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I Can Drive 55!

May 15, 2018
By Darren Fraser , Emmetsburg News

On my way here from California I drove through Nevada, Colorado and Nebraska. I was delighted to find 75 mph zones dotting some of the highways in these states. Iowa put the brakes to my glee.

A week or so ago, I headed west on Highway 18 and turned north on Highway 4. I was driving to Spirit Lake because it was there. It was a beautiful day. My driver's side window was down; if I had hair, it would have tangoed in the breeze.

I was not oblivious to fact I was doing 75 mph because I set my cruise control to that speed. A few cars heading south zoomed by. I felt a kinship with all things, man and machine until one of these vehicles lit up like magnesium. As it passed, I noticed Iowa State Patrol emblazoned on the driver's side door.

I'm a bit of rube when it comes to breaking the law. I have never done it well. This is not to say I panic; that I confess to being the shooter on the grassy knoll. I just do not know how to respond. Case in point: when the vehicle made a U-turn shortly after it passed me, I thought, "Me? What did I do?" You see, since I did not recall seeing any posted speed limit signs, I believed Iowa let loose the hogs of war and let drivers roam free. Not Autobahn free but relatively free. Say, 75 mph free.

The Iowa State Patrol officer who sidled up to my window bore an uncanny resemblance to an actor I had seen in movies and on TV. I thought it best not to mention this.

"Hello sir," he said.

"Hi," I replied.

"Do you know how fast you were going?" I realize this sounds pat; straight out of the movies; but as Senator Grassley is my witness, he said it.

"Not sure," I said.

"I clocked you at 76." I swelled with pride. 76! Take that, you 75 peons.

"Really? What is the speed limit? I haven't seen any signs."

"It's 55 on Iowa highways. There are signs posted." He asked for my license and insurance and returned to his vehicle. Signs? What signs? (My mind flashed to "The Treasure of the Sierra Madre.")

He returned bearing a disconcertingly large sheaf of documents. The first was a fix-it ticket because my car did not have license plates. (I leased it days before heading east and I forgot to put on the plates.) The second was my speeding ticket. Because I was new to the state, the officer did me a solid and dropped my speed from 76 to 70, thereby reducing my fine to $168. The officer was gracious and professional throughout; he almost seemed apologetic he had to issue the ticket. I thanked him and set my cruise control to 55.

I returned to the scene of my crime today because I had to verify the officer's claim that there are signs posted all along the highway. I turned north on Highway 4 and checked the mileage on my speedometer. Not until I reached the outskirts of Graettinger - seven miles north did I see a mph sign, to reduce speed to 50.

Seven miles and no sign? Yes, yes. Ignorance is no excuse, etc. Does this mean we are supposed to possess an encyclopedic knowledge of the law? If that's the case, why even have signs? No. The signs are there to remind us; to educate us; to refresh our failing memories.

I appear in court the first week in June. I will plead my case. I will lose, of course. The only time I have tried to fight something in court the judge maneuvered me into admitting my guilt. My friend, the lawyer, delights in retelling the story. But it's the principle and the principal

- I don't have the $168.



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