Perhaps the only time that I, a fellow with a face made for print journalism, ever said anything pithy on television was about a decade ago when appearing on KAET-TV’s (Channel 8) “Horizon” program.
A new law had been just passed that could make some drivers who get stuck in running washes liable for the cost of their rescues inspired me to parody the old Texaco jingle:
“If you choose to float your car,” I said of the measure, “you’ll pay the man who wears the star.”
The law was a response to people attempting to cross running washes in vehicles that were more suitable for dry land, some rugged car commercials’ depictions to the contrary. So the Legislature decided to give state statutes some more impact upon the driving public.
The law is officially called Arizona Revised Statutes section 28-910, but it carries the best unofficial moniker of any law ever passed in this state:
The stupid motorist law.
You ignore barricades or you otherwise get stuck in a running wash when you shouldn’t have, and guess what? You not only can be convicted of reckless driving, you also may find that the cops and firefighters who risked their lives to pluck you out are charging you up to $2,000 to cover the cost — firetrucks, police cruisers and equipment not being cheap.
As of this writing, the two latest drivers rescued after trying to cross the running Scottsdale’s Indian Bend Wash in August aren’t being billed.
Wednesday’s Tribune reported that one, Leonard Wain, 70, of Scottsdale, pleaded guilty to misdemeanor reckless driving on Indian Bend Road at the wash Aug. 24.
He’s paying a $383 fine.
“If it was dangerous, that would be one thing, but other cars were going,” he was quoted as saying. “It’s not like I decided just to go and nobody was there.”
In other words, everybody else was doing it.
The same story reported that the second driver, Tyler Smith, 24, of Phoenix received a continuance until Nov. 17 to give a city court judge time to consider new information; Smith said that alterations to his Nissan Altima made it prone to stalling in water.
Which seems to be an even greater reason for the driver of such a car to turn around.
The law has been rarely invoked over the years, which is too bad, because running washes are nowhere to be, no matter how little water you may think there is or how much car you may think you have.
Take another route. The time it takes is nothing if it means being safe.
Or — well, maybe, but probably not — you might find yourself billed for your rescuers’ time and personal risk under the best-named law in Arizona.