Friday, November 18, 2005

Trip

In the middle of a very busy two weeks here. I just drove to DC and back in the past week. While I was there, I worked quite a bit; took the DC Bar's ethics class; and managed to catch two sessions at the Federalist Society convention.

A few thoughts and observations:
  • My friend Mark Rienzi made a very good point: Why did anyone ever think that it would be a good idea to make cars with the default being that the headlights can stay on without the key in the ignition? For every other electrical system in the car (radio, etc.), you have to turn the key. Why not headlights? Maybe the usual default would be useful if you were stumbling around in the wilderness in the dark, found an unlocked car with no key, and needed to use the headlights to illuminate something. But that extremely unlikely situation has to be overwhelmingly outweighed by all the millions of people who leave their lights on by accident.

  • I saw Judge Raymond Randolph's speech on Friday night. He had kept a copy of an unpublished abortion opinion by Judge Henry Friendly. Randolph had worked on the opinion while he clerked for Friendly in 1970. It would have been the first federal court opinion on abortion, but it was never published because New York revised its abortion laws, thus mooting the case.

    Friendly would have found abortion regulation to be constitutional. First, Griswold's invocation of "privacy" was basically irrelevant. It is one thing to say that the marital bedroom should be kept private from governmental investigators, and another thing entirely to say that doctors can perform an operation to kill a fetus. Friendly also made a two-part argument that 1) the Constitution did not enact John Stuart Mill's no-harm libertarianism; 2) even if it did, the state is rationally entitled to consider the harm done to the fetus.

    Wow. What a stunning relevation for us law geeks. (See Gail Heriot's comments.) Friendly was (along with Learned Hand) one of the most famous and widely respected American judges of the 20th century. Imagine if he had issued an abortion opinion prior to Roe v. Wade.

  • One motto that I live by is: Drive carefully around 18-wheeler trucks. They're big, they're unwieldy, they don't stop quickly, and they can run you right over if you get in their way.

    So, for example, when I see a 18-wheeler in the left lane trying to pass another 18-wheeler, and then an SUV comes whizzing up the interstate, and swerves over into the right lane, passing the first 18-wheeler and then dashing at the last possible second in between the two trucks, with barely an inch to spare, my only thought is: "I hope you are thanking the Lord for every minute of your life, because you've already lived longer than you deserve."

    The two biggest no-nos about interstate driving (other than drive on the right side of the road) are: 1) Don't pass a truck on the right, and 2) Don't swerve in front of trucks. That SUV driver managed to violate both at once. All for the sake of saving a few seconds.

    On rule number 1: Truckers are generally good drivers, and if a trucker is in the left lane on the interstate, there's no telling when he might decide to move back into the right lane because he's realized that he can't pass the other truck, etc. If you're being sneaky and trying to pass on the right, there's a very good chance that the trucker won't be able to see you, in which case you'll get knocked right off the road. (Better hope you're not driving over a bridge or on a hillside.)

    Note: This especially applies if the truck has just passed someone else. What I've seen too many times is that people are too impatient to let the trucker have time to pull back in the right lane (i.e., with enough distance so that he's not cutting off the person he just passed). So as soon as the truck gets a car's-length of space ahead, they dash over into the right lane and pass the truck on the right. Stupid, stupid, stupid. If the trucker just passed somebody, you should know that he's about to get back in the right lane.

    As for rule number 2: Don't swerve right in front of a truck and cut him off. If you do that, and then for ANY REASON need to slow down or put on your brakes, the truck won't be able to stop and could easily crush your car.

    When I pass a truck, I've started driving a little more strategically. Quite often, some gunner is right on my tail, just waiting for me to pass the truck so that he can keep going down the road at 85-90 miles per hour. So on the one hand, if I pull over too quickly, the gunner is happy, but I just cut off the truck. I view that as a bad outcome all around. On the other hand, if I wait until I'm far ahead of the truck to move back in the right lane: too late. The gunner already seized the chance to pass me on the right, thus cutting off the truck himself. Again, a bad outcome.

