Archive » November 2, 2007
FROM THE EDITORS DESK
By Edmond Jacoby, Journal Editor
It ought to go without saying that an appeal for safe driving practices should get a universal nod of approval. After all, nearly everybody thinks the guy who just blew past him on the road is a nutcase.
In fact, glance at the letters to the editor in this issue of the Valley Journal and you’ll see there are several that laud its publisher’s stance on polite operation of motor vehicles. But surprisingly, it’s not a universal view, and if highway behavior is any indication, a lot of folks seem to think that good or bad, motor vehicle laws apply to the other guy, not to them.
One Looney Tunes wrote us to admonish the publisher that, speed limits be damned, any lawless acts that ease frustrations for people running late are surely good for the community as a whole.
“For you to self-righteously play speed sheriff to hold them back,” the writer said of the publisher’s admission that she often refuses to exceed the speed limit, “shows your ignorance.” His -- or her -- argument seemed to be that the right speed for vehicles on Highway 154 is whatever speed the fastest driver wants to go. Never mind that the legislature saw fit to limit vehicle speeds.
A speed limit is just what it claims to be: a limit, a statement of the maximum lawful speed. That brave writer, who declined to sign his name to his polemic, proposes that anytime he or someone else wants to break the law, we all have a duty to break the law with him.
Maybe that’s his safety zone. If everyone is breaking the law when he does it, he’s less likely to be caught. Kind of like the naughty kid in elementary school who’s afraid to slip off campus alone and go to town, so he tries to talk others into joining him. He needs his hand held while he’s rocketing down the asphalt.
(His letter, by the way, could not be published in this newspaper – not because we disagree with his logic, which we most certainly do, but because it was unsigned.)
Like the publisher, I am disinclined to break speed laws just because someone behind me thinks his business is more urgent than the safety of the county’s byways. I attribute to that propensity the fact that I have achieved an advanced age, which many of my high school classmates from the Kennedy years failed to do.
I’ve been around the block a time or two, so not much really surprises me. But I was drop-jawed the other day driving east on Highway 246 past the entrance to Santa Ynez Valley Union High School, where flashing lights clearly announce the existence of a speed-limited school zone: 25 mph.
All of a sudden, the driver behind me pulled to the right, onto the shoulder, and shot past me, accelerating to perhaps 50 mph while still on the shoulder of the road before pulling back into the driving lane. It’s been against the law to pass on the right in California for at least 80 years, and California driver license tests include an elimination question about it: answer wrong and you go home without a license, even if you answered all the other questions right. So what was this lunatic doing?
He was making a clear statement that he and his needs are more important than the law, than his fellow citizens, than the lives of students crossing the road to go to school. In other words, he’s a jerk. And he knows who he is – he’s the guy whose license plate ends in 539.
Laws that restrict our wilder tendencies on the highway aren’t meant to inconvenience people, though they certainly do that. They inconvenience everyone, because they slow us down when we’re in a hurry or make us go the long way around when we want to make a prohibited turn. Sometimes they make us park a long way from our destination.
They do these things for a reason: there are too many vehicles on the road to safely do as we please. We all have to relinquish personal license when we join the crowd, or somebody – one of us – will get hurt. It’s not about how fast we can go, but rather about how to ensure that we arrive where we are going. And if some of us choose not to play nice, they deserve to be shunned by their neighbors, to be held up as models of opprobrium for our youth, and be to ticketed relentlessly by the CHP.
That’ll be 2 cents, please.