Perspectives: The cost of educating my child

OPINION – Ever notice how life’s most effective teaching moments seldom come to us in a form that we’d voluntarily choose?

My latest one came while sitting alongside Highway 93 in Nevada with a state trooper’s brightly flashing lights strobing in my rearview mirror.

I make no excuses here. I was clearly exceeding the posted speed limit. I have long subscribed to automotive writer Eric Peters’ reasoning regarding speed limits. If the conditions are safe and traffic is light, I will drive 5 to 10 miles per hour above the limit. If conditions are poor or traffic is heavy, I’ll adjust my speed lower to what feels safe.

I refuse to accept another person’s guilt and shame for exercising my initiative by getting away with reasonably exceeding the arbitrary number posted on the speed limit sign. Besides, as Eric Peters points out, “Each time you ‘get away with it,’ you amortize the costs of the times you didn’t. So, for example, if I ‘speed’ every day and get away with it, the occasional ticket I get works out to mere pennies per offense.”

This makes sense to me. Remember, we’re not talking about driving 100-plus mph while steering with our feet. I apply this same reasoning to sitting at an unchanging stoplight at 3:30 in the morning. Once I’ve ascertained that it’s safe to proceed, I’ll go. Yes, I actually trust my own judgment to safely see me through the intersection without need for some Pavlovian cue from the light itself.

For some reason, this type of independent thinking is highly threatening to those who would rather that the state dictate their every move. They have forgotten how freedom feels. It runs contrary to what Peters refers to as the “doughy, filmy-eyed passivity that the law demands.” As long as common sense is being used, the real test of criminal behavior is whether anyone has suffered provable harm.

At any rate, speeding was not the reason why the trooper pulled me over.

He stopped me because my headlights were not on in broad daylight. You read that correctly. Certain stretches of Highway 93 through Nevada are designated daytime headlight sections and driving without illumination in the daytime can precipitate a traffic stop and a ticket.

It certainly did in my case. But I’m not complaining.

The trooper who stopped me was polite, professional, and pleasant. He chose not to write me up for speeding, even though I admitted that I was definitely going over the limit. Though Nevada no longer recognizes my Utah concealed carry permit, his only comment when I informed him that I was carrying was to compliment my choice of sidearm. Encountering a solidly pro-gun police officer is an all-too-rare surprise these days.

He explained that the headlight law was based on safety concerns since Highway 93 is a two-lane road and passing is more risky there than on a divided four-lane freeway. With that, I signed the ticket and was on my way.

Here’s where the learning experience comes in.

My oldest daughter Maycyn made a comment about how lame it seemed to get a ticket for not having my headlights on in broad daylight. So I asked her to walk through the rationale behind the law to see if we could figure out how it served justice.

I asked her, “Who was harmed by me having my lights off? Did I run anyone off the road or damage another person or their property?”

“No,” She answered, “I can’t think of anyone who was injured by you not having your headlights on.”

“Okay,” I said, “even though we can’t think of a victim, what does the state of Nevada require from me to ensure that justice is served and my ‘wrong’ is righted?”

Her answer was spot on, “They want your money. So this law really isn’t about safety after all. It’s a way for the state to take money from people.”

Bingo.

This prompted a lengthy conversation that lasted for most of the remainder of our trip about how laws that criminalize reasonable driving have become a highly effective means of extracting millions of dollars from motorists, in the name of safety.

It was a timely lesson on the true nature of the state that I believe she’ll take to heart as she heads off to college this fall. I consider it a worthwhile trade-off for whatever minor inconvenience was involved.

The cost of driving without headlights in a daytime headlight section of Nevada: $112.

Knowing that my daughter understands that there’s difference between laws that promote justice and those that promote revenue generation: Priceless.

Bryan Hyde is a news commentator and co-host of the Perspectives morning show on Fox News 1450 AM 93.1 FM. The opinions stated in this article are his and not representative of St. George News.

Email: bryanh@stgnews.com

Twitter: @youcancallmebry

Copyright St. George News, SaintGeorgeUtah.com LLC, 2012, all rights reserved.

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13 Comments

  • Murat August 9, 2012 at 10:48 am

    I too feel that laws are largely arbitrary and I tend to disregard them.

