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They Can Drive "55", But is it Really Legal? - Alan, Esq.

Alan, Esq.
Date: 2006-03-01 08:20
Subject: They Can Drive "55", But is it Really Legal?
Security: Public
Instapundit has linked to a video clip of some kids conducting an experiment of driving 55 MPH on a Georgia Highway. It creates quite a calamity. Prof. Reynolds calls it "An Extraordinary Act of Civil DisObedience". The students claim that all that mayhem on the highway was caused by the mere fact that they were following the law.

I watched the video and disagree. They violated quite a few laws with this little stunt. They are lucky no one got hurt.
OCGA § 40-6-40. Driving on right side of roadway--exceptions
(a) Upon all roadways of sufficient width, a vehicle shall be driven upon the right half of the roadway,
(d) No two vehicles shall impede the normal flow of traffic by traveling side by side at the same time while in adjacent lanes, provided that this Code section shall not be construed to prevent vehicles traveling side by side in adjacent lanes because of congested traffic conditions.

OCGA § 40-6-42. Overtaking a vehicle on the left
The following rules shall govern the overtaking and passing of vehicles proceeding in the same direction, subject to those limitations, exceptions, and special rules stated in this article:
(1) The driver of a vehicle overtaking another vehicle proceeding in the same direction shall pass to the left thereof at a safe distance and shall not again drive to the right side of the roadway until safely clear of the overtaken vehicle; and
(2) Except when overtaking and passing on the right is permitted, the driver of an overtaken vehicle shall give way to the right in favor of the overtaking vehicle and shall not increase the speed of his vehicle until completely passed by the overtaking vehicle.
Now here's the interesting question. Can their video be used against them in a prosecution? Hmmmm.... BTW, violation of a motor vehicle law, a judge has the discretion to impose a sentence of up to 12 months in jail and/or a $1,000 fine. See McLeod v. State, 251 Ga.App. 371, 554 S.E.2d 507 (2001); OCGA § 17-10-3.

Update 1: Some of the organizers of the event have have added some input in the comments section. Welcome... Don't you just love LiveJournal? It's where all the kids are.

Update 2: Welcome Instapundit readers.

Update 3: Prof. Reynolds, I corrected my earlier "Obedience" Typo
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I'm just this girl, you know?
User: missakins
Date: 2006-03-01 06:32 (UTC)
Subject: (no subject)
I'm very surprised that they didn't get shot.
I'm not at all surprised about the van that broke it's mirror.

I drive the perimeter here (285) almost every day.
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User: (Anonymous)
Date: 2006-03-01 13:45 (UTC)
Subject: This experiment makes sense.
The argument has already been made that the people in this video did not intentionally break the law, etc., etc., so I will not expound upon it. What does make sense though is the experiment itself.

Suppose in a random series of events 4, 8, or even 16 slow drivers congested a highway not because they intended to, but because chance was such that they happened to be within the same vicinity of each other, and blocked off all four lanes on one side. The result of this phenomenon would be much the same as what happened in the experiment.

The fact is vehicles are getting faster and safer. And if you have an 8 lane highway, it should probably be a 65mph in the USA, rather than the 55mph highway in the video. So even though their methods were not entirely correct, they brought about a visual portrayal of what lawmakers and others would not be able to envision for themselves. Besides, changing speed limits is politically a harsh subject to deal with. A video by the common educated middle class spread across the internet and elsewhere helps to alleviate the pressure on politicians put upon them by soccer mom special interest groups.
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User: boymeat
Date: 2006-03-01 06:33 (UTC)
Subject: (no subject)
But do these violations you have quoted apply within the speed limit? If they were indeed driving 55 exactly, and that is the posted speed limit, then technically, the overtaking vehicle would be breaking the law if indeed trying to pass. So then what? Are both illegal? Is it the law to yield to someone traveling over the speed limit?

