Written by Gregory Monte.
Of Course Racing on Highways Should be Illegal.
In Pennsylvania, Title 75, Section 3367 prohibits racing on highways. No doubt, all other states have similar restrictions on this behavior – and for good reason.
What reasonable person could possibly argue that this law is unfair?
No one in their right minds, of course …
… except that you may actually be guilty of this “crime” without even realizing it.
You see, there are two main parts to this statute. The first one is what most of us have in mind when we think about the need for a law against this inappropriate behavior:
“Drag race. The operation of two or more vehicles from a point side by side at accelerating speeds in a competitive attempt to outdistance each other, or the operation of one or more vehicles over a common selected course, from the same point to the same point, for the purpose of comparing the relative speeds or power of acceleration of the vehicle or vehicles within a certain distance or time limit.”
Naturally, most of us haven’t done this. But what about the next part of this statute:
“Race. The use of one or more vehicles in an attempt to outgain, outdistance or prevent another vehicle from passing, to arrive at a given destination ahead of another vehicle or vehicles, or to test the physical stamina or endurance of drivers over long distance driving routes.”
Maybe it’s Not That Simple
If you read this section closely, you will notice that you don’t actually have to be “racing” against another person in order to be cited under Title 75, Section 3367.
In Commonwealth v. Ward (PA Supreme Court, 1990), a police officer cited a driver for making “a loud squealing sound with his tires.” According to the cop, that was all that was necessary in order to conclude that the driver of the vehicle was involved in a “race.”
Fortunately, Mr. Ward appealed all the way to the Supreme Court of Pennsylvania, and his conviction was reversed. His defense was that the tires squealed because there was gravel on the road.
How many of us would be willing to go this far to prove our innocence?
Rhetorical question, of course.
But he still almost lost his appeal because the Supreme Court said the following:
“Though the statute is primarily aimed at competitive racing, alternative language in the statute is directed to exhibitions of speed or acceleration. These alternative offenses do not require more than one driver … Thus, we find that Ward’s argument that the statute prohibits this conduct only when an audience is purposefully assembled, is meritless.”
This means that there could be an action that you perform when driving by yourself that could be construed as racing even if no one else is involved.
Passing the Same Vehicle Multiple Times is “Racing?”
The final point I want to make is something I learned from reading Commonwealth v. Carroll (Superior Court 2007). In this case, three drivers alternately passed each other and then resumed their journey in the right lane of the roadway:
“At various points along the way, all three drivers would pass each other and then move back into their original lanes … The habeas court found there was prima facie evidence that Appellee violated … the racing statutes …”
Granted, the only reason that this case went to court is because the behavior of these individuals eventually led to an accident. But my point is simply that all of us probably violate more laws on a given day than we realize.
The Wall Street Journal – You Commit Three Felonies a Day
Business Insider – You Commit Three Felonies A Day
Thank heavens there is not a cop on every corner monitoring our every move. Otherwise we would all be in jail right about now.