Fair Traffic Laws
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Solving these problems discussed on this website need not be an overwhelming or even particularly difficult task. It can be accomplished in a three-step process:

1.    Assure that traffic control devices are substantially conforming to MUTCD and state code requirements and recommendations.

2.    Assure that traffic laws are reasonable, fair, and enforceable.

3.    Focus enforcement efforts on regulations that will produce the greatest benefit.


Many problems could be quickly resolved if government agencies responsible for traffic control devices would bring their practices into conformance with requirements and recommendations in the Manual on Uniform Traffic Control Devices (MUTCD).

These agencies are required by federal law set forth in 23 Code of Federal Regulations (CFR), Part 655, Subpart F to specify traffic control devices in “substantial conformance” with the MTUCD and standard engineering practices. Yet a critical examination of posted signage clearly shows that speed limit signs do not conform to generally accepted engineering standards and advisory speed warning signs conflict with MUTCD requirements and recommendations.

Departments of Transportation should examine the problems discussed in this website and upgrade their practices as necessary to comply with the MUTCD. If statutory law stands in the way, they should initiate and support legislation that will help to alleviate the problems.

Public Safety and Law Enforcement personnel should carefully examine present traffic code provisions with special attention to courtesy-based regulations to determine whether they are adequate and enforceable. When problems are noted, Departments of Public Safety should initiate and support legislation that would correct deficiencies that prevent them from enforcing traffic laws fairly and effectively.

Wages for these professional experts are paid from public funds. The public rightly expects them to proactively use their expertise to identify and solve problems and see to it that our transportation system functions as efficiently and safely as possible.



If government officials do not take appropriate action, perhaps help from the populace is needed. An informed citizenry is basic to our democratic government and the public should be in control.

We, as members of the public, can help to solve these problems by participating in the wonderful governmental system bequeathed to us by the founding fathers. Any person can make their voice heard by working with elected representatives. Government officials may be personally contacted and should respond to well-conceived suggestions for improvements.

If you wish to help resolve the problems discussed in this website, you can take the following approach.



To begin with, you need to know if there are deficiencies in your state traffic code. Unless the code specifies reasonable, enforceable laws, there is no basis for traffic law enforcement agencies to take effective action.

Study the sections in your state traffic code that deal with the courtesy-based regulations discussed on the Home Page. You should be able to find the traffic code for your state on your state government’s website.

Research the code sections that deal with the following:

  • Impeding Traffic in the Left Lane
  • Improper Lane Usage
  • Following Too Closely
  • Improper Turn Signal Timing
  • Setting Speed Limits

As you review various code requirements, you will probably find that they are sensible but vague, and often lack suitable criteria for determining violations. Unless a criterion is provided that can easily be determined by enforcement officers “on the fly” under normal driving conditions, a traffic law will not be enforceable. Code sections containing such defects should be amended by including workable criteria.

Consider the following examples of regulations, which, lacking suitable criteria, are essentially unenforceable and the alternatives containing enforceable criteria.

  1. “Normal speed of traffic”

“Normal speed of traffic” is a useful engineering parameter, but it does not work as an enforcement criterion. “Normal speed of traffic” is a statistical property and is determined by directly measuring the speed of a number of vehicles, which cannot be determined by either drivers or enforcement officers while traveling in traffic.

  1. “Normal and reasonable” or “Reasonable and prudent”

“Normal and reasonable” and “Reasonable and prudent” are too subjective. Behavior that is considered “normal and reasonable” or “reasonable and prudent” by a motorist may not be so considered by an enforcement officer.

  1. Citing specific distances

Unless there is some measuring tool such as markings on a road, exact distances are very difficult to ascertain by motorists or enforcement officers while driving. While this criterion may be appropriate in some instances, it should be critically examined wherever it appears in traffic regulations and replaced when it proves to be inadequate.


Unenforceable Version:

No person shall drive a motor vehicle at such a slow speed as to impede or block the normal and reasonable movement of traffic, except when reduced speed is necessary for safe operation or in compliance with law.

The concept, “normal and reasonable movement of traffic” has a different meaning for different people. What an officer perceives as “normal and reasonable movement of traffic” may be different from a driver’s opinion.

Enforceable Version:

Upon being overtaken by another vehicle in the same lane, the operator of a vehicle shall yield to the overtaking vehicle by moving safely into a lane to the right; and may not impede the movement or free flow of traffic.