If anything, it would appear this experiment has revealed some grey areas in the law, at least from my admittedly uneducated eye.
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User: kkkkkkkkat
Date: 2006-03-01 06:39 (UTC)
Subject: (no subject)
Yes, the rules apply regardless of the speeds.
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(no subject) - (Anonymous) Expand
User: mymanbag
Date: 2006-03-01 09:24 (UTC)
Subject: (no subject)
wow... didn't find that tidbit about traveling in adjacent lanes when we were planning this. we're going to be interviewed on NPR and ABC in the coming week. So I guess I'm seeking a bit of free legal advice from the owner of the blog... in your estimation, are we in danger of being prosecuted?
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Alan, Esq.
User: alanesq
Date: 2006-03-01 12:16 (UTC)
Subject: (no subject)
I really cant comment on what Georgia officials would do. Also, I'm not sure whether State or Local authorities would even have jurisdiction. My guess (and it's just a guess) is they may just figure it's not worth the effort.

As for publicity with ABC and NPR, well... you've been profiled by the great Instapundit himself, so the cat is out of the bag and I don't see how being interviewed by ABC or NPR is going to change that. Congratulations... you're already world famous.

Although my only free bit of advice is during your interviews stress that you really thought you were not breaking the law and just wanted to conduct this experiment by showing what happens when you comply with the law. At least you were acting in good faith and not trying to make some political protest.

Of course, if you are contacted by any state or local authorities, contact a lawyer immediately.

Good Luck.
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speed limit - (Anonymous) Expand
Mr. Schrathe
User: schrathe
Date: 2006-03-01 09:56 (UTC)
Subject: (no subject)
I think mommy and daddy should just take their cars away until they graduate or what have you.

They can indeed be prosecuted for planning such an event. The right to gather in protest generally requires a request for such from the host city. An act of civil obedience is not different just because you attach a cutsy name to it. They are fortunate that nobody was harmed or no emergency vehicles needed to get through such lanes. of course, they would not know this because the traffic tie up went back so far.

What an incredibly stupid stunt. I suppose it was all just whacky teen fun because they slpiced in pre-interviews and quirky music. Morons.

Four college students did this on the Golden Gate Bridge a few years ago. They all got a year jail time.
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senzatema: strokes - is this it cover
User: senzatema
Date: 2006-03-01 10:09 (UTC)
Subject: (no subject)
Keyword:strokes - is this it cover
i've heard this "emergency vehicles" thing a few times now, and honestly, it doesn't make any sense. when an emergency vehicle needs to pass (even under normal conditions), it turns on its lights and its sirens to alert the rest of traffic, which then abides by the law and pulls over to let it pass. we already had provisions for such an event. if you notice, the traffic wasn't as dense as everyone makes it out to be, and had any emergency vehicles made themselves known (which they would have), we would have definitely broken the line and gotten out of the way.

second of all, the video was originally and has always been intended for a short-film competition at GSU. the interviews (which were done post-opp by the way), the "cutsy name", the "quirky music" and the "fun" are all a part of that. no one was hurt, shot at, or arrested. and we won a prize for Best Comedy at Campus Moviefest, so our end was met. good job with the name-calling, though.
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talk to a lawyer - (Anonymous) Expand
speed - (Anonymous) Expand
Re: speed - (Anonymous) Expand
(no subject) - (Anonymous) Expand
(no subject) - (Anonymous) Expand
User: (Anonymous)
Date: 2006-03-01 13:29 (UTC)
Subject: Not necessarily a crime, but a crime against fellow citizens?
Well, first off, after watching the video, I think the students failed to make the point that they wanted to. If they wanted to make a point about enforcement of the speed limit or about the ridiculousness of getting a ticket for 25 MPH faster than the speed limit while traffic moves at 20 MPH, I think they did not accomplish anything. The video smacks of arrogance, immaturity, and "better than thou" attitudes. Of course this is a subjective opinion, but if I think that way, surely someone else does as well, and when you come off as an asshole to people, your message is usually lost. Then again, coming off as an asshole isn't a crime either.

What is criminal, in my opinion, is that the students blocked the highway in a deliberate manner, with zero concern for fellow citizens. Using the van for example, one student says "his fault, not ours" or something to that effect. Failure to take responsibility for creating the specific circumstances of a situation is criminal. Whether other drivers were breaking laws on their own (like the van driver) or not, the fact remains that the students set the conditions for things to occur in a deliberate manner.

