New York State Traffic Laws - a Critique
NYS traffic and parking laws intentionally criminalize reasonable,
safe, and common driving behavior for the express and cynical purpose
of taxing citizens; this serves to undermine the moral authority of the
state and is an abuse of the police, courts and populace.
These laws are at best paternalistic (in a way counter to the appropriate
use of government in a free society), and at worst abusive and
unproductive in a wide variety of ways.
Drivers come to resent the police (people we pay to protect us,
not prey upon us) and come to see the courts that try traffic offences
as unjust - as their function is largely to find "offenders" guilty
so that funds may be raised. These laws are an unfair and arbitrary
method of taxation which selectively penalizes the more efficient and
time pressed of citizens , continuing a trend towards the punishment of
the productive middle class in New York , a process which has already
driven out hundreds of thousands of jobs and businesses.
Disputing these unjust fines is a time consuming nightmare with the
intended result that most people don't bother to fight the tickets.
When one does fight one is confronted with a bureaucracy which seems
to care little for the time and energy of the citizens it's supposedly
there to serve.
We are all familiar with roads whose speed limit is set 20 to 30 miles
per hour lower than a safe speed. On these roads the vast majority of
drivers always exceed the speed limit, and thus drive constantly under
the pressure of the fact they are subject to being stopped and fined,
perhaps with the loss of their license and the great likelihood of an
increase in their insurance rates. This is as true on "30 MPH" roads
as it is on major highways.
I suggest here that this is the intent of the state; these laws are
intended not to make for safer conditions, but to create as many law
breakers as possible.
If the State and County cared as much for our efficiency and freedom
as they care for taking money from us, these limits would be raised.
While the state already takes far too much of our income in direct and
hidden taxes , the primary destructive aspect here is the moral.
We rely on the state to FAIRLY enforce rational and fair laws; this
is one of the few proper functions of the state in the first place.
Here we know the state is unfairly enforcing unfair laws; what becomes
to your sense of the fairness and trustworthiness of the state ?
The policeman giving you the ticket knows it to be nonsense, and often
hides this fact from himself in greater anger at all "lawbreakers".
Judges know this too, and the ones I talk with hide behind the idea of
the state needing to protect us from ourselves; we are too incompetent
to drive uncontrolled I had one judge tell me. While there may be limits
on driving properly enforced by police , they are far above those we
To a degree the situation is as simple as the state criminalizing
and taxing for example, breathing . If that were the case then we would
all stand a roughly equal chance of being fined. Rather here it is the
middle class who suffers, as the poor don't own cars and the wealthy
can easily absorb the fines and higher insurance rates.
The common justification for these laws, that they are necessary for
our safety, is nonsense.
The vast majority of us drive at what we feel at the moment is a safe
speed; we wish to avoid the hospital. Those of use less concerned with
arriving in one piece are not likely to be held in check by the fear
of a ticket. The primary effect of these laws is only to punish a large
number of safe drivers who were unlucky enough to be seen by a policeman
as they were doing something reasonable- again, this is what the state
Various western states have high or no speed limits, and the argument
that they are sparsely populated (and so fast driving is safe) is refuted
by Germany, which is very densely settled, but has equally high limits.
I believe New Yorkers to be as good drivers as Germans. The argument that
more people would be injured in traffic accidents is answered, in part,
by suggesting we all stay home in bed, which is very safe; but be sure
you don't smoke or leave your electric blanket on while you drink your tea.
Or perhaps the state should lower the limit to 5 MPH, fine away all of
our money and take good care of us.
Traffic laws and their use reflect larger issues in our political
culture at this time. If we are adults in a free society we should
demand of our government that it treats us as adults. We known ourselves
to be safe and responsible drivers; many of us will suspect our neighbors
not to be, and thus justify restrictive laws. This runs counter to
ideals of freedom and the "social contract" which suggests that you
should be as free as possible, only restricted insofar as you impinge
on another's freedom. To maintain our freedom, we must trust our
neighbors, as we demand to be trusted ourselves. One maintains a free
and responsible citizenry not by coercing and forcing what is deemed
to be proper behavior, but rather by maintaining the freedom that led
to a responsible ,mature and sophisticated culture in the first place.
You approach a stop sign in a car; there's an intersection, and you slow
down to look both ways, as you don't wish to spend your next paycheck in
an autobody shop or a doctor's office- the road's clear, and you make your
turn. Most of the time you never stop your car fully, and we know this to
be perfectly safe. You do this a hundred times, or a thousand, and then do
it with a policeman behind you in an unmarked car. He's behind on his
ticket quota, and even though he likely drives in the same way himself,
as do most all judges and state legislators , he pulls you over and fines
Again, you are bright and mature enough not to need a sign to tell you
to stop. You need a sign informing you of an upcoming intersection,
and nothing more.
Replacing these signs with something like "Upcoming intersection, slow
down, be prepared to stop, look both ways, let the other guy go first if
he got there before you." would be expensive. Perhaps we could leave the
signs as they are and just rationally deal with problems resulting from
people who really do abuse the situation( like going through the
intersection without slowing enough not to cause an accident).
At the least, there is no need to enforce the stop rule obsessively ;
it is only a silly excuse to take money from us.
Rather than trivial, this is the most common interaction a citizen has
with his government; once ticked, we are in the maw of the state,
forced to appear in court or be fined, subject to having a warrant
for our arrest issued if court dates are missed - all for - what ?
Parking fines run along the same lines. In New York City especially,
but all through the state, these rules are designed to make people break
them. Parking rules are obscure, periods vary wildly and essentially
harass drivers. The city then uses the power of the state to extort money
through garnisheeing wages or threats of sizing the car. As with driving
"offences" redress is a time consuming nightmare. Most people don't bother
to fight the tickets. When one does fight one is confronted with a stupid
and incompetent bureaucracy , which cares nothing for time it wastes.
As the people in this bureaucracy produce nothing of value, they
can little understand that they are wasting the time of people who need
In all ways the state is abusing and preying on its citizens, not
assisting them. One effect is that I , a man with numerous New York
City parking fines, have largely ceased going to that city; while I miss
the theater and museums , I can hope the City missed my disposable income.
This has been one more small but real part of the process in my
deciding not to buy a house in this state. I intend to take myself
and my business out of the New York. If you think I'm foolish for being
motivated by such small issues , ask yourself why so many others have
left. Perhaps these issues were a part of a broader sense of abuse
these people felt.
If the state wants more of your money , it should take it openly.
It should raise taxes , not try to hide it, and not ruin our relationship
with the police and the courts in the process.
Written by Arthur Heyman 516 689 6449. Email: US004258@mindspring.com
Take a look at two fine sites on this issue:
Car and Driver