
        Oy Vey .
        .
        -Nate

    • 0 avatar
      Ol Shel

      I hear various terms like “youth’ and “thug” used by whites to refer to brown people. It’s a dog whistle, part of the ‘Southern Strategy’ to convey bias without being opaque about it.

      If I hear another comfortable white guy refer to his slapped-together work as ‘ghetto’…

      I started reading the article without looking at who wrote it. When I saw the part downplaying racial bias among police, I knew it was Jack Baruth. It’s always the well-to-do white guy saying there’s little racial bias.

      • 0 avatar
        VoGo

        Ol Shel,
        I definitely agree with you on how ugly language can be.

        That said, I didn’t read that Jack was downplaying racial bias. What he was saying was that arbitrary laws put cops in a position to pick and choose who to enforce the laws against, and this isn’t a good situation to put cops in.

        • 0 avatar
          -Nate

          “If I hear another comfortable white guy refer to his slapped-together work as ‘ghetto’…”.
          .
          ? Who did this ? .
          .
          -Nate

          • 0 avatar
            VoGo

            It’s gotten pretty common at the water cooler. I think most people don’t mean harm with the term, but I’m not a fan of it.

          • 0 avatar
            -Nate

            ? Meaning : ‘I slapped this job out’ ? .
            .
            I’m White, live in The Ghetto and IMO I’m comfortable….
            .
            Going back to Juvenile Court to – morrow again .
            .
            That’s not ‘ Ghetto Works ‘ it’s just part of what we do .
            .
            In general I feel SJW’s and smug Yuppie dickheads could use some serious slapping but SWMBO says I’m not to do that anymore .
            .
            -Nate

      • 0 avatar

        “If I hear another comfortable white guy refer to his slapped-together work as ‘ghetto’…”

        The first time I heard the word ghetto used as an adjective was by a black friend of mine, describing why he’d moved out of the neighborhood he’d lived in for years (“It’s become too ghetto”). The term he uses for what I’d call “Mickey Mousing” a job, ends in the word “rigged”, sort of rhymes, and is far more offensively racist than using the word ghetto (which originally referred to the part of Venice in which Jews were forced to live).

        Just wondering, do you ever use the word “gyp” as a synomym for cheating?

        BTW, Jews are of Middle Eastern descent. If Arabs are brown, can Jews be at least beige in your racialist calculus?

      • 0 avatar
        rpn453

        Downplaying? How much more explicitly does he need to say that speed limits are used for the purpose of racial profiling?

      • 0 avatar
        caelaorn

        Did we read the same article? The emphasis of the article was that these sorts of laws are used for profiling (which Jack seems to think is bad).

        Please elaborate where you find racial bias downplayed.

        Second – “youth” is now a dog whistle? Could you please provide a term that does not have racial bias if “young humans” is out?

      • 0 avatar
        Jack Baruth

        And it’s always the guy who didn’t take statistics class who says that racial bias is an actual significant factor in policing.

        • 0 avatar
          jebediahjones

          Seems like it would be tough to statistically measure mental factors applied in policing without at least subjecting officers to an implicit bias test.

    • 0 avatar
      Jeff Zekas

      When my son drove a black BMW he was stopped CONSTANTLY by the cops. Same for my buddy’s wife, who drove a red vette. Cars, as well as people, are profiled.

  • avatar
    PrincipalDan

    Jack speaks truth but I fear that too few listen.

    vox clamantis in deserto

  • avatar
    bunkie

    There’s a notion that I got from the Discordians:

    “Eventually, everything falls into one of two categories: required, or illegal”.

  • avatar
    sco

    Just saw an example of this earlier this week. The entrance ramp to the Bay Bridge leaving SF splits in two, one part for carpool (3-7P M-F, 3 people required) the other for the rest. The whole area is normally a parking lot every afternoon but at 5P on Monday Jan 2 there was just me and a guy in a white SUV, not a sole around on what for many was in fact a (Monday) holiday. White SUV goes up carpool ramp, cop on motorcycle appears out of nowhere and pulls him over, presumably not to wish him a Happy New Year. No other cars around. Why?

  • avatar
    dougjp

    There is another saying, ” there are so many laws that nobody can remember them all, and therefore ignorance of the law is now a valid excuse “

  • avatar
    LS1Fan

    “But when the speed limit is set unreasonably low, then the police can stop anybody they want.”

    This is precisely why the Chicago area tollway speed limits are so low. Who needs probable cause when everyone on the road is violating the speed limit?

    For those not familiar with Chicago- the speed limits are no higher then 55 on any interstate in and around Chicago. Which means the pace of traffic is actually 80, fastlane speed 90 +, and even little old ladies in Hybrids do 65.

    The result : you can’t actually “cruise” an Illinois urban interstate. All these vehicles going different speeds means you either drive slow enough to become a rolling traffic impediment, or you have to zig zag around the clumps of congestion when the lady in the Hybrid blocks the fastlane. Alert eyes and a peppy engine help tremendously.

    • 0 avatar
      arach

      Anyone own a tesla around Chicago? If autopilot max speed is 5 over the speed limit, they are cruising at 60?

