A Journey Through the Absurd – Strange and Silly Traffic Laws Across the Country
The Carwin Awards
Life is full of unwritten laws, mandated by gut feelings and general common sense. There is some subconscious part inside all of us, rooted in the id. It reminds us that spitting into the wind is going to leave us with egg on our face; or mostly just spit. This internal instinct has kept pace in evolving with the collective brain capacity of humanity over time, in the sense that we learn the most in our failures. Bloodletting, for example, is no longer a legitimate medical procedure as, at some point, in what can only be assumed to be one of the great bloopers of all time, doctors realized that people do, in fact, need their blood to stay in their bodies.
Yet, the fact remains that there are individuals among us who, unless explicitly told not to, will push the concept of common sense, or a lack thereof, to its outer limits, forcing the rest of us to hang up reminders around the office that you shouldn’t eat a fresh deli sandwich that is CLEARLY labelled ‘Flint’s’ out of the fridge if it isn’t yours (I’m looking at YOU, Adam).
In the end, a lot of these issues are minor grievances that are frustrating on a personal level more than anything. Does that mean I forgive Adam? Never. He has made a lifelong enemy. It is in focusing on the broader implication of these small slips in sensibility that we can find cause for concern. If Adam is willing to callously eat my cold-cut testament to the ingenuity of man, what else is he willing to do? And what happens when you allow him control over a machine capable of reaching high speeds, enabling him to cause infinitely more damage in an instant than he did in creating the air of paranoia that currently lingers around the office fridge?
These are the questions that keep me up at night (excluding the many nights I’ve sat awake wondering if feet are shoes). Whenever this train of thought reemerges in my conscience, I ultimately end up having to remind myself that humanity usually has a way of working out these issues as they present themselves. It took a book like the Darwin Awards to clarify that doing something like going over Niagara Falls in a barrel is, in fact, a bad idea. In the same vein, we are going to look at some of the more curious auto laws that have been bred over time, in what I can only refer to as The Carwin Awards. Much like regional dialect, or how different locales might refer to pop as soda (which is both silly and wrong), each state possesses its own unique rules of the road, bred out of absurd situations that prove if aliens are out there, they are likely just laughing at us.
Let’s start in the heartland, taking a drive through the sun-kissed wheat fields of Kansas. If you’re a resident of Topeka and also a KFC enthusiast, you may have to go cold turkey on your chicken addiction, as it is considered unlawful to transport dead poultry along Kansas Avenue, which cuts through the heart of downtown. This may send some into a fit of greasy rage, leaving them with an inexplicable urge to do donuts in front of the mayor’s office. This is perfectly understandable, just make sure you don’t go full Luke Duke if you’re in Derby, as screeching your tires while driving can buy you a 30-day ticket to the local jail.
Moving to the northeast, we find ourselves in Maine, and boy, have we ever worked up an appetite. In keeping with personal tradition, this hunger would indicate that it’s time to eat as many donuts as I can without feeling bad about myself (the number is 14). Unfortunately, if I find myself at the Dunkin Donuts in South Berwick, I will discover that it is actually illegal to park in front of the business. Some part of me has to think this is the local police force making a bold statement about what territory belongs to them.
When you learn of the totalitarian donut laws in Maine, you may be frustrated enough to leave the state entirely. Again, that’s totally understandable. However, as you travel down the east coastline, be sure to avoid cursing the establishment beyond using words like ‘heck’ and ‘dang’, as if you’re caught using profanity in your vehicle while passing through Rockville, you could receive a misdemeanor citation. Many conspiracy theorists believe that this is why Kanye West has yet to perform a single show for the town (No they don’t).
Many of my foul-mouthed friends may come to the determination that it would go against their better judgment to stay in Maryland and risk incarceration. As such, they might continue down the road until they hit North Carolina. Arriving in Dunn, they can finally bust out their Cards Against Humanity deck and be as politically incorrect as they please; so long as they don’t set up their game in the middle of a crosswalk. It is illegal to play in traffic in Dunn, which by itself is not all that strange and makes perfect sense. However, Dunn also enforces a law that makes it illegal to drive on sidewalks which, to me, would indicate an ongoing battle in the background of the town between joyful pedestrians and crotchety auto drivers.
