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Guest editorial: Sure, you can beat a ticket, but what about driving safely?

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Johnny Law'll be on the prowl this busy travel weekend. So comes the warning from the National Motorists Association, a drivers' rights group based in Waunakee, Wis.

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Founded in 1982, the grassroots group released a lengthy pre-Memorial Day statement this week with tips on "how to avoid being stopped for a traffic violation" and what to do "if you do get pulled over." It even offered advice for "your day in court."

To avoid flashing lights in the rearview mirror, "drive with your attention focused at least a quarter mile down the road," the NMA advised. "Use a good quality radar/laser detector ... but don't totally rely on it. ... Don't drive in a way that attracts attention [and] if you are visiting a new area, find out where traffic enforcement is at its highest."

All good advice for any impatient traveler, but wasn't at least one should-have-been-obvious suggestion missed? What about driving cautiously and with courtesy -- and at the speed limit? Aren't those suggestions more-surefire ways to keep from being asked for your license and registration?

In its defense, the group makes a point that sometimes cities turn up the volume on traffic enforcement not to keep roadways safer, but to add cash to depleted coffers. Local governments across the country deny that, just as police departments swear up and down they don't do speed traps anymore.

Countering the assertion is a link on the NMA Web site to a national "Speed Trap Exchange." Whether it's accurate or not, the result should please both the NMA and law enforcement if motorists heed the maps and slow down in the alleged cop hot spots.

Also, the group's advice for how to beat the rap for a traffic violation isn't necessarily a guide to breaking the law. In 2001, for instance, a Massachusetts man followed the NMA line of argument to successfully convince a judge that authorities had posted the wrong color speed limit signs. If drivers education students can flunk the written test for not knowing the difference between a white or yellow sign, a state highway department certainly should comply with national standards.

But giving drivers advice on how to look out for Smokey with a wink-wink for pushing the metal to 80 mph or faster is wrong. And with speed a factor in too many fatalities during holiday weekends such as the one coming up, it's simply dangerous.

Drivers have rights, yes, but they won't be worth arguing over if the venue isn't a courtroom, but a morgue. -- Duluth News Tribune

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