The Open Road
I left the toll booth ready for the long drive back home. Vallejo was a bit congested but the traffic lightened as I crossed the hills before Fairfield. I stayed with the traffic flow coming down the hill and I saw him sitting on the side of the freeway. He wasn’t even hidding like they usually do. This Officer was confident that he would catch speeders when they came over the hill before they had a chance to react to seeing him. As I moved past he pulled out and I knew just how the impala feels seeing a cheetah bounding towards him on the savana. I was a gonner.
By this time I was in the middle lane hoping to be inconspicuous as he pulled his cruiser behind me and turned on the lights. He had me. I pulled over to the shoulder and waited.
So what is speeding?
There was no question that I was speeding. Everybody speeds in California because the speed limit is inexplicably low. The question in my mind was why me. Out of all the cars speeding along I-80, how does the officer decide to target me and why is there a speed limit on a freeway anyway?
It’s been a few years since my last speeding ticket so maybe it is just my turn. Still, I have to wonder just what social benefit comes from enforcing speed limits on the Interstate Highway System. We are supposed to be grateful because the 55 mile per hour maximum was lifted a few years ago. When they established that 55 mph limit way back in the 70’s the politicians showed their hand. The 55 mph limit had nothing to do with safety. It was imposed to save gas during the oil embargo and also just to show us citizens who was in charge. We were beginning the age of the nanny state. From that time forward, it was impossible to believe that highway speed limits had any connection to safety. It was only social engineering keeping us from getting too uppity. It had the additional benefit of bumping up the government revenue. It took speed trap enforcement out of backwoods, redneck America and made it a part of mainstream life for all Americans. It was the beginning of Cash Cow Cops.
Confuse and Obfuscate
California raised the speed limit to 70 mph recently but unless you read the fine print, you might assume that the limit is 70 on all freeways. You would be wrong because only selected freeways have the higher speed limit. Which are they and how do you know? You have to read the signs. Just another way for the government to confuse and obfuscate and pick our pockets at the same time.
Still, California’s program to confuse and mislead drivers won’t get me off the hook. I know that I was going more than 70. But I did not know that I-80 still had a speed limit of 65. Would I have cared? Probably not but if the speed limit was 70 would the officer have chased me down? It might not have been worth his while. I can’t say.
What I do know is that I can’t stop being cynical about speed limits and the good intentions of the politicians who we elect to pass speed limit laws. I know that the government’s lowest prioritiy is my safety because the interstate system and my car are built to handle speeds much higher than 65 or even 70. I think that it’s all about control- making sure that I and my fellow drivers appreciate that all good things in life are because of the government and expecially making sure that the Cash Cow Cops, aka Highway Patrol keep the old cash drawer full during these hard time.