  When space is available for an operator of a vehicle to yield to an overtaking vehicle by traveling in the adjacent right-hand lane and the overtaking vehicle is following at a distance so that less than two seconds elapse before reaching the location of the operator's vehicle, the operator is in violation of this regulation.

This version provides a two-second criterion, which both an enforcement officer and motorist can evaluate accurately enough so that an impeding driver would not be likely to disagree and, if the matter were referred to court, a judge would better be able to render a reasonable judgment.


Unenforceable Version:

A vehicle proceeding at less than the normal speed of traffic at the time and place and under the conditions then existing must be operated in the right-hand lane then available for traffic, or as close as practicable to the right-hand curb or edge of the roadway.

“Normal speed of traffic” does not work as an enforcement criterion because it cannot be determined by either drivers or enforcement officers while traveling in traffic.

Enforceable Version:

A person operating a vehicle on a roadway shall operate the vehicle in a right-hand lane then available for traffic, or as close as practicable to the right-hand curb or edge of the roadway. Two or more vehicles passing a driver in a lane right of the driver’s vehicle is prima facie evidence of violation.

The number of vehicles passing on the right is easily discernible and would not be debatable. Motorists who note one vehicle passing on their right could be alerted to the fact that, if they allow a second to pass on their right they would be in violation. This may prompt a driver to promptly move to the right in order to avoid a violation.


Unenforceable Version:

An operator of a motor vehicle must allow sufficient space to enable any other vehicle to enter and occupy the space between the operator’s vehicle and the next vehicle ahead without danger.

This regulation is not enforceable because, “sufficient space to enable any other vehicle to enter and occupy the space” is vague. “Any other vehicle” could be anything from a motorcycle to a tractor-trailer rig consisting of three trailers.

The criterion is also problematic because it requires the same following distance regardless of speed; at faster speeds a longer distance is required for safety than at slower speeds.

Enforceable Version:

The operator of a vehicle shall follow at a distance so that at least two seconds elapse before reaching the location of the vehicle directly in front of the operator's vehicle.

Both enforcement officers and drivers can easily estimate the time between two vehicles accurately enough to determine compliance to this regulation. This version also allows shorter distances in slow moving traffic than in faster traffic where more space is needed to safely respond to emergencies.


Awkward Version:

Wherever the lawful speed is more than 35 miles per hour, signals shall be given continuously for a distance of at least 100 feet, and in all other cases at least 50 feet, before slowing down, stopping, turning, or partly turning.

More Easily Enforceable Version:

A signal of intention to turn right or left or to change lanes shall be given continuously for at least the last two seconds preceding the beginning of the movement.

The two-second criterion avoids the dual requirement that depends upon posted speed limits. Both enforcement officers and drivers can judge a two-second time interval accurately enough to know within reason when a violation is occurring.

As a private citizen, you can bring these matters to the attention of legislators and work with them to achieve needed revisions. If it is inconvenient to work with legislators in your voting district, a legislator from another district may be willing to support bills to amend your state’s traffic code.

By personal contact, you may locate a legislator who will sponsor a bill to amend the traffic code. Individual legislators will generally respond to personal telephone or email contacts. You may be able to find legislator’s telephone numbers and email addresses on state government websites.

Of course, a legislator who already has an interest in traffic regulations is preferred. A first step to find such legislators could be to contact one who serves on transportation or traffic committees. These committees and their members may be listed on your state legislature website.

If a legislator indicates that they are not able to pursue your proposals, ask for the name of another legislator who has an interest in traffic matters. It shouldn’t take long to locate someone who will work with you.

Write proposed revisions for the code and submit them to the legislator. This need not be a lengthy or involved statement. Short, to-the-point sentences in simple language are best.

After submitting your request to the legislator, ask them to notify you of committee meetings where you can attend and present justification for the proposed amendment. At this point, you may know more about the problem than the legislator and your input could be very important in committee meetings.

It is also important to have the support of law enforcement agencies. The issue of enforceability is particularly significant to these agencies. Your state highway police department may maintain a public relations office where you can request the name of an officer who would work with you.

You may ask for an officer who is specifically assigned to legislative matters and will be willing to discuss traffic code issues. You can encourage this support by following up during the bill development process to assure that appropriate enforcement officials are invited to committee meetings.

Follow up as necessary to keep abreast of progress through any committee meetings where the bill will be considered. You may be able to track the bill through a website sponsored by the legislature.

