Integrity Matters
October 27, 2004

Base driving speed on safety, good judgment

Question: (E-148)

Dear Jim:

I am 16 years old, and adults confuse me. On certain roads and freeways, as you know, the speed limit is 65 mph. When my father drives that speed, he gets honked at and yelled at. Drivers simply blow right by. He often drives 72 mph (in the 65-mph zones) and the police officers drive by his car, paying no attention to his speeding. Who has the integrity problem: my dad, the other drivers or the police?


Speed limit signs provide you and others with the legal driving requirements, and they are enforceable, by those very officers who may not have stopped your father in the past. Perhaps they were responding to a non-crisis call which did not require lights and sirens. When police officers are directed by dispatchers to act promptly, they may have no time to write “routine” speeding tickets. However, and for the record, based upon my conversation with a police officer, you would be wise to drive at or below posted speed signs, not once in a while, but all the time.

Technically, 65 mph is the legal limit on many highways and freeways, but, given weather conditions, traffic patterns and safety, other factors can reduce safe driving limits. In a phrase, “use good judgment, regardless of the posted speed.” Drivers are expected to respect and obey the law. Definitely, no one is to endanger others with recklessness behind the wheel. As is often said, driving is not a right, it is a privilege. Those who abuse driving privileges can have their licenses revoked. Should their behavior cause harm to others, then the legal system can administer harsh penalties, from expensive fines to time spent in jail. You may remember some rhyming wisdom: “If you can’t afford the dollars to pay the fine, then keep your attitude and speed in line.”

On the subject of integrity, who is in possible violation? Possibly, no one! My police “counselor” told me that when the flow of traffic is perceived as smooth and safe, a grey area may be tolerated. Rules and laws that offer some flexibility, based upon self-regulation and good judgment, afford a mature community the privileges of freedom, even behind the wheel. What we also know is that when courtesy, safety and good judgment are central to driving habits (or most any other kind of behavior) then trust replaces rigidity.

So, for now, young and learning driver, watch your own speed, follow the law and improve your own driving skills. Be sure to let your father know you are observing his driving and that you know that integrity matters, even when the police might not have the time to legally “ticket” him - yet.

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