    • 0 avatar
      Chi-One

      @LS1Fan

      I’m not sure what you mean….
      294 is now 60 from I55 to Lake-Cook. North of Lake-Cook is 65. Yes, left lane is 85+ and it’s mostly us every day regulars who get in the left lane and stay there. The other tollways are 55 within Cook Co. except 355 which remains 55 thru DuPage and Will.

    • 0 avatar
      thunderjet

      Tell me about it. If you’re doing 55 mph on any clear highway around Chicago you’ll get blown into the weeds….

      I can’t think of the last time, outside of a traffic jam, I’ve gone as slow as 55 mph on I294, I355, or I55.

      • 0 avatar
        sgeffe

        Driving on I-80 from the west (I-39) back in September at 9pm on a Sunday night, prevailing traffic speed was around 80mph despite 55mph posted, IIRC. Punctuated by two pairs of crotch-rocketeers firing-by at what had to be a buck-thirty+, and a GTI running at a buck-ten, at least!

        No left-lane bandits there!

  • avatar
    VoGo

    Thanks, Jack, this is well written.

    There’s a stop sign about half a mile from my house. Normal, except that it is placed ~25 feet in front of the intersection. So I have a choice: follow the law and stop at the stop sign, or stop at the intersection like everyone else.

    If I stop at the stop sign, I risk getting rear-ended – this has happened once already. If I stop at the intersection, there are decent odds the local cop will be sitting across the street ready to pull me over.

    Now, as I look white, I suppose I’m safe. But as Jack points out, why should I get special treatment while those guilty of DWB (Driving While Brazilian) spend a night in jail?

    • 0 avatar
      Middle-Aged Miata Man

      This was a major bone of contention between my driving instructor and me 25 years ago.

      “Stop LEVEL with the stop sign!”

      “Er, sorry, I forgot my toolbox at home. I also think the street is crowned, so we’d be leaning anyway. Besides, shouldn’t I stop where I can actually see approaching traffic?”

      “Stop at the sign, then cautiously proceed forward.”

      “Yeah, OK, whatever you say, just so I can pass your ridiculous course.”

      • 0 avatar
        john66ny

        I don’t know where you live so I can’t say for sure about your situation, but up here in the Great White North (Ontario, Canada) the law is very clear that the legal stopping position has nothing to do with the position of the stop sign. In fact, 30 years ago when I was working as a driving instructor I frequently had the opposite problem, trying to convince my students to stop:

        a) at the white line, if present, otherwise
        b) at the marked pedestrian crossover, if present, otherwise
        c) at the edge of the intersection

    • 0 avatar
      Lou_BC

      “Driving While Brazilian”

      Wow.

      Emboldened moral majority now picking on absent pubes!

  • avatar
    soberD

    If you are doing 55 on any of the expressways/tollways in Chicagoland you are putting your own life and many others’ lives at risk.

    • 0 avatar
      -Nate

      Folks who use the I-405 freeway through West Los Angeles dream about 55 MPH as they’re sitting still……
      .
      -Nate

    • 0 avatar
      tonycd

      Another device being used throughout the Chicago area is the phony 45 mph “work zone” speed limit. You see orange signs but usually no actual construction in progress. The signs declare the minimum fine is $375. Traffic flow dictates you’d better be going at least 60-65 and sometimes more if you don’t want to get run over. Crash or major violation – pick your poison.

      When I raise the Baruthian point to my fellow citizens, I find half of them have swallowed the party line that “safety” outranks all other considerations. One actually got visibly angry with me for calmly pressing the point.

      Excellent column, Jack.

      • 0 avatar

        Maryland law allows for speed cameras in work zones. There’s some never-ending construction on the route I go home from from work, and there is usually an Explorer with a camera on it posted behind the porta-potty there every night – even though the construction workers have usually gone home long before that time of night.

        It’s basically a tax on people who don’t drive that route daily, because it’s always in the same spot, so once you’ve seen it once you know to slow down. They also normally just send warning tickets the first month it’s in operation.

  • avatar
    arach

    Ohio is brutal with Highway patrol. I know some people in other cities rarely see them, I see at least 1 every 10 minutes. If my commute is 30 minutes, I expect to see 3.

    But where is this 45 MPH speed limit? I’ve lived here forever and it goes from 70 to 65 to 55, but I’m not sure where 45 is.

    Honest curiousity. I wonder if I’m blowing through 20 over when I mean to be going only 10 over.

    • 0 avatar
      FerrariLaFerrariFace

      I also frequent that area and would like to know. I grew up around there, too, and don’t remember ever seeing a 45mph zone. I have, however, been busted for speeding on 71 somewhere around Ridge Road within the last few years. From the description, it sounds like that may be close to where we’re talking about, but I wasn’t cited for any unusually egregious speed violation.

      Not that the existence or nonexistence of the alleged 45mph zone takes away from Jack’s argument in any way. There are any number of other examples of blatant municipal cash-grabs out there.

      • 0 avatar
        Coopdeville

        I75 was 45 for a while but that was because of the Worst Construction That Ever Was. I too have never seen the 45 zone on 71. Is it in the tunnel? I haven’t been through that in like 15 years.

        Where’s Corey when we need him?

  • avatar
    JimC2

    “Never give an order you know won’t be obeyed.”

    Attributed to various sources.