While this is debateable as to whether its a crime or not, it is most definitely a lack of concern for fellow citizens based on a self serving need to make some kind of a point. So in the end, this is a stunt that falls short of accomplishing anything except elevating the students to the level of "great social crusaders" or "immature jackasses with cameras" depending on who you ask. Whether they are tried in a court or not, they will most certainly be tried in the court of public opinion. It will be interesting to see what fellow citizens have to say, and I bet the response will be mostly negative.
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User: oreouk
Date: 2006-03-01 14:27 (UTC)
Subject: Re: Not necessarily a crime, but a crime against fellow citizens?
I tend towards thinking you are also overreacting. There's a lot to be said for the occasional graphic demonstration that speed limits on freeways are completely out of line with the reality of the speeds being driven on them. Perhaps there is a certain level of arrogance in enforcing a delay on all the people stuck behind them but the delay was only for 10 minutes and would have cleared with ease once their project was completed. I've been stuck in delays of similar length for which I have never discovered the reason because they just cleared away and life continued as normal.

I don't think they are trying to say they are better than everyone around them, they're saying that the law is an ass and they're right.
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User: (Anonymous)
Date: 2006-03-01 13:39 (UTC)
Subject: Too many laws
I believe the only point schrathe really makes by copying and pasting law citations is that there are way too many laws. The danger of too many laws is that it gives the police and government almost dictatorial power. Everyone breaks some law everyday whether they know it or not...seriously you can't get through a day without technically making some sort of infraction there are just too many municiple, state and federal laws (often conflicting ones) on the books for this to be possible. With this many laws all you have to do is piss off someone in law enforcement and they will all of the sudden start noticing the ones you are breaking. It is pretty scary really. I think these kids make an excellent example of why we need to only pass laws we intend to enforce.
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User: (Anonymous)
Date: 2007-01-09 01:43 (UTC)
Subject: Re: Too many godforsaken laws, designed for selective enforcement
Amen, brother. Too many laws, noone with the backbone to stand up to them, except some "punk kids". Well, these kids have more spine than any thousand of the jerks who got mad at them. More power to 'em!

The question is how will freedom win, if most "Americans" are simpering Nanny-State apologists like schrathe? It's easier to raise a simpleton conformist than a thinker! (And the government's strategy is to make sure that it controls "education" and get those who are 'marginal' --like schrathe-- pumping for its protectionist machine!)

One of the last shreds of hope is here:

-Jake Witmer
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The Béseme Bandito
User: that_xmas
Date: 2006-03-01 14:09 (UTC)
Subject: Similar to a "Work to Rule" strike...
This movie reminds me of a "Work to Rule" strike, where a union does their work following ALL of the rules. Often times this causes a complete breakdown because many rules run counter to each other.

You mention that one law about driving to the right and allowing others to pass. Oh, how I wish people would do that. Of course, nobody does. In that line of thought, if someone wanted to repeat this experiment, they could create as big of a problem driving with 8 cars in formation going the speed limit just in the right two lanes. Sure people would be able to pass them on the left, but such a large block of law abiding citizens would righteously screw up traffic. Though, the pretty effect of the rolling road block wouldn't be there.
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User: (Anonymous)
Date: 2006-03-05 13:00 (UTC)
Subject: Re: Similar to a "Work to Rule" strike...
"You mention that one law about driving to the right and allowing others to pass... Of course, nobody does."

Excuse me, but I drive almost infuriatingly slowly on the freeway and I know it, so I do stay over right. Perhaps if people driving faster than me in the right lane would pass me rather than forcing me to get over to let them pass on the right by tailgating me and flashing their hi-beams at me (especially on a four lane interstate where there's plenty of room and time for the passing car to get over well before it's three inches from my rear bumper) I wouldn't get stuck driving in a passing lane going slower than everyone else.

Of course, I'm from Detroit, and as anyone who's ever driven in Detroit will tell you, the logistics of sane driving simply do not apply. People think we invented driving, so we can drive any way we damn well please, I guess.
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User: zsero
Date: 2006-03-01 14:59 (UTC)
Subject: (no subject)
You all seem to be forgetting a few things: Nobody was inconvenienced, unless they depended on breaking the law. Nobody could overtake them without breaking the law. The law you cite above cannot be construed so as to require them to go faster than they were going. It could conceivably be construed to require them to go slower - can you imagine them being charged with having gone too fast? It would be laughed out of court. All they were doing was failing to facilitate law breaking.

