Weekly Posting of the Conservative Cow Doctor


Montana Code is Like Knapweed on Steroids

Tuesday morning around 5:30, I was finishing my daily seven mile run before grabbing breakfast and heading to the capitol. It was dark and I was running north on Helena’s Montana Avenue about a half mile from my temporary home. For safety sake, I wear a florescent yellow jersey, a highly reflective body harness, headlamp, and red strobe light. On roads lacking a sidewalk, I run on the shoulder facing traffic should a probable collision require my leap into the barrow pit. This four lane street is mostly deserted at this early hour, and this morning, with no other cars in sight, a sedan zipped past me holding firm in the outside lane; their passenger side mirror missing my right elbow by a mere couple feet. Had the motorist drifted to the left lane we would have passed each other at a safer distance of eight to ten feet. Oh well; he made his point and I kept running.

Fifteen seconds later, another set of headlights approached and at a distance of 200 yards, they shifted to the left lane, before safely passing and drifting back to the outside lane. In the darkness, I smiled, mouthed “thank you” and nodded my head in gratitude; a gesture the minivan driver would never see.

In my last quarter mile, a third vehicle approached; again in the outside lane. This driver held his pickup firmly in his lane and I considered taking an evasive leap over the snow bank piled along the road’s shoulder. Just like with the sedan driver, I could have reached out and slapped the pickup’s rearview mirror as it zoomed past, dislocating my shoulder thereby proving I am stupid; a trait I prefer kept a secret. Now, let me jump to another subject. I will get back to the sedan and pickup drivers when I make my point at the end of this column.

Montana’s code book grows every session. Beginning with our one page compact to join the union in 1889, our Treasure State book of laws has ballooned past 16,000 pages, stands 16 inches tall, weighs over 50 pounds and citizens are expected to know and obey every single regulation. Ignorance of the law is not a defense in court; it’s a dang good excuse and I use it frequently, but it is not a defense. Answer me this: Would you buy a new blender if it came with a 16,000 page operator’s manual and you were expected to commit every page to memory before blending your first margarita? Probably not, which is why people lick the salt, slam down the shot of tequila and suck on the lime rather than buy a new blender. Progressives assume citizens will obey every law and this is the special logic behind solutions like gun-free zones. To the left, utopia is but one regulation away and once the magical combination of laws is enacted America will achieve nirvana. Liberals are delusional.

Last week in the House Transportation Committee, we heard HB257 an “act revising laws pertaining to bicycles.” In addition to further defining bicycles and regulating lights and brakes, HB 257 requires motorists to maintain five feet of clearance when passing bicycles. Even though driver’s manuals have required this five foot clearance for six years, and it is common sense, it was never part of Montana Code. We heard emotional testimony from bicyclists who have been critically injured being rear-ended by autos and I empathize with their pain and suffering, but I voted “No” and here is why. Yielding a five foot safe zone to walkers, runners, or bikers is a simple courtesy, but if you were preparing to zoom past a bicycle at highway speeds separated by only inches, I doubt the presence or absence of a law will change your behavior. To close the loop and prove my point, both the sedan and the pickup who zipped past me in the darkness on Montana Avenue were Lewis and Clark County Sheriff vehicles operated by citizens educated in the rules of the road and sworn to public safety. HB257 slipped out of committee 8-3, but logic prevailed on the House floor where we defeated it on a vote of 43-57. Just like knapweed, it will grow back.

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