As a card-caring member of the American Civil Liberties Union (when I am up-to-date with my annual fee), I greatly enjoy freedom of expression and the ability to do what I please as long as I am not injuring another. For instance, when laws were enacted requiring the wearing of seat belts in automobiles, I was rather indignant over what I consider to be another foray invading my privacy rights. I felt that I should be able to drive my vehicle however I wanted, say for disobeying traffic laws—especially those designed for drivers’ protection. I did not see seat belts as necessary for my safety.
The first Sunday in December, while running late for church, I elected to exceed the speed limit in order to make up time. Bad decision! The fog was thick, so I was very focused on what lay ahead, so-much-so that I did not see the county sheriff’s vehicle. Actually, I am not sure whether or not some satellite or radar had tapped into my speed and sent an automatic flagged report to the sheriff’s office. Regardless of how the vehicle’s top lights appeared in my rearview mirror, I received a reduced ticket for traveling thirty miles above the speed limit of fifty-five m.p.h. I didn’t expect to be ticketed and was very chagrinned when the sheriff handed it to me; however, I realize that he would have been justified in taking my license right then and there.
Three weeks later, now oblivious to the $262.50 I had paid to the county, I was startled and frightened to find a letter from the Department of Transportation (DOT) intending to suspend my driver’s license for three months and to fine me another $200! That same day I sat down and wrote for mercy and the rescission of the suspension. Oh, it was a marvelous letter! Within three days, I received a reply stating that my appeal was approved and the withdrawal of my license had been rescinded. Before I could finish exhaling a grateful and bounteous sigh of relief, I read further only to discover I was nevertheless consigned to pay for and enroll in Driving Improvement class! Apparently, my appeal did not rise to the level of a full waver and forgiveness.
From receipt of the menacing DOT missive to the instructional class a few months later, I followed the speed limit religiously. I hated my self-induced retardation and barely had nervous breakdowns while driving in 25 mph zones. But what discomfited me the most is the number of times I observed drivers speeding by me ostensibly without a care in the world. Some were even rude to me, both in word and in deed. I could scarcely contain my anger, yet managed to stick to my radically new lifestyle behind the wheel. When I complained to my instructor that I was ticking time bomb, he quietly informed me that those speeders are what I used to be and that they were breaking the law. In addition, he enlightened me with the fact that even though it seemed like everyone else was speeding, speeders actually are greatly in the minority.
Here’s the crux of the matter. While driving two miles below the speed limit in the slow lane on the interstate, most everyone behind me moved around me. In the process of driving within the legal range, I was endlessly honked at, derided with lewd gestures, and nearly run off the road. Hardly anyone respected the legally fastest one could go. As a matter of fact, speed limits are viewed by many, possibly most, as the slowest rate; they are ignored, I contend, across the board. I know of a man who used to get ticketed for going merely three miles above the posted speed limit and sometimes while going under it. He, mainly Martin Luther King, Jr., oft criticized us humans for “maximizing the minimum and minimizing the maximum.” As someone else asserted, “The more things change, the more things stay the same.”