  • avatar
    FreedMike

    “Silverglate argues that the law has become so complex, particularly as regards technology and chain-of-custody issues, that it is almost impossible to get through your day without committing a felony of some type.”

    Excellent news for my ex-wife…apparently we’re all as felonious as she is!

  • avatar

    Connecticut I 84 west of Hartford. In Hartford and the curves in West Hartford 55 is reasonable but the limit stays all the way to Southington for no apparent reason including what may be the straightest and flattest section of 84 in all of CT as it passes thru Farmington. Never understood that one.

    • 0 avatar
      VoGo

      I wondered about this stretch as well. It’s also the area with 3 lanes of traffic in each direction, before it goes down to 2 lanes (heading SW).

    • 0 avatar
      kefkafloyd

      I know the section you’re talking about (Exit 36 to 38). It’s not a very long section (about two and a half miles), but the straightaway essentially ends between two large directional Y interchanges at both ends (and the stack!). Past Exit 39 it starts turning into the curvy expressway into Hartford proper. Raising the limit there doesn’t make much sense when it’s going to be lowered right away anyway.

      Also, left exits/ramps, and lots of them.

      But I agree that after Exit 33, it should be 65 after the merges. The geometry is much better.

    • 0 avatar
      01 Deville

      CT is crazy. I have never felt a higher chance of mortality than my daily commute from Hamden to Trumbull on Pkwy. The speed limit is 55 for a reason, but the traffic fluctuates from 5-90.

      • 0 avatar

        The parkway is entertaining. I was down in NJ coming home a couple years ago, and was stuck in traffic on the parkway, all the sudden it breaks up and I find myself following a older gentleman in a DTS doing 90 almost all the way to 91. Traffic patterns in central CT are much more normal the shoreline (95 parkway etc) has serious issues.

      • 0 avatar
        kefkafloyd

        The Merritt parkway is a great historical curiosity whose usefulness has been outlived. Yes, it’s a very attractive drive, but it has ridiculous safety problems that local preservation people thwart at every opportunity. I’ve found that the five-ten minutes I would save taking it versus 84-684 is not worth it versus the vehicular jousting it can require.

        However, you should drive on Route 1 in Massachusetts from Revere to Danvers. That road is possibly the only road more deadly than the Merritt.

  • avatar
    andrethx

    why do voters in these areas put up with this? i have my own theories about this and i’m sure many others here do as well, but the fact remains that if voters in northern virginia, ohio, etc. *really* felt strongly about this, they’d contact their legislators and/or vote them out when they pass laws like this or allow laws to be enforced in this way.

    we get the government we deserve.

    • 0 avatar
      bullnuke

      Un-elected highway department bureaucrats set/make changes to speed limits to assist in the collection of revenue that ensures continuity in filling the rice bowls of un-elected bureaucrats and other “civil servants”. In my area of Ohio these un-elected bureaucrats have familial ties across the entire spectrum from lawyer/judge/commissioner/mayor/law enforcement officer/name that tune. And, if one contests the issue with an attorney from outside the area, expect to be found guilty regardless of the facts with fines and punishments at the maximum allowed. Cui bono? All of us, boy.

      • 0 avatar
        JustPassinThru

        There USED to be a legal concept called, variously, a “conflict of interest” or a “vested interest.” Meaning of course that the court in which the case was being heard in, had an interest in seeing the resolution one way. Not an impartial hearing.

        Of course, such bourgeois concepts have gone the way of the Second Amendment – you, prole, have the rights we choose to give you when we give them to you, and ONLY when we extend them to you.

      • 0 avatar
        dal20402

        So who appoints those “un-elected bureaucrats?”

        It’s either an elected official or a legislative body made up of elected officials.

        Voters aren’t responsible the first time an official acts corruptly. But when the official’s corruption is exposed and the voters don’t demand change, then the voters become responsible.

    • 0 avatar
      Whittaker

      “why do voters in these areas put up with this?”

      I can’t speak for Cincy but I know for a fact that two small northern Ohio cities tend to give warnings to locals and tickets to everyone else, because ‘everyone else’ can’t vote the locals out of office.
      The locals seem to be fine with the arrangement as it bolsters the city budgets while their pockets and driving records are unaffected.
      And obeying the speed limit won’t make you immune, as I found out when I didn’t make a complete and full stop before turning right on red.
      “I thought I did” I told the officer.
      “You came close, but your wheels were still moving just a little” he replied.

    • 0 avatar
      kefkafloyd

      It depends on the jurisdiction you’re in.

      In Massachusetts, speed limits are supposed to be set to the 85th percentile, but it doesn’t happen. On interstates and freeways there are specific laws for 65MPH and up (and the road has to be added to it by law). If a speed limit is set artificially low, it can be challenged in court. The judge can order the legislature or the town to fix the speed limit.

      Why this hasn’t happened on US 3 north of Burlington (55MPH on a road designed for 70MPH) is anyone’s guess.

    • 0 avatar
      Detroit-Iron

      I don’t think there is a voter outside of Westwood who would be in favor of DMCA, yet here we are.

  • avatar
    DevilsRotary86

    “The 45 mph limit on Cincinnati freeways is, to put it plainly, an utter joke.”

