Archived post

This is an archived post. Please click here to see the latest entries.

« Late Night, Caffe del Doge | Home | President Kim Joins the Club »

“Sir, the Limit is 65; Keep It Under 80.”

Speedometer.jpgAfter writing about the subject of police discretion here and here, it was interesting to experience the phenomenon at first hand.

On our way down to Logan on I93 the other day, an efficient state trooper, aided and abetted by a laser speed gun, flagged down your humble servant and his better half for driving, well, over 80. The statey was gruff and took no time for pleasantries. He simply ticketed us for driving at a speed ten miles per hour below that at which he said he had measured us, and told us to make sure that in the future we did not exceed the posted limit on interstates by more than 15mph. His exact words are reproduced in the title.

What to make of this? The trooper seemed to be saying that he and his fellow officers have changed the legal speed limit to 80mph. He wasn’t just being generous; he had the confidence to tell us straight out that the de facto limit in his state was different from the de jure one.

Too often we think of our legal system as rigid, but in fact police discretion gives laws a suppleness that makes sense. Driving 80mph in a modern car seems much safer to me than being in a big-finned clunker fifty years ago at the then-legal limit of 70mph. Maybe the police have recognized something that the state government is unable to understand or do anything about?

Or how about this alternative explanation? Perhaps our legislators have not changed the official limit from 65mph because they perceive that a flexible speed limit based upon police discretion is the best of all available solutions. Democracy can be such fun.

Note: In 1974 the federal government formally obliged the states to set the maximum speed limit at 55mph, a limit that was raised to 65mph in 1987. The National Maximum Speed Limit Law was repealed in 1995, and today states are free to set limits as they see fit.

Addendum: On a lighter note, with no vouchsafing for accuracy, click on this list of NH laws that, I expect, are rarely enforced.


Featured posts

  • August 14, 2013
    Breaking: Of Crips and Bloods and Memories of Ghetto Parties
    History repeats itself, first as tragedy and then as farce, or sometimes it just repeats itself. From the New York Times on November 30, 1998: At Dartmouth College, white students at a ”ghetto party” dressed…
  • June 25, 2013
    Dean of the College Charlotte Johnson’s War on Students Part (2/2)
    Part 1, Part 2 Today’s post again recounts the events that befell the Freshman. However, the content of the Hanover Police department report reproduced in this space yesterday is supplemented by information from my own…
  • October 18, 2009
    When Love Beckoned in 52nd Street
    We were at San Francisco’s BIX last evening, enjoying prosecco, cheese, and a bit of music. A full year of inhabitation in Northern California has unraveled to me no decent venue for proper lounging, but…
  • October 9, 2009
    D Afraid of a Little Competish
    So our colleague and Dartblog writer Joe Asch informed me that the D has rejected our cunning advertising campaign. Uh-oh. The Dartmouth is widely known as a breeding ground for instant New York Times successes,…
  • September 4, 2009
    How Regents Should Reign
    As Dartmouth alumni proceed through the legal hoops necessary to defuse a Board-packing plan—which put in unhappy desuetude an historic 1891 Agreement between alumni and the College guaranteeing a half-democratically-elected Board of Trustees—it strikes one…
  • August 29, 2009
    Election Reform Study Committee
    If you are an alum of the College on the Hill, you may have received a number of e-mails of late beseeching your input for a new arm of the College’s Alumni Control Apparatus called…

Dartblog Specials

Subscribe by Email

Enter your email address:

Help, Pecuniarily

Please note

This website reflects the personal opinions of its authors. Any e-mails received may be published along with the full name of the sender. If you wish otherwise, please say so.

All content appearing at should be presumed copyright 2004-2018 its respective bylined author unless otherwise noted or unless linked to original source.




April 2018
Sun Mon Tue Wed Thu Fri Sat
1 2 3 4 5 6 7
8 9 10 11 12 13 14
15 16 17 18 19 20 21
22 23 24 25 26 27 28
29 30