Monday, March 10, 2008

Existing conditions

Last week a Dewitt woman received a traffic ticket because she slid off US 127 in northern Michigan. Two points. One hundred dollars. No one was hurt and damage (she disputes this) was limited to a bent highway marker. The ticketing officer said that, except for that, no ticket would have been issued. "If there's no damage then it's just a car in the ditch."

Lt. Gary Megge of the State Police Traffic Services Section spoke with Lansing State Journal columnist John Schneider and objected to that interpretation. Lt. Megge says that it wouldn't matter if there were damage or not. If you slide off the road, you have ipso facto "failed to adjust to existing conditions," an offense under the traffic code.

I can understand Lt. Megge's point, but where does the line get drawn? You were driving too fast for the existing condition of a pothole that exploded your tire? You were driving too fast for the existing condition of a tornado? Maybe because of it? What if you've failed to adjust to existing conditions but are lucky and don't slide into a ditch? Still guilty? Is claiming you slid into the ditch on purpose a defense?

Seems like a law in need of semantic assistance. Lt. Megge, unfortunately, supplies some:
Too many drivers believe government is obligated to allow them to get from Point A to Point B under any conditions. That's just not the case.
Maybe too many State Police Traffic Services Section public employees believe that what the government "allows" is even at issue. Government, rather, is manifestly not obligated to rescue me from my stupidity should I travel unwisely. If they were, we could sue for failure to protect from sliding into the ditch, or for bodily harm incurred in gun-free zones.

1 comment:

Jack McHugh said...

Driving is a privilege, not a right.

In a pig's eye, it is!

To pursue happiness in a modern industrial civilization like the U.S. - that is, to earn a liveliehood, acquire property, enjoy The Good Life - it is necessary to DRIVE A CAR. In other words, this activity is part of the right to pursue happiness that is recognized by our nation’s founding document, the Declaration of Independence (which despite the conceit of some liberals really is a part of our constitution, and so has force of law).

I think this is just another aspect of the confusion that permeates state and local government in Michigan regarding whether government exists to serve the people, or vice versa. I'm serious. To see what happens when the "vice versa" is taken to the extreme, just look at Detroit.