    Last week I flew in to Chicago for my Uncle’s funeral. I saw a 45mph speed limit somewhere on I-90. I said the exact same thing. I don’t know if they really meant 45mph on the interstate, or if it was really for the service road and the sign was badly placed. It still seemed very strange. Especially coming from Dallas where I-635 express and George Bush Turnpike are now up to 75mph. And many highways are 70mph.

  • avatar

    There’s a 50 MPH limit on the palisades parkway. I went down to that speed to see what it would feel like, I couldn’t believe ever being able to stay at that speed and not be instantly killed by a grandma in her minivan.

  • avatar
    dukeisduke

    “Reckless operation” – you mean like reckless driving? Here in Texas, I’ve had cop friends tell me that when people get pulled over for more than 20 over, they can be charged with reckless driving (officer’s discretion).

    • 0 avatar
      Jack Baruth

      Each state is different, and each state treats it differently.

      In Virginia, you’ll go to jail, no ifs ands or buts.

      • 0 avatar
        carrya1911

        And even beyond that, any speed over 80 MPH is defined by statute as “reckless”.

        This in a state where most interstates have a limit of 70 MPH, and in many areas driving 70 will get you killed.

        What usually happens is the officer that pulls you over writes you for under 80 MPH, doing you a “favor.” Unless they think you are being an asshole, in which case they can write you for the full whack and haul you off in handcuffs. Where you can conceivably be locked up in a cell with people who have committed murder, rape, or sexually abused children for as much as a full weekend.

        Because you went 81 MPH on an interstate highway with a speed limit of 70 MPH. A highway where countless others were doing 81 MPH or more.

        It is beyond ridiculous.

        • 0 avatar
          Lou_BC

          In BC we now have impound laws for 40 kph or 25 mph over posted speed limit. The decided anything over 40 kph is “Excessive speeding”.
          We have, “driving without due care and attention”, “driving without reasonable consideration for others”, and “speeding in a manner that is excessive given the road conditions”.

          They did increase highway and freeway speed limits on “better” stretches of road so that indicates it wasn’t just a cash grab.

      • 0 avatar
        Land Ark

        That’s not necessarily true. I know a bunch of people who’ve been nabbed for reckless who made it through without jail time.
        But of the stories you hear from the folks who do spend the weekend in the clink are enough to dissuade me from taking the chance.

        Pretty sure if you are going 85 in a 70 you won’t actually go to jail, but if you touch 90 you’re likely finished.

  • avatar
    dukeisduke

    If it’s a burnout, or even just squealing tires, that used to be called “exhibition of speed”, another ticketable offense.

  • avatar
    sirwired

    The 55 MPH limit on the Capital Beltway (495) in NoVA (and MD) is pretty reasonable. It’s a relatively-curvy, crowded, accident-prone road packed with aggressive drivers; there is rarely an hour when it is not busy, and not a single day goes by without multiple accidents. (DC is one of the few metro areas with live 24x7x365 traffic reports every ten minutes, and it’s totally needed.)

    I’m not saying that people actually go 55MPH, but they drive at speeds vaguely resembling that of interstates all over the country reasonably rated at the same speed; the limit posted for that road is not a transparent scheme to raise revenue, nor is it senseless. (In practice, you have to drive like COMPLETE maniac to get a ticket on that road, because the cops are sensitive to the inevitable onlooker delays (and additional accidents) this causes.)

    • 0 avatar
      dukeisduke

      For some places, it makes sense. Speed limits should always be based on highway engineering and design, and also speed surveys (like how fast 85 percent of the drivers go). Not just an arbitrary number.

      • 0 avatar
        sarcheer

        That 55 mph speed limit is the same on the 6 lane Dulles Toll Road and the 2 lane Route 7 which passes through almost entirely residential areas with lights every few miles. Those two roads should not have the same speed limits.

        55 is almost laughably low for 495 and the toll road. Recent report on drivers in each state showed Virginia have one of the highest level of speeding tickets issued and one of the lowest accident rates.

    • 0 avatar
      Troggie42

      I’m not at liberty to discuss whether a certain person in a CRX has ever taken the curvy part of 495 between 355 and 97 at over 90mph on one summer night at 1 AM foolishly trying to keep up with a friend’s Elise.

      That said, 55 for that section seems reasonable. HOWEVER, it seems that 99% of this lovely area’s drivers seem to be too terrified, incompetent, or both to drive more than 40mph for that section, which is just far too slow to be going on 495 at any hour. It’s my opinion that if your driving skill is so low that you are little more than a rolling chicane under perfectly normal driving conditions, you should probably take the bus.

  • avatar
    PentastarPride

    I come from the camp that the speed limit is just that. I’m the one in the right lane just as content as can be. Yes, I get passed a whole lot. It’s mind boggling, but then again I’m the one that never received a traffic citation.

    That said, traffic enforcement should be about keeping people safe, not filling quotas to fill the neverending budget shortfalls due to irresponsible spending. The government does not need any more money to waste at their disposal That’s why I obey the speed limit. I don’t like giving my money to any government entity, because they sure as hell don’t deserve it.

