Monday, April 18, 2011

There oughta be a law?

This blog entry was triggered by the latest "Ask a Trooper" in the Duluth News Tribune, "Common sense, not law, rules against 'short cuts'", 2011-04-17.

A reader wrote about people who cut through gas stations and parking lots to avoid waiting at controlled intersections.  The reader could not find any law or statute prohibiting it.

Minnesota State Patrol Sgt. Mark Baker, who writes the column, could not find any either.  He wrote that reckless and careless driving laws could apply and that he too found this behavior irritating.

I found his conclusion irritating though: "we all know that this is not the proper way to maneuver vehicles on our roadways and through our cities.  Do we really need a law to tell us this is not proper?"

His question can be taken one step further; do we really need any law to tell us what is not proper?  The answer is that it depends.

My thought is that we have laws for three reasons.

First, laws guide us in getting along with each other.  We have lines painted on roads to guide us.  We have laws to remind us that it is improper to cross solid yellow lines.  Many people can't be bothered by these laws.  Just look at the faded yellow lines on curves that hundreds of drivers have crossed.

Second, laws guide law enforcement people in stopping offenders as a deterrent for others.  Unfortunately, many offenders blame law enforcement rather than themselves.

Third, laws help establishment responsibility in crashes.  The driver who crossed a solid yellow line may bear more responsibility for a crash than someone going five miles per hour over the limit.

Sgt. Baker, the writer, you, and I know that we do not "need a law to tell us this is not proper", but we certainly need laws to be enforced to remind all the drivers who speed, tailgate, text, talk on cell phones, and otherwise engage in other anti-social and unsafe behaviors that their behavior has an effect on the rest of us.