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I happen to live in the Washington, D.C., area, a hotbed of the motorcade madness. I can tell you, it's a little scary to be humming along on the interstate at 70 miles per hour, only to see a bunch of cars with flashing lights zooming up on your bumper. Everyone scrambles to get out of the way, and it isn't difficult to see how accidents might happen. One D.C.-area blogger wrote about an accident last month where a D.C. motorcade plowed through a red light and slammed into a Jeep.
Anecdotally, there seem to be quite a few more motorcades than there used to be. I can understand why security concerns would cause very high-ranking federal officials - the president and vice president, for example - to require a motorcade and have streets opened up to allow them to pass (though I do find President Bush's tendency to shut down entire cities during rush hour so he can attend political fundraisers just as pompous).
But the number of public officials who think they're important enough to push other motorists aside seems to be on the rise.
This past March, newly-elected D.C. Mayor Adrian Fenty's car was caught on video racing across icy roads and ignoring red lights and traffic laws on his way to a political fundraiser. Fenty's excuse was lame.
"If you're trying to make sure that you're on time so that the business of the city does not have to wait, stop or be delayed, I think it is appropriate," he said.
Fenty's job is no more important than anyone else's. It's certainly not so important that he should be able to put other motorists at risk. And let's not forget: He was on his way to a fundraiser. Fenty's wife gets a police escort, too.
There's also a measure of hypocrisy to all of this. Gov. Richardson is a staunch supporter of red-light cameras. Mayor Fenty supports his city's red-light and speed cameras, despite the fact that D.C.'s red-light cameras have been plagued by charges of corruption, poor maintenance and the tendency to issue tickets to innocent motorists. Gov. Rendell presided over the installation of the first surveillance cameras in Philadelphia (after, it's worth adding, a $75,000 campaign contribution from the company that was awarded the contract to install them).
All these politicians have supported laws that could generally be seen as anti-motorist, be it allowing for camera surveillance of public roads, increasing fines and punishments for traffic offenses or adding new offenses to the books.
All sanctimoniously sign these bills while mouthing high-minded rhetoric about public safety (usually, such bills are more about generating revenue for city coffers).
But the minute "public safety" conflicts with their own sense of self-importance, these politicians are quick to dispense with the laws they expect the rest of us to follow.
Radley Balko is a senior editor of Reason.
This article originally appeared at FoxNews.com.
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