QUESTION: IF YOU put the legislative branch of the U.S. Government in an automobile traveling west at 61 m.p.h. on a clear day with a 15 m.p.h. tail wind, would they have themselves arrested for speeding?
Answer: Go figure. Up until recently the Congress has been tightening the stranglehold of laws regulating and relating to the use of our nation's roads. Now it seems they have reversed direction.
First, they threatened to withhold federal highway funds from states which failed to enact and enforce a 55 m.p.h. speed limit. The purpose of this act was to save fuel and reduce highway fatalities.
Next, they used the same trick to force the states into establishing a uniform drinking age, and then again to force them into enacting seatbelt laws. Again, the justification was that such laws would increase highway safety.
But last Wednesday the Senate formally approved a bill which would, among other things, permit a 65 m.p.h. speed limit on some roads. Other portions of the bill include a plan to remove billboards from the nation's roadsides, and a provision to discourage highway contractors from investing in South Africa.
Now, to a person like me--that is, reckless, feckless, and armed with someone else's gas card--this sounds like a good thing. At the very least it could reduce the number of speeding tickets, and maybe even the number of Sunday drivers, that often put a damper on my high-speed sojourns.
But then again, the Senate giveth, and the Senate taketh away. For all I know, they might throw the metaphorical roadster of highway safety back into fourth gear and drive off into the sunset of restrictive legislation. Maybe next week they'd raise the drinking age to 31 and require every occupant of a car to be strapped to an inflated air bag with 20-lb. test fishing line. I decided to withhold judgement until I could talk to an expert.
THE MAN I was looking for was Rutger Fury, former political columnist for the National Enquirer. I found him looking for leads in the dumpster behind the Capitol building. "Rutger," I said, "What's the dope on this new Senate bill?"
"Dope? In the Senate? Can I quote you?"
"No, not in, on the Senate. The 65 m.p.h. bill."
"Oh, damn. Well, I don't know. But I don't like it."
I was shocked. "You don't like it? But Rutger, you're part of the New Right. I thought you supported personal rights--the right to drive fast, to own a gun, to force your religious views on others."
He thought a minute. "Yes, I suppose that's true. But I'm still up in arms about it." He waved his hands in the air to demonstrate.
"But why? Surely this is one bill you can't criticize just for the sake of criticism."
"Sure I can...for example: the billboard provision. If we get a higher speed limit, we also lose our nation's billboards. That's a serious infringement on our rights."
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