Art Parker headshot

The great comedian George Carlin once said, “Never underestimate the power of stupid people in large groups.” The Alabama House of Representatives was such a large group last Thursday when it passed House Bill 212 (HB 212) which basically makes it naughty to drive in the left lane on the Interstate.

Yep, we really need to be worried about this.

The primary dunderhead leading the charge was Representative Phillip Pettus of Lauderdale County, a former member of the Alabama State Troopers. The bill is entitled the “Anti-Road Rage Act.” Pettus claims that the intent of the legislation is to reduce accidents and violence when some drivers get mad at others for driving too slow in the left lane on the Interstate. The bill, passed the House by a wide margin.

The big item in the bill was that troopers will need to stop and cite drivers that travel more than a mile-and-a-half without passing another vehicle.

Wow. Pettus has got this down to a science doesn’t he? I guess that will make it totally cool to piss off other drivers as long as you cease your incendiary behavior before motoring a mile and a half.

I would like to hear this former trooper of 25 years explain to me how a trooper will measure or gauge the distance traveled. Our mile markers are posted at one mile intervals and I don’t think even a trooper’s patrol car has an odometer that reads one-half mile. I am not a lawyer but I would love to represent a motorist in traffic court after being cited for this driving infraction. I would love to hear a trooper try to explain how he measured the distance with unerring accuracy.

It seems to me that Pettus needs to get off the Interstates and drive in Birmingham traffic so he can see road rage. There is no way I will ever believe that road rage exists more frequently on an Interstate than in congested metropolitan traffic. I see it every day when I drive from the office on Atlanta Highway toward the bypass. People get hostile toward me because I do not drive that fast. I’m so accustomed to another driver exposing his social finger to me that it just doesn‘t bother me anymore.

I’ve been told that my suspicion of enforcement ability was confirmed when some representatives voiced concern on the House floor. But apparently there were still plenty of dunces that sent this bill to the Senate for consideration.

What makes me wonder about the pushers of this bill is the disregard of the expectations, priorities and capabilities of a state trooper. To begin with we have fewer troopers on the road today than we did about 20 years ago and the population has increased significantly since then. The number of troopers is staggeringly low. So how can this be handled by our troopers without burden since the number in the force is down and the number of motorists are much greater? The big question I have is this: Don’t our state troopers, especially considering their reduced number, have more to worry about than enforcing an unnecessary, ridiculous law? Our troopers are probably grossly underpaid and overworked.

In my opinion bills like this are born out of emotion possessed by an individual who had a bad experience and they want to make all others behave the way he believes they should behave. It is very much like someone being offended because someone else is not politically incorrect. This bill is just another version of government overkill and intrusion into our ability, and right, to police ourselves. What will be next? A law that tells us we can only scratch with our right hand?

A standing ovation for Senator Cam Ward of Shelby County. A bill introduced in the Senate would have seriously changed our ethics laws-the same ones enacted less than ten years ago when the Republicans were going to rid us of the crooked Democrats (remember). Seems like some Republicans in the Senate wanted to repeal the laws they championed. Since these laws are not damaging the citizens I can only conclude that those behind this bill want to avoid conviction when they don’t play by the rules. We all were saved when Ward, who is chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, proclaimed the bill to be dead in his committee. That’s another way of saying Ward will disallow the bill from reaching the committee agenda in the future and for that, we should be grateful.