    • Dghws August 9, 2012 at 10:16 pm

      Murat, maybe some actual research into laws and a good sociology course might help you with your feelings. Your stated arbitrary disregard of laws shows only your lack of respect for and concern for others. Might check the DSM-IV or the new DSM-5 (due out, May of 2013). You might be surprised that based on many of your statements you have some concerning “feelings” that make you a risk to society and law abiding citizens.

      • Murat August 10, 2012 at 9:40 am

        Who are you to say I need help with my feelings. Perhaps you need some help. I have a PhD in Sociology, I don’t think I need any remedial courses in it.

        • Dghws August 10, 2012 at 8:29 pm

          Some actually learn as they earn their PhD, others just have one. Sad thing is that a few think that their PhD is also the terminus of their educational journey.

          • Murat August 11, 2012 at 10:35 am

            I am highly learned and you appear to be an ignoramus.

  • Mike H August 9, 2012 at 11:15 am

    An excellent example of a malum prohibitum offense. I am glad that you chose to look at it like an educational experience. My main question is, was it marked? Did you miss the sign? It seems like a small thing to flip on the lights if you notice the sign, but sometimes they are easy to miss. I understand the requirement for the use of lights especially on a high traffic two lane road. It might seem somewhat arbitrary but since it is designed for public safety I don’t see the big issue with it.
    I am not a huge fan of the seat belt law, and I am glad we have the helmet law we do. If I am injured due to my negligence in belting up or wearing a helmet that hurts only me. The idea that we need a seat belt or “nanny” law is annoying. Let darwinism take control. If I am too stupid to take care of myself then I deserve to suffer the possible consequences.
    When it comes to speed limits and light requirements I don’t have a problem, they are intended to protect others as well, not just hand-hold me into old age. Though I do speed about the same as you describe,5-10, and if I am pulled over I accept it. As a motorcyclist though, I know how hard it can be to be seen and the importance of visibility, and we have constant on headlights!
    If you disregarded the sign informing you that lights were necessary, then it seems the ticket is reasonable. Of course they are fond of the “ignorance of the law is not a defense” argument, but I bet you remember from this point forward to turn on your lights. And continue to go 5-10 mph over. 😉

  • Hugh Vanderborgt August 9, 2012 at 11:27 am

    Traffic Laws are not arbitrary. They are designed to reduce accident probability and minimize risks for all motorists sharing a road, and should be adhered to at all times. No questions. Whether or not your actions hurt anybody is not relevant.. I tell this to my daughter when she speeds through our residential area (posted 25) at 35 and faster while talking on the phone.

  • lydia August 9, 2012 at 2:06 pm

    I totally agree with Brian on this matter,but the thing that irritates me the most is the police often do not follow the same laws that they just love getting us for.Just because they have a badge shouldn’t mean that they can break the rules without consequence.Also,why should the close relatives officers get out of a ticket just because they are closely related in some way? Double standards should NOT be happening if they want people to respect and obey law enforcement.

  • robert August 10, 2012 at 2:20 am

    Teaching moment my butt, unless you want to teach your daughter lawlessness and use her immaturity in assessing the situation as a justification. I currently live where the law is that you must have your car lights on at all times. The good folks here realize tat its for their safety as proved statistically in the reduction of accidents, both fatal and non-fatal. They do have a bit of a hedge though in that an auto can’t be sold here that the lights don’t automatically come on when the engine is started. I’ve driven Utah highways enough to know the safety advantages of driving with my lights on during daylight hours. Being cited for that offense was probably to your advantage rather than what would add points for a moving traffic violation and possibly an even higher fine.

  • Curtis August 10, 2012 at 12:54 pm

    If tickets are all about money then why no ticket for speeding ?
    Perhaps the trooper had already reached his quota for the day.

  • Robert August 10, 2012 at 9:23 pm

    Wow. Such disdain for the rule of law that is so vital to hold our society together. Perhaps the real solution is to find more ways to ticket idiots like this self absorbed overly self-important buffoon. I feel bad for his daughter. Perhaps logic and reasoning weren’t taught at his online college.

  • Dsull August 11, 2012 at 9:06 am

    Find me someone that does not break these arbitrary laws and I will give you 100 dollars. Everyone speeds at some point, either on purpose, or by accident, but its still breaking the law. I feel that personal responsibility for actions is a greater deterrent to crime and accidents than a bunch of laws that are rarely enforced.

    • Curtis August 11, 2012 at 2:33 pm

      I agree with you, but …
      $ 112 fines and points that can increase insurance and threaten driving privileges can also be quite effective

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