When the bill is approved and becomes part of the state vehicle traffic code, the next challenge is to generate enforcement. Government is sometimes notoriously slow to change practices or devote additional resources to new activities. Enforcement agencies may be reluctant to enforce courtesy-based laws claiming that they are understaffed and overburdened.

Undoubtedly some (probably most) of the present traffic law enforcement effort is spent on speed limits. As discussed earlier in this website, results from speed limit enforcement are problematic as the vast majority of speed limit violators, including many who are cited for speeding, are safe drivers.

There also may be the issue of revenues generated from traffic tickets. This issue can be dealt with by noting that shifting from speed limit enforcement to courtesy-based law enforcement would simply change the revenue source from speeding tickets to citations for violating courtesy-based laws. Thus the final result could be revenue neutral.


Changing from speed limit enforcement to effective enforcement of courtesy-based laws would also require a change in enforcement practices. Speed limits are usually enforced by officers waiting by the side of the highway for a vehicle traveling fast enough to justify a pursuit.

This surveillance method would not work for courtesy-based laws because violations are difficult or impossible to observe from a stationary position. To effectively enforce courtesy-based laws, it would be necessary for enforcement officers to patrol the highways at speeds fast enough so that they can observe violations and are in a position to immediately stop the violator.

Present code requirements may interfere with this method. It has been noted in at least one state that the vehicle code did not allow officers to travel faster than speed limits without operating warning devices. In this instance, officers did not comply with the law because it would disrupt the flow of traffic and alert violators in time to adjust their behavior. The problem was solved by amending the law to allow officers to patrol faster than speed limits without using warning devices.


Because the speed limit is so deeply embedded in traffic management philosophy, it may be difficult to amend speed limit statutes to allow higher posted values.

The steps to follow in adjusting speed limits are the same as for courtesy-based regulation changes but the commitment of the sponsoring legislator is even more important. The legislator must also be able to counter by clear logic and true facts two false presumptions that are sure to be part of the discussion.

1.    Because the intensity of crashes increases twice as fast as speed increases, the state must be conservative in limiting traffic speed by posting low speed limits.

2.    Increasing speed limits will increase the speed of traffic.

Although it is a true law of physics that kinetic energy increases twice as fast as speed, this is not the issue. The issue is whether or not faster traffic speeds will follow an increase in speed limits.

Persons who argue that because of this law of physics, we need low speed limits commit the logical fallacy: Non Sequitur ("It does not follow"). In this case, this is the simple fallacy of stating, as a conclusion, something that does not strictly follow from the premise: Crashes are more severe at higher speeds. Therefore we need low speed limits. Obviously, there is at least one missing step in this argument:

The fact that severity of crashes increases with faster speeds does not imply a need for low speed limits. It indicates a need to control vehicle speed but does not suggest anything about the method to be used.

It is important that legislators know that, while speed must be controlled within safe limits, long, frustrating attempts to enforce low speed limits demonstrate that the speed limit does not work for this purpose.

Paradoxically, legislators apparently ignore their own behavior, which is to exceed speed limits, when establishing limits for others. They should recognize that, along with themselves, most other drivers truly are reasonable and prudent citizens who are basically able to choose safe speeds on their own.

As discussed earlier, the answer to this problem is to post speed limits according to engineering practices that recognize that the choices made by the vast majority of motorists are reasonable. To assure that engineering studies are made before setting speed limits it is also important that the state motor vehicle code include a requirement that an engineering study is required before posting any speed limit.

Before posting higher speed limits, some states have conducted speed studies to verify that speed limits can be increased in their state without increasing the speed of traffic. This seems to be unjustified as there are plenty of sound studies showing little, if any, relationship between speed limits and the speed of traffic.

 Nonetheless, it may be politically effective to propose that an engineering study be conducted on a specific portion of a state highway system. When the results of a study show that raising speed limits does not increase the speed of traffic, legislators may be more willing to allow higher speed limits based on scientific studies.

Legislators should rely on professional engineers for speed limits that are low enough to catch dangerous drivers, but also high enough to avoid issuing citations to drivers who are driving safely.

Those of you who have persevered in studying this website are to be commended for your interest in this very important subject. You may use the form on the previous page to comment and request assistance with the matters described on this page.

All comments are monitored and will receive appropriate responses. Hopefully there is enough interest to make a positive difference in developing and enforcing fair traffic laws.

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