Dear Crabby, What I need is not so much an “advice” response but a “how to cope with a nonproblem that I am obsessing over” response. The “obsessing” part is per my wife, not me. Anyway, here it is: On most of Englewood Avenue in Yakima, the posted speed limit is 30 mph; great, no problem. However, under many of these signs is an additional notice that says “Strictly Enforced.”
To me, the logical extension of this warning is that the speed limits on other Yakima streets must, therefore, only be “Casually Enforced.” I say that life and limb of the people and pets on all other streets is just as dear as those on Englewood. I say this is unequal application of the law. And, and, and ... I say a lot of other things. Am I wrong? Should I just accept this inequality? My wife says I should just shut up and drive. What say you?
Hope to Cope
Dear Hope, I did not know the answer to this, even after exhaustive research. (Exhaustive research: I Googled it one night, then had two beers and a sandwich and lost interest.) So I called the city communications department last week. They suggested I ask the streets department, the cops or city legal. So I emailed Yakima City Attorney Jeff Cutter, who said he didn’t know off the top of his head but would get back to me. Later that same day, he forwarded me a response from police Chief Dominic Rizzi, which he said was identical to the answer he got from the streets department.
I’ll share that with you in a moment, but first I’ve got a bone to pick. Writing the Dear Crabby column is supposed to be a respite from the actual work of being a reporter. And you ruined that. By asking this question, you forced me to contact sources, make follow-up calls and, um, and, well, I guess that’s it. But still, that’s a solid half-hour’s work (if you round up, generously). And I could have used that half-hour to tweet something stupid at the On magazine Twitter or to post a video from an obscure band I like on the On magazine Facebook. So thanks a lot.
All right, then. Getting back to your question. Rizzi’s response read: “Although I cannot speak from authority of history in Yakima I will tell you my professional experience on the subject. Speed limits are just that, limits. Law enforcement as well as the public understand there is an expected amount of leeway. Thus 30 mph may not be enforced unless someone surpasses 35 or 40 mph. There would be a great public outcry if we enforced a zero tolerance and cited individuals 1 mph over the limit. I would suggest there was an incident in the past that prompted the notification to drivers that that road has a zero tolerance.”
So, yeah, maybe they really are a little stricter on Englewood, owing to some age-old kerfuffle involving a ticket for 31 in a 30. But neither the city attorney nor the police chief are aware of any policy to that effect. Given that, I’d have to imagine the sign doesn’t mean much in practice — except as something an officer can point to if you start complaining that there’s not enough leeway.
Basically, I think your wife is right: You should just shut up and drive. (She’s also right about that tweed jacket you insist on wearing; it smells like the storage room at a cheese shop. People are laughing at you.)
Hope that helps.