Impeding Traffic

When losing 170 dollars is the happy ending to my story, I know it's been a weird day. One of the most charming aspects of living in Detroit is the complete lack of traffic enforcement.

Speed limits aren't even posted, let alone obeyed. And, honestly, it doesn't even put us in that much danger. You'd be crazy to takes your car down a Detroit street above 50 miles an hour. Above 50 and those gaping pot holes stop inspiring quaint moments to reflect on the crumbling infrastructure of a great American city and start inspiring terrifying moments spent considering the crumbling infrastructure of your car.

It's been a few weeks in Detroit now and I'm getting used to this new auto based anarchy.

Huge, abandoned six lane highways meet each other in complex intersections posted with complex turning rules - which maneuvers allowed, which disallowed. All ignored, of course. Intersections in Detroit are like a high school geometry lesson - connect point A to point B, that's the shortest distance, and that's how your getting yourself through the intersection. Signs be damned.

In Detroit, you stop at a red light, look both ways, and then continue on your journey. You do the same at green lights, too, though, because the guy coming the other way probably isn't expecting any company in the intersection.

In Detroit, a few miles from my apartment, there's a railroad crossing so bumpy I'm tempted to string up a banner reading, "unsafe at any speed".

In Detroit, driving to the grocery store is like driving through the desert. When considering one route over another, the question is rarely "may I", as in, is this allowed? The question is - "can I", as in, will my car make it to the other side?

It's a fun and surprisingly safe feeling place to drive. People mostly ignore the silly outdated rules and follow the ones that seem reasonable.

Well, this libertarian paradise apparently ends promptly at 8 Mile.

I was out running errands today and getting a little behind. I was proud of myself for realizing: wait, I can go as fast as is I think is safe because there are no cops down here.


I get into the left lane, start cruising at what feels like a healthy speed. I'm passing people on the left, interstate style, but there's no crazy swerving or tailgating going on.

Well Detroit might not have cops to spare, but the State of Michigan does. And they've apparently decided that state troopers ought to spend their time patrolling commuters on 8 Mile.

To be fair, they're probably right.  Speeding on 8 Mile is without a doubt the most serious threat to public safety in Wayne County these days.

In all seriousness, though, the cop was very nice and I was clearly breaking the law. He knocked down my ticket from a terrifying 23 miles per hour over the speed limit (63 in a 40) to a very kind "impeding traffic" infraction. No points and a $170 fine - the benefit of a clean driving record and, I have to assume, the trembling hands and friendly voice of a suddenly very scared and very cooperative 24 year old woman.

I'm just glad I don't have to appear before a judge - I don't even know what "impeding traffic" means.