As for the requirement to drive on the right half of the road, that cannot be understood as referring to a multi-lane highway. On a five-lane highway the left three lanes are not expected to be empty. And emergency vehicles could drive in the emergency lane - that's what it's for, isn't it?
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User: (Anonymous)
Date: 2006-03-02 06:00 (UTC)
Subject: You Are Wrong
Yes, driving on the right applies to a 3, 5, or 50 lane highway. No, the left lanes should not be "empty", but if you are generally going slower than traffic you are ABSOLUTELY expected to move to the right. I was quite surprised to see it actually codified in a law. Sounds to me like you are just one of the people who doesn't like doing that and you're just trying to justify why it is you drive like a jackass, which anyone who does not know AND comply with the "slower on the right" principle damn sure IS.

Yes, including the participants of this stunt. The fact that public safety was challenged, not to make a real point, but to enter a film content burns my ass. If not for a couple inches there very well could have been a bad accident as a DIRECT result of this stunt. How funny it would have been if someone had been injured. While maybe not legally "accountable" - though if someone had been injured I'm damn sure in civil court you would be accountable - you sure as hell would be morally accountable.
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User: (Anonymous)
Date: 2006-03-01 15:41 (UTC)
Subject: Missing the Point
I worked for some years as a fingerprint technician for the Columbus, Ohio Police Department, which means that I have actually been instrumental in putting people in jail. What surprises me is how everyone here seems to have overlooked the situation as seen from the law enforcement community's POV.

That view is simple: everybody breaks the law. (Everyone lies to the cops and is looking to steal what isn't nailed down as well, but that's a subject for another post.) The students kept trying to make the point that a 55 MPH speed limit was simply too slow and it should be raised. What in the world do they think would happen then? If the limit is raised to 75 MPH, the speed that one of the kids said everyone drives at now, do they actually think that everyone would obligingly motor along at 75 MPH?

I'm actually old enough to remember when the limit was 75 MPH, and let me tell you that no one drove at that speed. 90 MPH was more like it. Considering the state of car suspension technology in those days, and the lack of safety features (some cars didn't even have seatbelts), dramatic and messy deaths were all too common as drivers lost control. It wasn't uncommon for entire families to be wiped off the face of the Earth by some bozo who was trying to pass a car that wasn't going as fast as they liked.

Do you know the one thing that shocked me about this little experiment? I only saw two cars pass the students by using the emergency lane. (One of them was that white van which lost it's side mirror.) Only Two! That's extraordinary! As soon as one car managed that little stunt I figured that everyone else behind the blocking cars would have gone for the gold as well.

I suppose this shows that the people of Atlanta are generally safe drivers even if they like to think of themselves as desperadoes by driving 20 MPH over the speed limit.

James R. Rummel
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User: (Anonymous)
Date: 2006-03-01 22:45 (UTC)
Subject: Re: Missing the Point
This isn't exactly on topic, but does relate to it: Mr. Rummel sates: "What surprises me is how everyone here seems to have overlooked the situation as seen from the law enforcement community's POV. That view is simple: everybody breaks the law. (Everyone lies to the cops and is looking to steal what isn't nailed down as well...." If this is the preconception law enforcement approaches situations with, then they are certainly part of the problem. At the least this demonstrates a significant lack of professionalism. If everyone breaks the law, then there is certainly too many laws. There are people who make a concerted effort to obey the law, to the letter. If someone is trying to go about there business in an honest fashion and is in fact breaking the law, then the laws are ether intractably complex, counter intuitive, or contradictory. Or law enforcement officers actively interpret behavior as being illegal and look for a possible charge to support their viewpoint? I have been, on a number of occasions, hassled about 'violating and ordinance' after specifically following previous admonishments by other officers. Not everyone lies to the cops (I admit that I have been stopped, and even taken into custody, and have never knowing lied to the police). Not everyone steals. While most people go through a phase as youngsters where they are tempted to steal. Many act on it. Some grow out of it and take the viewpoint that it is simply wrong, and therefore actively avoid doing so. Such a bias on the part of law enforcement contributes to a adversarial relationship with the public and tarnishes the public's 'respect for the law'.
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User: (Anonymous)
Date: 2006-03-01 16:22 (UTC)
Subject: (no subject)
I saw this earlier but I have to laugh when I was reading it as ABC World News Tonight ran their report of on it.

