If you drove 91 mph in a 65 mph zone while text messaging on your Blackberry and got into a bad wreck that resulted in major injuries to several people, you'd be looking at a "reckless driving" beef" -- at the very least -- in addition to the broken bones and a trashed car.
So how come the New Jersey state trooper who did just exactly that -- and got into a very serious wreck that nearly killed the governor of his state -- isn't up on charges?
Do "speed kill" and traffic laws apply only to the Little People?
Most of us know all about this particular double-standard. How often have you been driving along and seen a cop blow through a stop sign, run a red light -- or be running considerably faster than the posted limit -- not chasing a perp, just driving along? Keep pace with him -- or dare to pass -- and you'd get pulled over as sure as the sun rises in the east. No question. And in most states, driving in excess of 20 mph over the posted limit is a major bust. "Reckless driving" charge, mandatory court appearance, the works. Very likely your license will be suspended. You will pay a very large fine. And you insurance will either get canceled or your premiums will double.
Edging close to 100 mph like the trooper who was driving the Guv? In heavy traffic? While fiddling with a hand-held gadget that caused you to become distracted, which in turn led to a violent, sprawling wreck?
Probably you'd be cuffed and stuffed right there. Better have one helluva lawyer.
Instead, the trooper's fate is being "considered" by something called Motor Vehicle Pursuit Review Board -- which will weigh whether the crash was "preventable."
"Preventable"? Is someone on the pipe in the Garden State? What gives here?
And mind you: Nothing about the fact that there is no doubt the cop was doing 26 mph over the posted maximum -- the car's black box said so. And the superintendent of the NJ State Police admitted it, publicly.
That is automatically "reckless driving" in almost every state, New Jersey included. But apparently, not if you're a cop.
Then it's okay. Or at least something that might be okay.
Anyone reading these particulars has every right to be enraged. Here we have an example of gun-and-badge-toting officials cavalierly ignoring laws that would be fully and forcefully applied to anyone else doing the same things.
One standard for them -- another one for us. Is this what's known as the rule of law?
And let's not forget: This same cop has almost certainly issued countless tickets to civilians guilty of far less egregious conduct. These folks had to pay fat fines, maybe go before a judge. The cop probably sermonized about "safety" -- and tsk tsk'd them about their scofflaw ways -- while handing them the paper. Sign here, please.
The irony of it is that many -- probably most -- of the cop's victims had better judgment and were safer drivers than he. "Speeding" -- that is, driving faster than a number posted on a sign -- may or may not be dangerous, as such. Speed limits are often under-posted. Traffic routinely moves faster. The old 55 mph highway speed limit is an example. Doing 5 or 10 over may be a "technical foul" that puts you in peril of a ticket. But it's not necessarily unsafe.
On the other hand, text-messaging while driving 91 mph in heavy traffic is always reckless. There's no possible scenario under which the cop's actions can be justified. If he had to drive that fast (perhaps because it was an emergency situation) then he should have had both hands on the wheel -- and full time and attention focused on the road. But in fact it was not an "emergency" -- unless getting the Guv to an appointment on time qualifies. And makes it acceptable to risk the life of every other driver on the road.
And that's exactly what the deal was in this case. The cop was hammering it -- bullying other cars out of his way -- in order to get Gov. Jon Corzine to some gig at the appointed hour. The wreck began when another vehicle -- its driver startled by the near-triple-digit convoy, lights a'-flashing -- ran up his tailpipe. He swerved to get out of the way -- amid a pack of cars on a heavily congested freeway. With predictable results.
This cop should be up on multiple traffic charges; the question of criminal misconduct ought to be looked into. He should have his license revoked. It's what would happen to anyone else. And after all, shouldn't a higher standard apply to an ostensibly trained, ostensibly "more responsible" cop? A cop charged with enforcing the very laws he flouted?
But odds are, nothing like that will happen. Only the Little People have to deal with traffic court.