Sunday, January 6, 2008

Speeders, Beware!

Today's loose dog report comes to you from Plum Beach, Brooklyn, where at 10:00 A.M. there were four dogs, all unleashed.

On the way we passed stopped cars on the Belt Parkway and on Flatbush Avenue, south of the Belt, both accompanied by unmarked police cars. Both motorists evidently had been pulled over for speeding. When I-89 passes through Burlington, Vt., the speed limit drops (or at least used to drop) from 65 to 55. Once, within five minutes I observed four cars pulled over for speeding. We don't do that here. Traffic on both the Belt and that part of Flatbush Ave. moves at 15-20 mph above the posted speed limit, so to be caught speeding these motorists must have been going real fast. To the cops, keep up the good work.

And while you're ticketing scofflaw speeders, how about scofflaw unleashers? They are analogous. Several years ago, New Jersey raised the state speed limit from 55 mph (where it had been since the Arab oil embargo) to 65 mph with the excuse that this would conform the speed limit to the speed of prevailing traffic. Skeptics pointed out that traffic was going to move at least 10 mph above the posted speed limits, so that if you raised the speed limit to 65, people would go 75. The bureaucrats said "no, no, we'll enforce the new speed limit." Ever travel on I-78 or I-80 and try to keep up with traffic? It moves at 75 MPH, maybe more. Most people are going to cheat, somewhat--and government bureaucrats will condone it, because being people, their moral profile cannot be expected to be any higher.

Dog owners cheated before there were "courtesy hours". "Courtesy hours", which expanded the seemingly permissible base, correspondingly expanded the base on which the owners would cheat; but since courtesy hours were at least unofficial and not particularly well known, the cheating beyond the courtesy hours was somewhat limited--the equivalent of driving 65 mph in a 55 mph zone, but not more, knowing that the cops gave you 10 mph leaway. Formally codifying courtesy hours, and then compounding the felony by making it pretty clear that the leash law won't be enforced at all--the new "courtesy hours"-- is the equivalent of raising the speed limit to 65 and pulling all of the cops off the road. The effectively permissible speed, for off-leash purposes, is not just 75; it's 120, and rising.