So, there's the law Alanesq notes was violated. It's possible a road rage law was violated, though scrathe is only suggesting it based on a NYS law.

I can understand some sophomoric college students, reveling in their own intelligence, not actually being aware of the detail of the law that common sense usually prevents one from getting snared in, but how could they possibly be unaware of the law prohibiting the use of hand held cell phones while driving? I feel sorry for the chuckle-head caught on video doing that.
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User: (Anonymous)
Date: 2006-03-01 18:50 (UTC)
Subject: cell phone use
Actually, as best I can tell, it is NOT illegal to use a cell phone while driving in Georgia. For example, I found this document at the Governor's Office of Highway Safety site (Georgia Governor Sonny Perdue Welcomes You!):


It includes this passage:

Drivers are discouraged from using wireless hand-held phones while operating motor vehicles.

For absolute safety, drivers should pull off the road, in appropriate locations, to take or make calls.

If a driver must make or take calls while operating a motor vehicle, it is highly recommended that:....

[emphasis in original]

Then there are a number of very reasonable recommendations, like using a hands-free device, etc. NONE of those recommendations is phrased as a legal requirement.

I realize that lots of states do have laws against (or at least governing) cell phone use while driving. But the students did make it quite clear they were in Georgia, did they not?
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Reality Hammer: Life Liberty and the Pursuit of all who
User: reality_hammer
Date: 2006-03-01 18:21 (UTC)
Subject: (no subject)
Keyword:Life Liberty and the Pursuit of all who
A few people have done "rolling roadblocks" as forms of protest. I guess it says something about our society when "obeying the law" also conflicts with "the normal flow of traffic".

I'd say in the case it is the law that is wrong and needs to be changed.

After all, it is not speed per se that is bad (to a reasonable degree), but differences in speed. If people have been traveling 80-85 mph daily for years without a significant number of accidents I would say that is a de facto "safe" speed limit.
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User: (Anonymous)
Date: 2006-03-01 19:10 (UTC)
Subject: (no subject)
"reality_hammer" brings up the important point about this stunt, by bringing up the concept of "de facto", that there is indeed a conscious "gray area" built into traffic laws relating to speed. That understanding follows from the fact that road conditions change (weather, etc.) and that drivers are not automatons that can or will drive exactly at the "speed limit".

This fact is displayed openly in your own video, near the beginning of the driving portion, when your four drivers obviously had some difficulty staying "in formation", synchronizing your speeds. Your obvious goal was to block traffic, not to merely display how unsafe following the speed limit would appear. It takes a significant amount of energy and coordination to form a "rolling roadblock" like you did. This is an unnatural traffic condition and completely invalidates any sense of "experiment" you claim to be performing.

When I first followed the link to this video, I was enthused and immediately began imagining what effect a car traveling the speed limit would look like in reality. I was astonished when it finally came to the driving portion to see you purposefully blocking traffic. I think you owe your whole community an apology. I think your intentions were good, but it was foolish and reckless, and that fact should have been apparent the second any other drivers became noticably upset. It should have been obvious to you beforehand that you would piss people off, but I can't presume that you're all intelligent enough to think it through before acting.
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big if - (Anonymous) Expand
User: thebsg
Date: 2006-03-01 18:42 (UTC)
Subject: (no subject)
I think the overall concept was brilliant, but I believe the line of four cars was silly, and sort of defeated the point. I did, however, laugh until I cried when the entire line of cars came rolling behind you. Had you not made the line, I believe your point of speed limits would become far more apparent as people bluntly break the law to get ahead of you.

And for this specific thread:
Some of you people are absolutely moronic. The attack on "young people," coupled with swearing and personal attacks is way out of line. This isn't my blog, but I honestly would delete half of your posts. But I guess that goes to say something about our society when people feel passionate about traffic jams.