    So here's what I do: I watch the rear view mirror carefully so that I can see where the gunner is in relation to the truck. I move back over into the right lane right at the moment that his rear bumper pulls past the front of the truck. This is close to ideal: I've delayed getting back in the right lane as long as I can, but not so long that the gunner can cut off the truck himself.

    (Do I analyze this too much? Do I think too much about how to force other drivers to drive more safely? Well, somebody has to: Too many people obviously can't think for themselves.)

  • When I was driving within 40 miles or so of Memphis (probably an hour and a half), there was a black radio station (WRBO 103.5) that had a very unusual talk/music show. I've heard lots of radio stations that play music, and lots of talk radio stations, but this was a mix of both. When I first came across the station, the host was interviewing Cathy Cleaver Ruse of the Family Research Council about abortion. After that, he would talk to callers for a few minutes about abortion; then play a song by Alicia Keys; talk to callers about abortion again, then play a song by Rick James. And so on. The host had a funny habit of saying the wrong thing; one time he observed that in the previous hour, he had "lots of women" calling in to say that "life begins at contraception . . . um, I mean, conception."

    One caller also was particularly interesting. The host had asked teenagers to weigh in on whether they agreed with parental notification. One 19-year-old said that in her experience, most of the men "getting us pregnant" (not sure what she meant by "us") were friends of her father's, and they "want us to get abortions" because they don't want anyone else (including their wives) to find out that they got a teenager pregnant.


UPDATE: I just remembered reading this very useful (and colorful) post by a trucker bemoaning the poor driving habits of car drivers. It's a classic post that all drivers should read.

5 Comments:

Blogger P. G. said...

It's always seemed to me that trucks should be restricted to certain lanes of the highway. Like "no trucks in the extreme left lane at all, except when there are only two lanes." That would resolve both the delay problem and the idiots passing on the right problem.

11:32 AM  
Blogger Stuart Buck said...

That usually is the rule, I believe. Read the post linked in my update.

12:31 PM  
Blogger P. G. said...

You know, that linked post is oddly distressing to me. If there are two people on the road involved in an accident, and one of them is admittedly driving an extremely dangerous vehicle, why do we call it the other guy's fault?

It seems to me that if I'm juggling hand grenades, and someone comes up and shoves me, causing an explosion, I ought not to be so sanctimonious about how everyone should be extra-nice to hand grenade jugglers. Maybe, just maybe, I shouldn't be juggling hand grenades. And maybe, just maybe, those trucks should be run with lighter loads, not so long, not through the middle of the night in the rain in the mountains, etc.

The fact is that truck drivers ought to accommodate their huge vehicles too. Like by not driving so fast. Contrary to that guy's post, I have spent many hours driving through rural America (not nearly aa many aa truckers, but more than most people), and have observed many, many truckers driving far too fast for conditions. I've had trucks blow past me when I'm doing 80 (and not just downhill) or tailgate me on perfectly normal roads, many, many times.

Another fact is that it is dangerous to be behind a truck. I pass trucks at every opportunity, not because I'm an impatient jerk (independent variables, at best), but because I like to be able to see the road ahead of me so that I can drive safely!!! Ok, now I'm ranting. Anyway... Excuse me if I don't weep a river for the oppressed truck driver.

10:01 AM  
Blogger Mary said...

And I can't belive all the stupid folks blaming the truckers here.

5:49 PM  
Blogger Mary said...

So here's what I do: I watch the rear view mirror carefully so that I can see where the gunner is in relation to the truck. I move back over into the right lane right at the moment that his rear bumper pulls past the front of the truck. This is close to ideal: I've delayed getting back in the right lane as long as I can, but not so long that the gunner can cut off the truck himself.

(Do I analyze this too much? Do I think too much about how to force other drivers to drive more safely? Well, somebody has to: Too many people obviously can't think for themselves



WRONG! KEep your eyes on the road ahead and stop looking in your rearview mirror. You're not a traffic cop. If the other cars get crunched, they get crunched.

Your are adding to the problem! Stop overthinking, keep your eyes on the road.

5:49 PM  

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