by Pat Cashman
If you are reading this while driving at high-speed down the freeway, you might not necessarily be breaking the law—although you ARE living dangerously. But if you are reading this while driving at high-speed down the free-way—and not wearing your seatbelt—you are definitely dead meat.
Specifically, you are 86 dollars worth of dead meat—the fine a policeman could slap on you for driving seat beltless, as of last Thursday. (If you are reading this while wearing a sleeveless tee-shirt, no problem. Your right to do that is constitutionally protected under the 2nd Amendment: “…the right of the people to keep…bare arms, shall not be infringed.”)
The new mandatory seat belt law is something like enacting a mandatory PANTS belt law. It’s a law to protect people from themselves. In the case of seat belts, from injury or worse in a car accident. In the case of pants belts, from embarrassment or worse in a dancing accident.
The zero tolerance change in the seat belt law has been made into a more-easily swallowed pill by the Washington State Patrol’s use of the nifty little slogan “Click it or ticket.” That makes it all sound sort of fun, doesn’t it?:
MOTORIST: “What seems to be the problem, officer?”
COP: “Do you know why I pulled you over?”
MOTORIST: “The body in my trunk?”
COP: “No, Mr. Silly. It’s Click it or ticket!”
MOTORIST: “Click it or ticket? What a sticky wicket, Officer Pickett! Ha, ha, ha!’
The “Click it or Ticket” catchphrase works so well, it makes you wonder why there are not similarly friendly little warning mottoes for the other new state laws that went into effect last week:
- First-time auto thieves could now be sentenced up to a year in jail. “You’rereally gonna feel it…if you steal it.” Or, “If this car is hot, you’ll be in the cooler.”
- Cities cannot ban commuters from operating those new high-tech Segway scooters on sidewalks or bike paths. “It’s the Segway or the highway.”
- Gambling cheaters now face jail time and fines up to $20,000 dollars. “If you’re marking the deck, you’re gonna catch heck.”
One of the trickiest things about being an American is figuring out how to balance being a nation of laws with also being a nation that celebrates its personal freedoms. Freedom of speech, for example, is wonderful—but it doesn’t make it OK for someone to shout “Fire!” in a crowded movie theatre. However, some people believe that an exception should be made in the case of any movie starring Pauly Shore.
Dozens of new laws—besides those previously listed here—went into effect last week, 90 days after our last state legislative session. The 90 days is designed to give legislators time to hide. The seat belt change is the new law getting most of the publicity—but there are many others you need to know about. As far as I know, this column is the first one to officially list the following:
- It is now illegal to say “24/7” in everyday conversation. The reason for this change is that the use of “24/7” is driving people like me nuts—all day long, every day of the week.
- Another punishable offense is the use of the phrase “I’m having trouble getting my mind (or head) around it.” (Example: “I’m having trouble getting my mind around the knighting of Mick Jagger.”) The reason for this new “mind around it” law is to reduce the risk of folks wanting to get their hands around the throats of people who say it ad nauseum.
- TV weather forecasters will now be required to actually look out the window—at least once—before going on the air.
- Only natives of particular Washington state towns can now kid around about those towns. This means that only Kent residents can legally make Kent jokes. Only people who live in Ballard can make jabs about Ballard. If there ARE any Mercer Island jokes, only Mercer Island natives can crack them. However, ANY Washington resident can still make fun of Idaho.
And finally, it is now illegal for anyone to use public elevators if they’ve eaten a large number of garlic fries the night before. In other words: “If our nose you abuse…the stairs you must use.” I know. That one needs work.
Copyright © 2003 Pat Cashman