The Law Won

I’m sitting outside a café listening to a woman tell–for the second time–the story about how a friend of hers was ticketed for speeding in Boston.

“The speed limit is 40 and she was only doing 50-55; there’s a big difference between 40 and 55 and 40 and 70.”

I want to tell her she’s wrong–that the 15 MPH difference is huge, that it significantly reduces the time that a driver has to react. Hell, that it’s clearly speeding per se.

But I don’t.

Should I have?

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2 Responses to The Law Won

  1. Jesse Shapiro says:

    I think that one of the issues at hand here is the (perception of) erosion of the rule of law. Because, along with a variety of other laws, speed limits are enforced selectively, they’re seen as a way for a police officer to wield his discretion in punishing those he thinks should be punished, rather than those who the law says should be punished. If everyone going over the speed limit were pulled over, there wouldn’t be a conversation like this.

    But they’re not, and so speed limits aren’t seen as absolute- they’re seen as part of a set of guidelines. “If I go more than 20 over the limit, I might get pulled over, but not as long as I’m in traffic with a bunch of other people going the same speed.” And, what’s more, moderate speeding is seen as socially acceptable, meaning that a problem emerges in which society’s values no longer match up with the law.

    Of course, if her friend HAD been going over 70 in a 40 zone, then not only would there have been a big difference of fact, there would have been a big difference in law as well- that speeding ticket would have migrated to a criminal reckless driving charge.

    As for you and what you should have (or shouldn’t have) done? Remember Wheaton’s Law.

    • Precisely. DBAD.

      But there is a significant difference between 40 and 55. Granted, 70 is worse. But the fact that my poking someone’s eye out is worse than giving them a bloody nose doesn’t justify punching people in the nose.

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