Have you ever been stopped at a red light for an excessive period of time? You look around at the various points of the intersection and nobody else is present. In fact, no one is even driving in the direction of the intersection. And yet you’re stuck; just you and your car, alone at the most stubborn red light ever.
I recently posted the following to Facebook: “Rebellion and liberty can occasionally be the same thing; seriously. Do yourself a favor and break a law some time, just be smart about it. Take risks within reason. I’m not talking about stealing or harming any person or their property. I’m totally against that. But drive a little over the speed limit, refuse to shovel your personal sidewalk (if you have one) right away when it snows, or watch a movie on bootleg. A little goes a long way. Most of all (and this is the most important part), do it because you’re a free person with too many petty rules. Make decisions for yourself. It’s worth it. Freedom is like a breath of fresh air. #justtakeit #stickittotheman”
The response I got from this posting was surprising. I wouldn’t have thought it to be too controversial, and yet there were a number of people who stood to debate. Some agreed with me. Others felt I should be more apt to respect any law that was on the books, and another even quoted versus from the Holy Bible which seemed to state that I should obey the law 100% of the time.
Now, the Bible is filled with great advice on how to be a moral, upstanding guy. I’m sure there’s someone out there who would argue with that, but I’m not that someone. However, the authors of the Bible didn’t know what a red light was, and certainly wouldn’t have needed to predict that there would someday be the most stubborn red light, which refused to change and jeopardized the otherwise clear path from that intersection to my home and family.
So I ran it. Nobody saw me. There wasn’t anyone around to see me. Nobody was hurt. I was safe. My car was safe. But how silly would it have been if I had just sat there? Did I really need the government’s permission to drive when the safe path forward was so completely visible? I thought I would look into this a bit deeper.
Today I called Legislative Information. The conversation went like this:
Me: “Hi, if I’m stuck at a red light for ten minutes and nobody else is around; I’ve rolled over the sensors to try and make the light work correctly again and again, and it still seems to be frozen, at what point can I…”
The man then cut me off as though he knew where the question was going.
Legislative Information Guy: “There is no law that says you can run it no matter how long you’ve been sitting there.”
Me: “Is there a law that says I can’t?”
Legislative Information Guy: “Well,” he chuckled, “There’s a law that says you can’t run a red light.”
Me: “Well sure, but could you advise me to the specific code that states that? I would just like to read the exact wording.”
Legislative Information Guy: “Sure, let me put you on hold so I can find that for you.”
I then remained on hold for about 20 minutes. When he returned the man stated, “I’m sorry about that. You know, I just can’t seem to find it. I don’t know why we would not have an Indiana statute that says you can’t run a red light. Maybe it’s a regulation that the Bureau of Motor Vehicles has rather than a statute.”
He then paused for a moment and said, “Well, let me look one more time.”
I then stayed on hold for 5 more minutes. When he returned the man stated, “The closest thing I could find for you was Indiana Code 9-21-3, so you might read that, but I would also call the BMV to see if they have any regulations on the books about it.” I thanked him for his time and ended the call.
Curious as to what the Bureau of Motor Vehicles might say I gave them a call. I explained to them that I had been speaking with Legislative Information and that they had said there was no specific statute from the state regarding my situation. After looking into it she told me what I had probably suspected. “There’s no regulation on our end. We just follow the laws that they set.”
So does that mean there’s not actually a law telling me that I can’t run a red light?
Kind of… Sort of… Not really. I then looked up Indiana Code 9-21-3, and while it does not specifically call out the situation which I inquired about, a little common sense could have been used to apply it.
Indiana Code 9-21-3-10 actually says, “The motorman of a street car shall obey traffic control signals that are applicable to vehicles.” I remember the basics from my driving exam at age 16, so I know running a red light is a no-no. As a regular driver I also know that running a red light when other drivers are present could result in an accident, and I want no part of that if I can avoid it.
9-21-3-11 then goes on to specify that “A person who violates section 7, 8, 9, or 10 of this chapter commits a Class C Infraction.” Of course my next question was, “How does Indiana define a Class C Infraction?”
A simple Google search produced a WikiAnswers page that stated, “A class C infraction in Indiana is one of the lowest levels of crime that carries a penalty, upon conviction, of a fine going up to £313 ($500). It is a violation of a statue or an ordinance that does not subject the convicted person to jail time or a criminal conviction.”
That was a good answer, but I wanted the State’s exact wording so that I had the best understanding possible of their rules. I called back to Legislative Information Guy and ended up on hold again for several minutes. During that time I took a Zimbio quiz on Facebook to find out which Michael Jackson song best represents me (it was Black and White in case you were interested).
When he returned he said, “I’m sorry. I can’t find it. They used to be really easy to find. We had a cheat sheet, but then they repealed it and put the infraction information somewhere else. I haven’t been able to find it since.”
Repealed the cheat sheet? Who did? How am I supposed to understand the law as the government intended it if the people who are assigned to explain these things to me don’t even have an answer?
And therein lays the problem. Governments everywhere put so many laws, rules, and regulations on the books that half of the time the government itself doesn’t know what rules we’re supposed to abide by.
They then leave it to the idea that “well, people should (hopefully) have at least a general understanding of things, so since the laws are there, they’ll probably just obey them.” As a libertarian trying to decipher such a notion, my guess is that what they’re really saying is people will ultimately do the right thing for their own reasons.
If it would put anyone including myself in danger I wouldn’t run a red light; not because the law is in place, but because I don’t want to be responsible for the loss of life or damage of property.
But what is leftover when no person or property is at risk? I’d say just a meaningless and somewhat silly gathering of words on a piece of paper that no one can find. So, if you must, run a red light. Take what little moments you can to disobey the unnecessary.
Freedom is rarely legislated to us, but it is frequently legislated away from us – and that is true on all levels of government. However, we can take it, so do yourself a favor and take it! Find those little red light moments in life and choose not to ask permission. Instead, live free.
If a law is unjust, a man is not only right to disobey it, he is obligated to do so.” – Thomas Jefferson
Interpret that how you will and enjoy!