Traffic Laws to Watch

The law is the law — or so the judge will tell you when your day in traffic court arrives. But some traffic laws could stand to be bent a  little in the interests of common sense.

For example:

Reds in the middle of the night with no traffic around for miles. We sit there, often not-so-patiently, as the light's timer runs its cycle, sometimes for more than a couple of minutes even though it's clear there's no one around but us. Is it okay to run the thing? Technically, no. But many of us have done it anyhow, because sitting there idling seemed (and arguably is) completely pointless.

Reds that cycle when you're on your motorcycle. Many lights are set up to change when metal sensors detect a car in the turn (or opposing) lane. But motorcycles often don't have enough metal to trigger the sensor — and so the light either "cycles" without giving the rider a green, or just doesn't change at all. Understandably frustrated motorcyclists often wait through one cycle, but "run" the light at the next safe opportunity. Are they wrong to do so? Or should they just sit there until the light eventually does change, even if means waiting through two or three light changes or until a car comes along to trigger the underground sensor?

Speeding to pass. You're doing the speed limit (or just slightly over it) when you roll up on a car doing a few mph less than the limit. It's legal for you to pass the slowpoke. But to do so safely, you need to accelerate to at least 5-10 mph over the posted maximum, in order to get around the other car reasonably quickly. Technically, you're "speeding," but you're being a safer driver than the doctrinaire rule-follower who attempts a "cruise control pass" of a car doing 53 mph in a 55 zone by not going one mph faster than 55 mph. Who should get the ticket?

Speeding for good reason. Your child has been injured and your car is the only way to get to a doctor quickly. You don't drive the speed limit. If you get nabbed in a radar trap, does getting to the hospital as quickly as possible trump "the law"? What do you suppose the judge will say?

Not stopping completely at stop signs in winter. You're inching your way along in a bad snowstorm, trying to maintain your momentum as you ascend a steep hill with a stop sign at the top. Experienced snow drivers maintain a steady, controlled pace, slowing down just enough as they approach the stop sign to appraise the situation and take note of any oncoming traffic — but not coming to a complete stop (and thereby risk losing momentum and becoming stuck) unless it's necessary, i.e, there are other cars waiting at the four-way. Technically illegal? Surely. But does it deserve a ticket?
Granted, the laws keep us from playing smash-em-up derby on the Interstates and surface roads. But some laws take the extreme and run counter to common sense. You can wait them out and observe the letter of the law — or you can take your chances knowing that logic is on your side.

Try telling that to the judge!
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