It turns out, I am a hypocrite. I preach traffic safety. Don't speed, I admonish. Don't tailgate. Don't text and drive. Don't drive if you're under the influence of alcohol or drugs, or prescription medications. Make sure to signal when you're changing lanes. No aggressive driving. Be polite and considerate of other drivers, especially if they're young or old or display a handicapped sticker. And again and above all, don't speed.
And then what happened the other day? I opened the mail to find . . . I got a speeding ticket!
The state of Maryland alleges that I was driving 49 mph in a 35-mph zone.
The truth is, even though I'm usually one of the slower drivers on the road, I probably was going 49. But let me explain. And then I'll throw myself on the mercy of the court.
By way of background, I'll tell you a little bit about my accuser, the state of Maryland. B and I actually considered retiring to Maryland. At first, we thought Washington, DC. But living in Washington, DC, it turns out, is way too expensive for most retirees.
Then we thought we could retire to the suburbs of Washington. You've heard of Bethesda, MD? Or Silver Spring? Oh, how naive we were! The Washington suburbs are just as expensive as the District. Plus, traffic in the suburbs of Washington is enough to drive you to an early grave.
At one point we visited Annapolis, MD. It's the capital. It's less than an hour drive to Washington. And it's still close enough to our old hunting grounds in the Northeast. You can hop on Amtrak for a 3-hour train trip to New York City.
Annapolis is home to historic St. John's college and the U. S. Naval Academy, and features lots of waterfront, boating, restaurants and entertainment. Annapolis is expensive, yes, but not as bad as Washington. We even looked at a few houses in Annapolis. But the prices were a stretch for us, and the real-estate taxes are pretty steep.
And then we found out that Maryland would tax our retirement income. Maryland does not count among the 13 states that tax Social Security benefits. But it does levy income tax on IRA and 401K withdrawals. And since IRA withdrawals were going to provide a significant amount of our retirement income, that gave us pause.
|Caught on tape. And yeah, that's me .... on a four-lane|
highway with no traffic. Do you see
a speed limit sign? So am I really speeding?
We also found out that while Maryland doesn't tax its own people who collect government pensions, it does tax pensions from out of state. B has a small pension from New York. It's small enough already, so we didn't want the tax people of Maryland making it smaller.
So we decided not to retire in Maryland, at least in part because we felt they were just after our money, and targeting us as out-of-staters. We don't mind paying "our fair share" in taxes, but we don't want to be treated differently, singled out as an easy mark. So we went someplace more welcoming, as in Pennsylvania, where we can keep our Social Security and IRA benefits and live a comfortable retired life, paying taxes like normal dutiful citizens but not worrying about where we'd get the money to stave off a greedy taxman.
So I hope you now appreciate the position of the state of Maryland. They're pretty aggressive about raising money from people. Or, to put it bluntly, Maryland is out to fleece innocent citizens, especially those from other states who happen to be passing through.
And that's what we were doing. Passing through. Which leads me to my speeding ticket. Clearly, the authorities in Maryland set up a speed trap for unsuspecting people like us.
The facts of the case: I was driving on a Saturday, around 8 a.m., heading out to the Interstate. As you can see, the road I was on is a four-lane highway. During the day the road is choked with traffic, so maybe a 35-mph speed limit makes sense under that circumstance. But when I was traveling, there was no traffic at all. And when did you ever hear of a clear, four-lane highway with a 35-mph speed limit? Do you think I was posing a risk by driving 49 mph? Do you think they noticed my out-of-state license plate?
Okay. You're the judge. You've heard my explanation. Are you sympathetic to my argument? Are you ready to give me a break? Or do you think I'm a threat to society and find me guilty as charged?
To be fair, the state of Maryland did not throw the book at me. I'm not going to jail. I won't have to pick up litter by the side of the road. They even say on the citation that paying my fine will not result in points and will not increase my insurance rate. They just want my money.