  • avatar
    Land Ark

    Jack, you clearly don’t know anything. You can lawfully drive on 495 at 65 mph now. All you have to do is pay in advance. This has the added benefit of allowing one to drive with a physical barrier between oneself and the poors.
    I suppose you can do so for free if you carpool and remember to switch your EZ Pass to that setting. Don’t forget to switch it back though! Big fines for driving unlawfully in HOV.

    The only cops I see on 495 now are parked catching the HOT Lanes violators. It was my understanding a few years ago that at certain times during the day the police weren’t allowed to stop anyone on the Beltway because it was too unsafe to park on the shoulders.

    I occasionally drive on the Beltway for work and since my company name is emblazoned on the side I tend to go as close to the speed limit as is safe to do around other traffic. To get there I take two 55mph limited access roads and of the three (including the Beltway) I don’t feel safe going below about 62 as I’m essentially a moving encumbrance at that point.

  • avatar

    In Virginia you can get reckless op for going 80 in a 70. You can get out of it every time by hiring a local lawyer to plead “faulty instruments” or something. I have said in the past that way of the future is for authorities to adjust the law until everyone is guilty. Then they can persecute the people they don’t like at any time.

    • 0 avatar
      bunkie

      “But dad, I don’t understand how you can be both the judge and the prosecutor?” “Son, that way I can persecute you to the full extent of the law”

      The Firesign Theatre
      Don’t Crush that Dwarf, hand me the Pliers
      https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Don't_Crush_That_Dwarf,_Hand_Me_the_Pliers

      • 0 avatar
        DirtRoads

        I looooved Firesign Theatre! We wasted (literally) many hours, crawling up out of a hole with our big brown eyes, not even knowing what milk was.

        Leftenant Behind of the 1st 7th Cavalry: “Nice teepee, Indian.”
        “Thanks”
        “Can ya move it?”
        “Why?”
        “Train comin’ through, RIGHT NOW!” (sound of train whistle and train on tracks)

        *sigh* the goodle days…

  • avatar
    geozinger

    Take a drive in I-71 in Brooklyn, Ohio sometime. World famous speed trap set up there.

    We had the opposite problem (of sorts) here. In Grand Rapids, they raised the speed limit through the city to 70 MPH, previously it had been 55 MPH. The freeway running through GR is an old one, constructed in the 1950’s, short on- and off-ramps and precious little breakdown lane or runoff space. As I used to work downtown, I thought that the 55 MPH speed limit was a good idea due to all of the oddball ramps and general congestion, not to mention our frequent lake-effect storms in the winter time.

    Granted, the vast majority of people entering the downtown area from the outer reaches were traveling 65 or 70, but by the time you reached the downtown area, it didn’t take long for the congestion to build up and speeds lowered, even below 55 MPH. Now folks try to hammer through the mess at 70, at least if they can see the faintest path to do so.

    I’m afraid we will become Detroit West, in terms of driving style…

    • 0 avatar
      JustPassinThru

      I thought it was Linndale which was the Speed Trap From Hell.

      Unless they’ve re-drawn municipal boundaries since I left…Linndale had 200 feet of I-71 on one lane and about 1500 feet on the other lane, and they’d write tickets 24/7.

      Even after one of their cops got cold-cocked on a Saturday night…he stopped a pickup truck with an open tailgate, and ordered the driver out with the PA loudspeaker. The driver played dumb, and the cop got out, finger wagging, and ordered the driver to lift the gate so the cop could record the license plate.

      Instead, the driver quickly snatched a length of pipe and brained Officer Fife. Those being the days before dash-cams, it was a clean getaway.

      • 0 avatar

        Incredibly, the Linndale operation was shut down a couple years ago. I would have not thought it possible.

        • 0 avatar
          Nick 2012

          If only Linndale was shut down. They’re going strong, just not on I-71. They’ve got traffic cameras now.

          “It’s true that the ticket mill on I-71 does a fraction of the business it once did. But two mobile cameras stationed along Memphis Avenue are busier than any ticket-happy officer ever could be.

          And those cameras are the picture of profit for Linndale because camera tickets are treated differently under the law than tickets you get when a cop pulls you over. Camera tickets are civil infractions, not criminal ones, and therefore don’t have to go through the courts. Instead of court costs going to Parma Municipal Court, fines – which most motorist just fork over when the pictures show them clearly speeding – go directly to Linndale.”

          cleveland.com/tipoff/index.ssf/2015/03/linndale_still_nabbing_speeder.html

      • 0 avatar
        geozinger

        Linndale! Not Brooklyn. Ugh. The longer I stay away, the more I confuse things…

  • avatar
    JustPassinThru

    We are a culture which has dispensed with honesty and integrity in favor of legalism, sophistry, justification and pleasing narratives.

    And government officials are part of that culture; as are bureaucrats and police officers.

    In a society bankrupt of morality, do not be surprised at games of Gotcha, played out at gunpoint. The answer is not to disarm cops; not to abolish laws; not to retailiate. The answer is to explore how we got there and work a strategy how to get back out.

    It can be as basic as proper moral training for your children, or as elaborate as dismissing your city’s police management and redrawing municipal lines or having another jurisdiction, such as the County Sheriff or the State Police/Highway Patrol, control traffic laws on limited-access highways.

