Are You Inconspicuous?

By John Carr, NMA Massachusetts Activist

           “I wonder if anybody would think I flipped if I went to LA via Omaha.”   — 

             Charlie Daniels Band, “Uneasy Rider”

The cop had been on my tail for 50 miles before I noticed. Sure, my radar detector was blaring, but the road was full of trucks with radar proximity sensors. I had dismissed the white car behind me as uninteresting. I was not paranoid because I was not doing anything wrong. OK, 70 in a 65, but who’s going to pull over anybody for that?

I was in Utah and I had recently met somebody from Colorado who would have been pulled over for that.

I’ll call him Uneasy Rider, after the Charlie Daniels Band hit from the 1970s. In the song, a hippie has a flat in rural Mississippi and doesn’t get on well with the redneck locals. He decides to reroute his trip though the Midwest instead of the South.

Uneasy has long hair and is covered with tattoos. He rides a motorcycle or drives a fast-looking car. Colorado plates announce “I’m from the land of legal weed.” Conservative Utah police use any excuse to stop him. He goes from Denver to LA via New Mexico to avoid them.

I’m an ordinary looking guy in an ordinary looking car deliberately chosen not to stand out. Black, four doors, no spoiler, no coffee can exhaust, no spinners. It could outrun a police interceptor, but you can’t see that. All I need to do to avoid a ticket is drive inconspicuously.

In a pack I relax. I wonder if the slow driver ahead is an idiot or looking for an unfamiliar driveway. I pay more attention to a podcast. And so on. I am not worrying about cops with a bad attitude. I am not thinking about numbers on signs and speedometers, or the mystery of the real speed limit.

Eventually the cars in front of me turn off and there’s no speed limit sign in sight. I go back to alert status. Now what’s the limit? I know the statutory speed limits for most states. Near home I can tell you the posted limit from memory. Near the edge of Roosevelt, Utah… no clue.

Not seeing the sign is not a defense in court. You are not being charged with intentionally violating the limit. All the law requires is that most drivers be able see the sign. If you’re on the wrong side of an 18 wheeler when you pass the sign, that’s your problem.

That’s a reason I don’t think “the speed limit is posted” is a defense to an accusation of running a speed trap. If the speed limit is too low, it’s going to catch ordinary drivers who did not notice the one legally required sign at the beginning of the speed zone. Aside from that, the low limit invites selective enforcement, pretext stops, and revenue raising.

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