Statutory Red Tape

You are on your way home riding your SV-650 from a day of hugging curbs and offset formations. You’re a little tired and thinking about the barbeque which you are in route to that promises to have beer, burgers and babes. As you take the on ramp to enter the freeway you accelerate in the “acceleration lane” like everyone else accessing the freeway. You keep your eyes up and check for traffic in front and alongside your lane when all of a sudden, doot-da-do…it’s Christmas in July.  As the blues and reds light-up behind you, you look down at your cluster only to realize you’re doing 86 mph in a 55 zone. You pull over like the law abiding citizen you are and begin a dialogue with the officer, only to have him return from his cruiser with a fat ticket.

If you think about it however, there seems to be something fundamentally wrong with this picture. We have all seen the show CSI, or MCSI, or NYCSI or some deviation of the acronym CSI. The perp always has some malcontent; a motive that drives them to commit the crime. That scenario doesn’t fit here, you didn’t mean to break the law, it’s just your SV-650 accelerates faster than your average car in the allotted space given to match the speed of traffic. No, the type of law you broke is called a statutory law.

A statutory law basically means that the state doesn’t need to prove you meant to break the law for you to be found guilty of doing so. I know what you’re thinking, but don’t worry, it gets worse. Not only did you not intend to break the law, the law isn’t even applied to everyone universally. 9 states haves laws which permit cars to travel faster than trucks. If logic reigned supreme, than it would only be rational to allow motorcycles to travel faster than cars, since motorcycles are as different from cars as cars are from trucks; this seems just a little bias. All these vehicles are different and as such should be held to a different standard.

For instance, motorcycles accelerate much faster than do cars or trucks. Their power-to-weight ratio is unmatched by anything else on the road, so this is the equivalent of asking the hare to keep pace with the tortoise; it goes against its nature. Furthermore, most modern day street-legal motorcycles are equipped with a six-speed transmission which achieves peak-fuel efficiency at a certain RPM. For each model it varies, but I seriously doubt any of them thrive at 55, or even 65mph. Additionally, motorcycles are designed to travel at high speeds while retaining their maneuverability and can stop in much shorter distances then their 4, 12 or 18 wheel brethren. In fact, the biggest threats to riders are the other vehicles that motorcycles are mandated to travel the same speeds as.

How many times have you been ridding alongside a large truck when all of a sudden your motorcycle begins to drift towards it? This is because the air the truck is displacing (known as aerodynamic drag) is moving around and underneath it…and so will you if you don’t hit the throttle and lean away. Moreover, riders have to keep a safe distance away from distracted drivers. You know, the teary-eyed 18 year old who is updating her Facebook status on interstate 70 because the world can’t wait the 23 minutes it takes her to get home to learn that she didn’t get into Clemson. Now more than ever riders need to have the freedom to accelerate away from danger without concerning themselves with an arbitrary statute supported by little or no research justifying it.

How do I know that speed limits have nothing to stand on, because they have been changed multiple times with no measurable impact on safety. Some of you reading this may be too young to remember but there was a time not long ago when the highways of the United States were governed by a provision known as the National Maximum Speed Law. This provision of the 1974 Emergency Highway Energy Conservation Act granted the federal government the authority to set the maximum permitted speed on state highways. This was a colossal failure as the provision failed to accomplish any of its intended goals. It did not save commuters fuel and it certainly did not make the roads safer. In fact, there is research that suggests this provision made the roads MORE dangerous. Why haven’t you newbies heard of this law? Because congress repealed the National Maximum Speed Law back in 1995…who says congress does nothing (enter joke here). But seriously, no proven safety benefit, not even a marginal one.

So, let’s break this down to its very core. All this hoopla is centered around one rationalization…speed kills. If you ask me, this is a false statement. I have been on a track and gone very fast, I’m still typing, so this statement must be false. It’s not speed that kills, it’s recklessness that kills. Every person I have known that has died on a motorcycle (or in a car for that matter) was either a victim of someone else’s recklessness or being reckless themselves…without fail. There isn’t a shred of conclusive evidence that links faster speeds to a higher body count. So what are proponents of speed laws basing the current limits on you ask? Speculation, which is all they have ever had.

So, what can we do about it? This is a point in your life where you can look to your father’s cliché half-drunken advice for guidance. Mine used to say “don’t start until you can’t stop”, I still have no idea what the hell he was talking about. Maybe your father had something more relevant to add to your life like “start from the top”. That’s exactly what you should do, contact your state governor’s office and voice your opinion. You pay their salary so you might as well let them know you are aware of their hidden bias and that Christmas should only come in December damn-it!