  • avatar
    5280thinair

    Near Denver International Airport, a suburb called Commerce City cut a deal with a company operating a toll expressway that passes near the airport. In exchange for a cut of the money coming from the toll road, the city reduced speed limits and installed unnecessary traffic lights on a road (Tower Road) paralleling the expressway. The goal was simply to make travel on the existing surface streets so annoying that people will be willing to pay to take the expressway.

    They ended up getting in some hot water as they violated state laws on how speed limits were determined, and did end up raising the limits somewhat (but not back to the original levels). The additional stop lights, however, are there to this day.

  • avatar
    orenwolf

    I’ve often talked about the fact that laws that essentially turn otherwise law-abiding citizens into criminals en masse should be a wake-up call to politicians. Is a law just if the majority of your constituents violate it?

    In Toronto, the highway speed limit is 100km/h (~62mph). In reality, *everyone* does 120km/h (~74mph), traffic congestion permitting. Outside Toronto proper, parts of the 401 are usually traversed at 130km/h. Because of this, some 80%+ of commuting drivers are breaking the law, each and every day. It’s not these drivers that get into accidents or otherwise disrupt traffic flow, so what possible reason is there not to just set the speed limit at 120? It’s not like everyone will suddenly drive 140.

    There are instances where banning harmful behaviour *is* just even if the majority does it – if everyone texts while driving, that certainly doesn’t mean it should be legal. But I don’t for a second adopt the belief that an otherwise safe action that doesn’t adversely affect others and is otherwise practised by many, and otherwise ruled illegal is just.

    • 0 avatar
      jjster6

      Let me quote the Ontario Police Police on this, “SPEED KILLS.” Not true, but it’s less than 140 characters. Donald Trump is building a political legacy on being a simpleton. He’s not the only one.

      • 0 avatar
        mtmmo

        “He’s not the only one.” Reading your posts I agree.

        • 0 avatar
          Lou_BC

          K.I.S.S.
          People don’t tend to recall more than 3 points at a time in a presentation.

          You must also communicate to the level of the lowest common denominator.

          Calling any group a “basket of deplorables” isn’t going to put you in a position to “Make America Great Again”.

  • avatar
    jjster6

    When I grow up, myself and 5 like minded friends are going to go to Toronto, and drive in a line at 100 KM per hour on the 401 at rush hour (a speed that no one EVER drives on the 401). The resulting traffic snarl should make someone realize the 100 KM per hour limit is STUPID!!! I think this did work in the Detroit area where a bunch of people drove at 55 on the local freeways. The traffic jams it caused made the speed limits change.

    I would suggest someone try this in Ohio. Your legislators might be just as thick headed as the ones in Ontario, but after obeying the law causes a few deaths they might smarten up. Or try to throw you in jail for obeying the law.

  • avatar
    slavuta

    In this sense I love PA. Speed limit on turnpike went up to 70 and forget about wearing helmet on the bike – I mean, wear it if you want to.

    • 0 avatar
      Jack Baruth

      Yeah but I-70 in PA has been under permanent 45mph construction since…. 1995? Earlier?

      • 0 avatar
        FreedMike

        All I remember about driving in PA is the Schyulkill in Philly…what a s**t show that was.

      • 0 avatar
        mtmmo

        I can remember the I-70 construction taking place outside of Pittsburgh back to 1992! Ironically a few weeks back I got pegged doing 89 on I-70. Trooper cut me a break by assessing a non-speeding violation which carried no points. He said I helped my own cause by doing it “just outside one of the construction zones”. Trooper had a new Explorer and was sporting a large Penn State football tattoo on his forearm. I chatted him up a little said he loves the Explorer because it’s really comfortable. Turns out he played offensive tackle back in the 90’s. He was definitely one of the bigger cops I’ve ever come across and was kind enough to help me avoid 6 points. Likely due to my Acura TLX V6 privilege.

    • 0 avatar
      Detroit-Iron

      I too, long for the sweet release of death.

  • avatar
    dal20402

    Speed limits should follow roadway design.

    A corollary of that: if a jurisdiction wants to lower speed limits for safety (rather than revenue) reasons, it won’t work to just slap up signs. The road has to be redesigned. Narrower lanes, sharper corners, raised crosswalks, etc.

  • avatar
    APaGttH

    And when I ask cui bono when it comes to self-driving cars, I see multiple public sector and private sector entities that would be crushed in a self-driving car world. No accidents (well far less). No traffic violations, and if there was who do you fine? Certainly not the occupants, their robot overlord broke the law. Government is going to send tickets to the automakers? Laughable. How about the insurance companies, body shops, parts makers, paint suppliers, and then all the infrastructure that support them, and all the tools, equipment providers, and training/instruction.

    Cui bono on self-driving cars?

    Not government – the gravy train of the tax on the stupid goes away. The “probable cause” stop because they didn’t use a turn signal or the lane change was unsafe, or they braked a touch hard? Can’t do that – robot overlord was in charge.

    Not business – well beyond the business of selling self-driving cars. You can’t convince me that the insurance industry is going, “yippie! No more accidents! No more fear of liability! No more, oh crap, how do we charge higher premiums on 18 year old drivers when said 18 year old driver is being taken for a ride and doesn’t actually drive???