In a last ditch effort to find safe haven in the east, you head back up to New Jersey. The dark implications of the ongoing fight between man and machine in Dunn, North Carolina still weighs heavy on your mind. For those that are both in need of a drink, and incredibly selfish, it might seem like a good idea to kill two birds with one stone and sip from your flask as you arrive in the Garden State, but think again. Not only is it an awful idea to drink and drive, but if you’re caught, you can say goodbye to that totally clever and original vanity plate you have, as you lose the privilege of plate customization when you receive a DUI. If you find yourself in this self-fulfilling predicament, take comfort in the fact that you can still let the people know what you’re all about with a bumper sticker, so long as you’re ok with being pro-whales. If you are, congratulations! You have successfully trolled every other driver on the road as if you possess a “Honk if You Love Whales” bumper sticker they are legally required to honk before passing. One can only assume this has to do with Chris Christie and his insatiable appetite for fries.
The absurdity of these laws may cause some to see the east coast as a lost cause, leading them to pack up their bags and head out to the west. Some would consider Minnesota a good, central stopping point to take a break before continuing the journey. However, if you decide to rest in Minnetonka, be sure that your truck looks as good as it did when it left the lot. If your Silverado leaves any trace of mud, dirt, or sticky substance on the road, you will be considered a public nuisance, and charged as such for harming the peace, safety, and general welfare of the town. Realizing that Minnesota might not be the place for you, you continue on your journey.
Somehow, you’ve ended up in Nevada. Your wife is insistent that you don’t have a clue as to where you are going while you continue to affirm that you only wanted to take the scenic route. When the argument reaches its climax, you may be so exhausted that you need to take a seat and catch your breath. Wouldn’t it be perfect if you could just find a bench on the highway and unload for a bit? Too bad, because it’s not going to happen. In Nevada, it is illegal to place a bench or chair in the middle of the road. If you are one of those people who are affectionately referred to as ‘smart-aleck’s, you could consider the fact that the law says absolutely nothing about bean bags or chaise lounges.
The fact that you are being told where you can and can’t sit in Nevada has brought you to a boiling point. You remind yourself that you are a free American and waste little time in exiting the state. Finally, you arrive in California, the shining star of the easy-going west coast. You’re ready to hang loose and take a chance at being a star, though, at this point in the trip, you’d settle for being an extra’s stuntman in the background of a Law and Order episode. A star needs their rest however, and having spent the last of your money on bail in relation to what the Nevada Highway Patrol is now officially referring to as “The Hammock Incident,” you realize you’re going to need to camp out under the stars tonight. Based on your judgment throughout the duration of this cross-country road trip, it is within reason to assume that you might think the highway itself is the true bed of the road warrior. This is foolish, but no one can stop you from chasing your dreams- unless you’re in Eureka, where it has been deemed necessary to officially make it illegal to use the road as a bed.
At this point, you are probably ready to believe that the fun police exist, and they’ve got you on their radar. However, you’ve made it this far, and you are too determined to let them stop you from realizing your purpose. Any good stunt man will tell you that being successful takes practice. Nobody has crashed their car into the side of Universal Studios in a successful bid to get noticed by the latest Fast and Furious director. Yet, there may be a reason for this, as in Glendale, California, it is illegal to jump from a car at 65mph. It is believed that this is due largely in part to the efforts of lobbyists on behalf of Evel Knievel to ensure his legacy as the man with ‘the most questionable life choices to date’.
It would seem that no state has been left untouched by the long arm of stupidity, as the examples listed above barely begin to scratch the surface of strange driving laws across the country. These laws are all enforced for specific reasons, bred into existence as the result of what I can only imagine were the kinds of situations that storytellers dream of. Our increased dependence on smartphones and tablets leads me to believe that, if anything, the future holds an even stronger potential for the introduction of more modernized laws of absurdity, intended to combat what I would guess will be the rising popularity of ‘moving car mannequin challenges’. Until then, I will stand guard by the office fridge, wondering if Adam will be the cause of the next driving law that causes the nation to collectively let out a Tim Allen-esque groan, a la Home Improvement.