The 5 Most Popular Safety Laws (That Don't Work)

Really, is it ever possible to be too safe? Especially when it's our children at stake?

Actually, yes. Especially when the rule or law intended to make us safe is so poorly thought-out that it either does nothing but suck up public money, or creates a ripple effect of unintended side effects. We're talking about things like...

#5. Speed Limits

The Idea:

Speeding is a major cause behind many fatal accidents, so it must also be true that mandating lower speed limits will make us all safer, right? Like how after marijuana was made illegal, you could hardly find anybody smoking the stuff.

It was back in 1974 that the federal government passed the National Maximum Speed Limit Law in the USA, slowing America down to a creeping 55 miles per hour. The main reason behind the law was to lower gas consumption, but President Nixon promised us it would make our streets safer as well.


A joke about Richard Nixon being untrustworthy? Cracked breaks new ground in comedy once more!

Partially thanks to anti-speed limit activists like Sammy Hagar, in 1995 it was repealed. But not everyone was happy about that. Some states and many cities still have their highway speed limits set at or near the '74 lows, and a lot of people support bringing the '74 law back into effect before every man, woman and child in the country finds themselves living in the horrifying universe of 2 Fast 2 Furious.


The future.

But There's a Problem...

After the National speed limit was repealed, the state of Montana removed all non-urban speed limits in their state. A few years later, engineers working with the state decided to venture out to see just what kind of post-apocalyptic Death Race wasteland their lawless state had produced. What they found was that, you guessed it, on the roads where they removed the speed limits, fatalities didn't go up at all.

Proponents of the national law still argue that traffic fatalities nationwide did drop during the national speed limit's lifetime. Buzz-killing critics of the law point out that no, no they didn't.

Why Doesn't it Work?

Because, and this surprised the hell out of us, people aren't completely retarded. As it turns out, people tend to drive at speeds they feel comfortable driving. Yes, there are reckless madmen out there, but they're not going to obey a couple of digits on a sign anyway. It just becomes a make-work project for traffic cops.

By the way, even worse than speed limits are speed bumps, the irritating, jarring humps they put in parking lots and such, intended to physically force drivers to slow down and make their CD players skip. Not only do those things not prevent accidents, but they keep ambulances from getting to emergencies, which is exactly the sort of thing you don't want happening when years of bacon sundaes and cookie-dough sandwiches finally catch up with you.

The above link references a study in Boulder, Colorado that found speed bumps kill as many as 85 people for every one life they save. Holy shit! We think landmines have a better ratio.

#4. Three Strikes Laws

The Idea:

Psychologists have found that criminals who have committed three felonies are likely to continue committing felonies for the majority of their non-jailed lives. After wiping their feet with the whole "make the punishment fit the crime" thing, they decided to institute a new law, based on that theory and the rules of Baseball.

These "Three Strike" laws mandate very long prison terms--up to life--for criminals who have commit their third felony, regardless of what that felony was. Surprisingly the law did not originate from the home of western-style, retard-executing justice (Texas). California instituted the first Three Strike law in 1994.


Pictured above: Legal Precedence.

The law was very popular at first, and a number of states adopted it shortly thereafter. California's crime rate, which had peaked shortly before the law's implementation, dipped significantly in the years after. This was seen as proof of the law's success.

But There's a Problem...

First, correlation does not equal causation. We have a grand history of ignoring this fact when it is politically expedient to do so. So while California's crime rate did decline, so did the rest of the country's. In fact, violent crime dropped more in states without Three Strike laws (4.6 percent) than in the states that had them (1.7 percent).

Why Doesn't it Work?


Why would they let him keep his ski mask?

Three Strike laws punish petty criminals as often as the violent ones everybody has in mind when talking about "getting tough on crime." Men have been put away for life for shoplifting cookies, video tapes and golf clubs, essentially equating those crimes with violent assault or attempted murder.

As a result, California's prisons and jails have been flooded with hundreds of thousands of new occupants. That, combined with many of their facilities being condemned as unfit to live in, has led to a prison overcrowding crisis.

Gosh, it's almost like we shouldn't rely on sports analogies to build a criminal justice system. That's too bad, because we have this little idea we like to call the Mixed Martial Arts Courtroom...

#3. The Amber Alert

The Idea:

The Amber Alert, created in response to the highly-publicized abduction and murder of nine-year-old Amber Hagerman, is a system put in place to help find lost and abducted children by instantly flooding the highways, radio and television stations of the area with information about the missing kid.

The Amber Alert is based upon the logical principle that, deep down, we all want to be like Batman. An alert is a chance for any regular Joe to be a masked vigilante, rescuing terrified youngsters from prancing, sex-starved pedophiles.


Gotcha!

But There's a Problem...

Like covering up a hole in the wall with a poster, the Amber Alert system made everyone feel better without actually costing the government a dime.

From 2003 to 2006 independent researcher Timothy "The Griffon" Griffith conducted the first third-party investigation of the Amber Alert system. He found that, while state and local governments were claiming huge numbers of children "rescued," they were actually full of shit.

Most of the children "saved" by the Amber alert hadn't been in any danger in the first place (in most cases they'd been taken by legal guardians arguing over custody rights). The few children who WERE abducted by psychopaths usually died before the Amber Alert could even go online.

Why Doesn't it Work?

Few things are more dangerously retarded than people in large groups. There's a reason Batman works alone. Griffith and others came to the realization that, while the Amber Alerts weren't really helpful in saving children, they were great at drowning the surrounding community in a tsunami of irrational fear and paranoia. The chance of a child being abducted by a stranger is far lower than of the child, say, dying from drinking the bottle of floor wax you have in the cabinet because it has pictures of lemons on it. The latter just doesn't become a media event.

The heightened level of fear might have something to do with the fact that more and more Amber Alerts are being called in with greater frequency every year, and with less cause. Fully half of the alerts in 2004 were issued on children who were in no danger whatsoever, and 48 of the 233 alerts that year were issued for children who hadn't been abducted at all.

While Amber Alerts aren't expensive, they tie up virtually every law enforcement resource in the area. Policemen and 911 operators that could be out saving lives and arresting minorities for driving nice cars are instead diverted to fielding calls and chasing leads on children who often aren't in any danger.

And while someone, probably in our very comment section, will cry that if even one child's life was saved by the system then it was all worth it. But in the case of every "feel good" solution that doesn't actually solve the problem, you have to ask if the time and energy devoted to it couldn't be spent on something that actually works.

You know, like sex offender registries. Oh, wait...

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