    We all know the reason the speed limit goes from 65 to 45. It is a revenue enhancement zone. We get it — and self-driving cars would kill these kinds of revenue enhancements.

    Self-driving cars in 5 years? 10 years? 20 years? Some surely – but they won’t take over the roads — that is laughable.

    • 0 avatar

      They can get back the lost revenue from increasing taxes on registration or gas or installing EZ-pass style auto-tolls every couple blocks.

      • 0 avatar
        VoGo

        AVs done right eliminate the need for policing the roads. Which means fewer state troopers and cops can get back to real police work – preventing serious crimes.

        • 0 avatar
          APaGttH

          Preventing serious crime doesn’t enhance revenue. If you’ve ever spent any time in a courtroom, over 80% of criminal cases end in plea deals, and probation, court costs and fines are typically the result. Those results make money.

          It isn’t about justice or public safety, it is all about the Benjamins.

    • 0 avatar
      JustPassinThru

      Self-driving cars. Another Utopian fantasy…an answer in search of a question.

      The accidents that have happened so far are not freaks. They are a foreshadow of what’s coming.

      Aircraft, and even railway locomotives, have FAR fewer parameters and situational judgments. And even there, autopilots are limited and unmanned trains are experimental.

      Self-driving cars? The trail to this dead-end folly is going to be smeared with congealing blood. EVERY SECOND, is filled with non-binary, value-based, ambiguous choices. A computer cannot do it. Run down a dog, instead of a child? How is a computer program going to make that choice?

      Who benefits? The tech geeks are trying to preserve their temporary lofty status, but this won’t do it. This will be a complete disaster, with victims in the thousands…until and unless it’s stopped.

      • 0 avatar
        Drzhivago138

        What solution do you propose?

        • 0 avatar
          JustPassinThru

          I covered that elsewhere. The problem is in a corrupt structure that has a vested interest in collecting fines. Separate the court from the fine revenue, and the whole arrangement will become more balanced.

          Trying to craft artificial intelligence to drive cars, when far-more competent humans are IN those cars as passengers…to get around the corrupt enforcement of traffic laws…is beyond asinine, to the tenth power.

  • avatar
    Troggie42

    This reminds me of the little towns along Route 13 in Delaware. Rt13 is 55mph for most of the stretch, but it drops to 35mph for every single little town, regardless of whether they have crossroads (although most do). What do you think is hanging out just beyond those speed limit signs every day from memorial day to labor day? Yup, Local Law Enforcement. For example, check out this admittedly old article mentioning that Greenwood, DE’s police department gets 82% of its budget from tickets: https://www.thenewspaper.com/news/02/257.asp How is that acceptable? One of the guys I worked with when I was out in Dover mentioned that the town he lived in, Felton, got over five million dollars a year in ticket revenue. Awful lot of ticket revenue for a town of less than 1500 people, right? Good thing one of the residents had something to say about it a while back: http://www.wboc.com/story/9765775/speed-trap-warning-sign-to-stay-in-felton

    I also remember reading a great while ago about Automobile Magazine doing an article on which states were most friendly and least friendly to drivers. It was actually a really good article IMO. Anyway, Delaware was shown to have more police per highway mile than any other state. I can’t remember the exact number, but what I DO remember is that they were the leaders by a HUGE margin, at least three times as many as the #2 state for most police per mil IIRC. If someone has the Jan 2010 Automobile Mag floating around, apparently that’s where it was: http://www.automobilemag.com/news/rate-the-states-total-driver-misery-index/

    If there’s one thing I learned from living in DE, it’s that speed limits and their enforcement is 100% bullshit.

    • 0 avatar
      Detroit-Iron

      Back in the 60s my parents were driving through DE from Ft. Benning to NY in the middle of the night. The cop took them and two other people right to the “judge’s” house so they could pay the fine on the spot.

  • avatar
    nickoo

    In Saint Louis, the beltway had variable rate speed limit signs. I think variable rate speed limits are the best thing going, assuming that people actually follow them, the problem is too many people don’t respect the speed limits as they are in fact artificially set too low causing a lot of danger, when traffic is flowing different rates, that causes a lot of congestion instead of flowing one steady rate.

    I’ve studied traffic engineering as part of my engineering master’s degree, the biggest advantage of variable rate speed limits is slowing the traffic down during high congestion, which eliminates the stop and go effect, which vastly improves gridlock situations by keeping traffic flowing steady, stop and go ripples backwards and is the cause of most traffic jams, the other thing that helps a lot is “through lanes” where the cars can’t get on or off the highway as it helps eliminate lane changes, which are another major source of ripple effect traffic jams.

    Also, Cleveland goes down to 25 on I-80. Don’t forget about Cleveland…

  • avatar
    jim brewer

    Well, the rest of the story, as Paul Harvey would say….

    A few years ago they caught a guy in a rural state in a major drug conspiracy using wiretaps. His job was to be a “rabbit”. A guy who would burn up the interstate late at night running a few miles in front of the drug car. The idea was his high speed would draw out the cops who would be preoccupied ticketing him while the drug car cruised past.

    He never got ticketed, ever.

  • avatar
    ihatetrees

    So, almost everyone drives with a networked mobile computer and GPS device. Why don’t Google / Apple and/or the major cellular carriers provide “real-time” average vehicle speeds for most major roadways?

