Support for standardized vehicle and traffic laws

In early December, I proposed in my weekly article on Vehicle and Traffic Law and traffic safety that we should consider standardizing vehicle and traffic laws nationwide. In that article I described numerous traffic laws that differed from state to state and asked how drivers could possibly be held accountable for the varying laws in each state.

I suspected that article would be controversial and would generate feedback. It did generate feedback, but surprisingly, the feedback wasn’t controversial — every responder (admittedly, there weren’t many responses) agreed that, for the most part, traffic laws should be the same throughout the U.S. The responses came from ordinary local drivers to a couple of persons who are involved in some professional manner with traffic laws on a daily basis.

One professional, who is involved with the Manual on Uniform Traffic Control Devices throughout the state, opined that the feds could get more uniformity if there was political will, such as maximum speed limits, helmet laws and alcohol limits, etc. But getting politicians to agree can be quite difficult. Another professional that teaches traffic safety agreed 100% with my opinion on standardizing, including the justification presented.

Another person, who winters in Florida but lives in Malone during the summers, agreed with the basics of uniform traffic laws but not with speed limits. His perspective is that in some states where interstate highways are long and straight, like Texas, speed limits could be greater than in states where there are lakes and mountains. He makes a valid point. Traffic experts know that drivers will drive what they perceive to be a reasonable, safe speed regardless of the posted limit, absent constant enforcement.

So perhaps the start to a solution might be to form a committee to study the most common traffic laws in all the states and maybe get agreement on standardizing the bulk of the more common laws, like how to treat a stopped school bus, or how far in advance of turns and lane changes signaling is required. I would think laws for headlight use should also be uniform, as should alcohol limits.

Personally, I’m not excited about forming committees to study things, as too often they can’t get agreement and nothing ever gets done. But the concept of standardized vehicle and traffic laws seems to be a good idea, at least from the feedback I received, so maybe it’s time to take a close look at what could result in more uniformity from state to state. It works for uniform traffic control devices, so why not traffic laws?


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