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The Driving Constitution - Off Camber

James Tate
Jun 15, 2007
0708_sccp_1_z+james_tate+under_hood Photo 1/1   |   The Driving Constitution - Off Camber

My constant bickering about the road system and the people that use it has net me an inbox full of great suggestions. Thus far, highway griping has been the only topic that hasn't generated any hate mail. This month, one e-mail went so far as to suggest that as long as I'm complaining so much, I should rewrite the driving manual myself. After a laugh and a sigh, it occurred to me that this might not be such an unrealistic proposition, given the power of thousands of readers.

I began to picture a web page, in which the Sport Compact Car Driving Constitution sat. Something like a Wikipedia entry, amendable by all readers. Below that, a forum where people can suggest new ideas and discuss them, before attempting to implement them into the great Constitution. Let's not make an action plan or a petition that never goes anywhere-just a place where a bunch of wishful thinkers can theorize about the ideal driving system.

It seems silly that automotive technology has made headway at such an incredible rate, but has done nothing to advance the road system it operates on. The benefits of such advancement are obvious: safer roads, increased fuel economy, higher levels of revenue, to name a few. But really there are endless things that need fixing.

We can consider better ways of making revenue for the states and discuss how technological innovation can be applied to create a safer and better road system. A driving constitution created by the people, for the people. Well, for the enthusiast, anyway... can't win 'em all.

Regardless of what we come up with, it's bound to be more effective than a system designed for cars built in the 70s, with bias-ply tires and four-wheel drum brakes. But we'll have to start from ground zero-the licensing procedure. There have been a few ideas burning holes in my head lately.

Different levels of licensing could be introduced. Even the most basic will touch on critical car-control skills, as well as explain existing traffic laws. Higher levels of licensing might include an additional course on snow and ice driving and even high-performance driving. Based on the type of car you drive and the kind of license you are able to attain, you may be allowed to perform higher-level maneuvers and even drive at faster speeds.

As in much of Europe, the high-level licensing will cost more, generating more revenue for the state. Such a system could be criticized for catering to the wealthy, who can afford the cost of such testing. But really, aren't all fast drivers going to amass $1000s in tickets and more in increased insurance rates anyway? Perhaps insurance companies can pitch in to offer discounted rates for those with high-level licensing.

We could combine something like the 'Smart Pass' toll system with a GPS-based transceiver to log vehicle speed and ensure legality, as opposed to placing our resources at the side of the road with radar guns. Call it 'Speed Pass' if you like. The cost of such a transceiver could be incorporated into the cost of getting a high-level license. Additionally, the money saved by eliminating speed traps could be used (along with the officers not sitting at the roadside) to-oh, I don't know-prevent crime.

Those not wanting to spend hundreds on a high-level license needn't, but they would be forbidden to drive at certain speeds or during conditions for which they are not trained. Revenue generated by speeding tickets wouldn't be completely lost, either. Improperly licensed drivers would still be breaking laws to generate revenue. Police cars could scan vehicle licensing levels as easily as the 'Speed Pass' stations could.

Furthermore, there are certain vehicles that will, by default, require a different kind of license to drive. The importance of rollover avoidance and braking distance might be discussed with a large truck license, for instance. The concept isn't unlike the systems we have in place now for commercial truck licensing and motorcycle licensing.

And while I'm on a rampage, safety inspection should become a mandatory annual fixture in all states, providing new revenue in some and guaranteeing an existing revenue source in others. When I lived in Virginia, I complained constantly about the annual inspection. After seeing some of the downright dangerous cars that make it on to Californian roads, I'm all for annual inspections.

With roads getting more and more congested, the importance of traffic discipline could be stressed in school and more strictly enforced on the road. Maybe 'Slower traffic keep right' could become 'SLOWER TRAFFIC KEEP RIGHT!'

They keep popping into my head: annual license renewal for seniors, truck-limited roadways, no cell phones while driving unless you qualify. I'd like to make the whole system more discriminatory, which is near-impossible in such a 'politically correct' environment. But we're trying to save lives here, not cater to anyone who can push a gas pedal. The less capable drivers are unlikely to want a high-level license anyway.

So who wants to make the website?

By James Tate
57 Articles

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