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User: (Anonymous)
Date: 2006-03-01 19:05 (UTC)
Subject: (no subject)
Yes, the Type A drivers who acted like bull baboons with testosterone poisoning were the ones who were dangerous. I think the stunt was foolhardy, but only because of the risk of some moron shooting or ramming them, and then lawyers parachuting in on them with the civil suits. Otherwise, it accomplished the point -- the law is an ass in this case. So frickin' what if the speed limit was raised to 75 mph and some people would drive faster? Obviously they're *already doing that* or they wouldn't be so pissed off at having to follow the legal speed limit, now would they? As far as the legality of their action, the Dallas PD was actually seriously talking about doing *exactly* this with "rolling roadblocks" of police cars. Who are the bigger morons -- students doing a one-time stunt to demonstrate the asinine nature of the current speed limit on that road, or police chiefs who actually propose it as regular policy?
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Ah, Testosterone - (Anonymous) Expand
55 - (Anonymous) Expand
Re: 55 - (Anonymous) Expand
Re: 55 - (Anonymous) Expand
User: (Anonymous)
Date: 2006-03-02 06:29 (UTC)
Subject: They can't spell either
The text in the movie misspells obedience. BTW - As has been repeatedly demonstrated, congestion problems persist long after their originating cause. In other words, they didn't only delay the drivers immediately behind them, they left a clot that affected people for hours.
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zanthinegirl: OMG
User: zanthinegirl
Date: 2006-03-02 08:26 (UTC)
Subject: (no subject)
This discussion is almost as entertaining as the movie! Let's face it, teenagers in groups make stupid decisions. There's an inverse correlation between group size and common sense. You know they were sitting around one night and somebody said "I wonder what would happen if we all drove around on the freeway at exactly the speed limit..."

Oddly enough, a group of friends and I did something very similar in our rural smallish town when I was a teenager; though it didn't occur to us to videotape the adventure! We didn't even pretend to have any remote justifications or points to prove; we were bored and it seemed like a good idea at the time. Frankly I'd be willing to bet money that the students in the video approached things the same way, but decided to add on that philosophical justification to impress girls make the tape more marketable.

Here via instapundit BTW!
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Alan, Esq.
User: alanesq
Date: 2006-03-02 10:52 (UTC)
Subject: (no subject)
And what is wrong with impressing girls? It has led to innumerable human advancements... :)
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User: (Anonymous)
Date: 2006-03-03 06:24 (UTC)
Subject: What the Students Did Was Great!
Perhaps I would be a lot more sympathetic to all of this whining on the boardif, as a general rule, Atlanta drivers actually obeyed most of the laws and exhibited a smidgen of common driving courtesy on the road. The most common remark that every visitor I have from out of town is, "These people don't know how to drive!"

By these people they mean Atlanta drivers who haven't heard of a thing called a turn signal. Who think that pulling up 1.1 inches from another driver's bumper at a stop light (often when no one else is around) is cute. Who regularly cut off other drivers although they themselves are going no farther than 2 blocks away. Who, between talking on their cell phones, adjusting their iPods, and eating their McBurgerBuster meals, regularly jump 3 lanes to make their exit from a 200 feet mark. Who, during inclement weather with wet roads and poor visibility, somehow manage to avoid turning on their headlights and slowing down especially if their silver and gray cars blend in with the gray mist or fog. Who regularly use the emergency lane or shoulder to pass cars to the right during rush hour...up a hill...on a curve. And that's not even counting the people in their aircraft carrier SUV's or their luxury cars who think they own the road and anyone driving is allowed only by their good graces, as somany of them try to "bogart" the roadways on the way to Starbucks ot Target. Even the students' own video bear out some of this childish behavior by other motorists.

I swear before God, I have never seen as much bad driving, poor driving, discourteous driving, and plain disregard for the law as well as near accidents and accidents in the 5 years I lived in Los Angeles, the 7 years I lived in New York or the 3 I lived in Chicago COMBINED as I have witnessed in Atlanta.

The students did nothing wrong except get a lot of people mad at them for curtailing their own sense of entitlement to drive as if they are in a NASCAR race instead of sharing the road with fellow motorists. You all need to save all this hypocritical caterwalling.

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