I ran a red light last night, and I’m feeling bad about it. Ted Kaczynski made me do it.
It was after midnight, and I was returning home after seeing the pre-Broadway production of the musical “Mean Girls,” based on the cult Lindsay Lohan comedy. I was late, my phone was dead, I knew my wife would be worried, and I was stopped at an intersection where I could see for many football fields in all directions. There were no cars to be seen anywhere.
Ted, , aka “The Unabomber” or “Snookums” to his friends, cited my exact situation as an example of how we have become slaves to our technology. Why do we waste moments of our limited lifespan because of a red light, when there is no reason to be stopped other than because the signal says to. Admittedly, this had bothered me before I read Ted’s complaint. Stop lights should start blinking by midnight, allowing a motorist to proceed with caution, as with a stop sign. If one isn’t blinking, we should be allowed to treat it as if it is.
Last night, I ran the light. With my luck, there was a camera at the intersection, and I’ll get a ticket in the mail. But..
…whether I do or not doesn’t change the ethical or unethical character of my conduct. That’s just moral luck.
…it was still against the law to run the light, even it I was treating it as a blinking light, because it wasn’t
…breaking the law is unethical, even when the law is stupid, and
…there was no legitimate emergency that could justify my running the light as a utilitarian act.
So I feel guilty. Not guilty enough to turn myself in, but still guilty, since I am guilty.
But Ted wasn’t wrong.
Update: Let me add this; I was thinking in the shower.
On several occasions in the past, I have found myself stopped by a malfunctioning light that appeared to be determined to stay red forever. Is it ethical to go through the light then? The alternative is theoretically being stuck for the rest of my life. So we run such lights, on the theory the frozen stop light is not meeting the intent of the law or the authorities who placed it there, and to remain servile to the light under such circumstances is unreasonable. Yet running it is still breaking the law, and isn’t stopping for a light in the dead of night with no cars to be seen also not consistent with the intent of the law and the light? What’s the distinction?