    Is there ZERO market for this information (that would make a joke of our speed ‘limits’ and laws)?

    Why doesn’t Waze have this info option? Could a creative law firm find it useful for profiling cases (or getting them some sort of Class Action status)?

    OR, what three letter agency is preventing the use of this info??? /FoilHat.

  • avatar
    AoLetsGo

    Cui bono is Latin for Cinncinati Blows – easily the worst part of I-75 from the Soo to Naples and all Ohio freeways for that matter.

    “just take a drive on a Detroit-area freeway some time if you want to get a sense of what life would be like in a world where the vast majority of motorists feel entirely free to do whatever the fuck they want” Oh come on, I have driven in every major city in all states except Maine and can report that while there are fast drivers in metro Detroit they are not crazy as fuck, with the usual wild hair exceptions of course.

    • 0 avatar
      sgeffe

      I-696 in Detroit moves along well: you’re getting run over if you’re not doing 80, especially west of I-75 into the northwest suburbs.

      Mostly, the traffic is orderly regarding lane-discipline; only south of the city on I-75 do left-lane bandits appear. Haven’t been “up north” in years, but I understand that 75-80 is the prevailing speed on I-75 north of the “D.”

  • avatar
    zeitgeist888

    Jack, Maybe you can do a follow up article on how much money the agency that issues the citation actually gets. In neighboring Michigan there was a breakdown shown in a news article that indicated the police were getting around 10% of the ticket money and the courts and state were getting the rest. Doesn’t sound like too profit beneficial for the issuing agency. In your cited example the state is the issuing agency but a breakdown would be nice for highways vs county or surface streets.

    I do take exception to the profiling issue as it relates to speed limits. There are way too many laws but at least speeding is posted and can be followed particularly if it is a known low speed zone on a regular commute. The 1000+ other laws that are on the books are another issue. I bet many mildly modified vehicles are illegal for bumper or headlight height regs. Throw in tinted glass laws and the idiots who go limo dark on front windows or God forbid tinted windshields and you have plenty of easy picking to be stopped (Profiled or not) anywhere not just a low speed area. Ever check your license plate lights to make sure they are working? That is a violation. And the list goes on and on. I am a big supporter of the NMA for most things ( NOT their DUI thoughts) and regularly write to law makers on bad laws. Getting things changed like a excessively low speed limit is not that hard compared to getting the vast amount of laws on other issues.

  • avatar
    Daniel J

    Going through Atlanta on I-75, the speed limit is 55 in the city but most go at least 75 or 80. I-285 for a long time was needless slow at 55mph. I think it was raised to 65 in some places not too long again.

    I got a ticket here in North Alabama where SR255 needlessly goes from 65mph to 45mph in about 100 feet. The officer could have given me wreckless driving, but he chose not to, as that 4 other cars were doing the same speed or faster. I got pulled over just by chance.

  • avatar
    210delray

    So Jack, what is your solution to the Cincinnati speed limit drop (it seems many here have questioned that there even is a 45 mph limit currently on I-71)? If the limit dropped from 65 to 55, would people obey it? How about 65 to 60? Or keeping at 65 mph, which if the road hasn’t been significantly improved since the 90s, wouldn’t be a safe speed in the downtown area near the river, at least in my recollection.

    To all of you, especially in western US states with 80 and 85 mph limits (which I haven’t personally experienced), are ANY speed limits remotely obeyed today? This wasn’t the case pre-1973, when most states had 65-75 mph limits on rural freeways — it was rare that someone passed you at 90+ mph.

    Remember also that “reasonable and proper” as a limit was reinstated on rural freeways in Montana just after the national 65/55 mph limits were dropped, and it was a failure in the sense that enforcement was left strictly up to the discretion of the cops.

  • avatar
    scuzimi

    http://www.phoenix.edu/courses/eng130.html

  • avatar
    Jeff Zekas

    This reminds me of back when Reagan was governor. CHP stopped his limo for speeding. “I’m the governor!”. Ticket issued. Later, the officer was reprimanded and the ticket dismissed. Qui bono? Always the One Percent benefits. The working class are the chumps. And the poor ride buses.

  • avatar
    WildcatMatt

    I have the same two thoughts every time this comes up:

    1. The fact that in many cases a speed limit is set artificially and/or arbitrarily low in term masks the places where a lower limit is actually justified. If the speed limit dropped when it was necessary, it would do a lot to actually highlight suboptimal stretches of highway.

    2. In general, this kind of thing corrodes faith in our institutions and the Rule of Law. If you think speed limits are BS, it’s way easier to self-justify many other behaviors, especially of the abstract kind (eg Napster, Bittorrent, ringing up all your bell peppers as green at the self-checkout at the grocery store…)

    • 0 avatar
      JimC2

      “In general, this kind of thing corrodes faith in our institutions and the Rule of Law.”

      Yep. I’d have a lot more faith if I even once saw a cop pull out of a radar trap to give just a verbal warning to:
      – Someone driving at night with no lights (or their DRL only)
      – Someone driving in traffic with their high beams on
      – Someone driving slow in the left lane

      etc.

      Once! I just want to see this happen once!

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