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Spirit of the Law



I once got nabbed for driving at 61kph in a 60kph zone in Francistown.

The violation occurred back when the police were first using radar guns to enforce speed limits in the city.

In those days the fines were P30 plus P5 for every kph over the limit so I didn’t take time off work to contest the charge.

I just paid the P35. Thinking back on the incident now, however, I wish I’d taken it to court.

It’s not the fine or the fact that radar guns can be off by 10 percent that irritates me; it’s more that the policeman who gave me the ticket totally missed the point of the law.

As a matter of fact, I think his behaviour was counter-productive assuming the aim of speed limits is to increase road safety.

I was driving at, or very close to, the limit and I’m fairly certain I was watching the road for potential hazards because that is what I usually do.

If I had been starring at the speedometer to make sure I was following the letter of the law I would not have been driving as safely so I think I was embracing the spirit of the law.

Anyway, that’s what I wish I had said to the judge.

The authorities are not the only ones who can be guilty of missing the spirit of the law and I think the problem is just as common in places like Europe and the United States as it is in the developing world.

Over here in England where I now live bicycle riders and motor vehicle drivers have equal rights on the road.

Many of the country’s cyclists, however, insist on asserting their rights even when doing so is both unnecessary and a royal pain in the butt to other road users.

Many also insist on riding on the roads even when tax money has been spent to provide paved bicycle paths that follow the same route.

I’m happy to say that there are also regular examples of people not asserting their rights in order to make life better for the general public and the example I’m going to use for this one also has something to do with the traffic laws.

During rush hour, cars get backed up on most of the smaller roads that feed onto the main routes around the city.

If all the people driving along the larger roads decided to assert their right of way all the time then the smaller roads would get totally clogged and cars would be standing still for a couple of hours, but that doesn’t happen.

Drivers on the main roads consistently slow down to let cars feed in even though the law does not require them to do so and rush hour traffic always seems to move along.

The point I’m hoping to make is that laws and rules are very useful since they give us guidelines and allow us to know what to expect, but at the end of the day each of us is still responsible for how we apply them.