Driving At The Speed Of Jesus
Colorado fights road rage

The neo-hippies at my local Boulder head shop sell a bumper sticker that says, "How Would Jesus Drive?" A few miles east of these Tibet-freeing, tantric-orgasming fiends, a different road rule took hold this fall: Without a law to cite, the Colorado State Patrol started cracking down on people who refused to speed on interstate highways.

See also...
... by Joe Doebele
... in the Scope section
... from November 22, 1999

On September 28, as the first snow-dump of the season fell, the CSP began a two-week campaign of pulling over slowpokes for "passive-aggressive driving," i.e., going the speed limit in the left lane. Failure to speed creates road rage in others, the troopers reasoned, and so it is wrong.

The initiative attracted lots of news coverage, partly to alert the public and partly because the notion of cops abetting speeders induced civic vertigo. "If you are in somebody's way you are creating a problem, whether you have the right to be there or not," the Denver Post quoted trooper Ed Gawkoski as saying just before the crackdown began. Ed claimed 55 percent of drivers would support the action. "People are already irritated by everybody else on the road," he observed, "and then they get really angry because they have someone in front of them that doesn't seem to care."

So the CSP diverted their radar guns away from the ubiquitous 90-mph Yukons and focused their attention on picking off bumblefucks who, invoking the name of Jesus, failed to get out of the Yukons' way. No doubt there would be less road rage, at first anyway, if the bumblefucks moved over (my guess is that Jesus would).

But meanwhile, all that publicity had consequences. By blaming law-abiding morons for the bullying they receive, the troopers brought upon themselves the two things besides bullets that cops fear most: ridicule and vigilantes. After the Post made fun of the CSP's psychobabble and condemned the crackdown (later devoting a Sunday page to irate letters), the patrol issued clarification upon clarification to make it seem like they'd been misunderstood. Trooper Ed was replaced, but the crackdown lived and the trouble thickened.

The troopers might not have seemed so ridiculous if they themselves didn't drive around in passive-aggressive pace cars. Notice how road rage activities cease when it's a cruiser leading the pack. Notice how the pilot of the speeding Yukon masters her fury. It's like the last scene in Lord of the Flies, only here the wild ones have painted steel instead of painted faces and spears and, like the officer the boys stumble upon, the police give those who've just blitzed the herd a moment to pull themselves together and fall in. And they do, driving calmly despite the mindfuckingly slow pace.

After 400 pullovers, the crackdown's two weeks expired and the bitching quieted. Then, nearly a month later, the CSP announced the assault was back, indefinitely. A press release stated, "Certainly the State Patrol is not going to ticket someone for obeying the law," but asked, "Is a driver truly obeying the law when creating hazardous conditions for other highway users?"

Had the police read more psychology, they might have foreseen the reaction to their scheme. By now, anecdotal evidence suggested certain Gandhi-like citizens had taken to ambling along in the fast lane as a form of civil disobedience. One amateur statistician who rides on the labor-intensive Boulder-Littleton commute counted a fourfold increase in the number of righteous left-lane ramblers in October.

The patrol wasn't finished. His department scorned and bloodied, new spokesman Major Guy King came out swinging. Those who stick to the speed limit out of principle, he said, "have their own agenda. They want to do what's right and impose the speed limit on other drivers." This sort of troublemaker, he said, was involved in almost half of the 43,000 crashes the state investigated in 1998, and "created" nearly 5,000 of them. The implication was that those who follow the speed limit cause hundreds or thousands of deaths each year.

What had been a sort of funny bizarre story wasn't fun anymore. Now even the Denver Rocky Mountain News told the police to shut up and get back to their jobs. Suddenly, and only a few days after Major Guy vowed he'd just begun to fight, the high command officially dumped the program.

If only the Highway Patrol had read their Bibles, they could have avoided the whole problem. As everyone knows: "The law is death, the Spirit is life." And that's how Jesus would drive.

Joe Doebele is praying for snow.