Should the "Stupid Motorist Law" Apply to More Stupid Motorists?

Categories: Travel
theritters via Flickr
"I'll be damned, how on earth did this happen?"

Amid reports of a tour bus with 33 people aboard essentially being washed off a Kingman road and being flipped on its side, there are mentions of Arizona's "stupid motorist law."

In many, many cases, drivers like that who decide to roll on into the flooded area don't get charged, because the state's "stupid motorist law" is kind of stupid.

To offset the costs of rescuing idiots who think they can drive into deep floodwater, state law requires that the people being rescued be liable for those rescue costs.

However, news outlets run the every-so-often story about how hardly anyone ever gets subjected to the law, due to the fine print:
A driver of a vehicle who drives the vehicle on a public street or highway that is temporarily covered by a rise in water level, including groundwater or overflow of water, and that is barricaded because of flooding is liable for the expenses of any emergency response . . .
So, yes, if there is a barricade telling you not to go in floodwater, and you still go in it, you're a moron. However, you'd think anyone who willingly drives into the newly formed Rio Grande in the middle of the street is stupid, too.

According to the Associated Press account on the Kingman incident, "It's questionable whether the 'Stupid Motorist Law' would apply because the area wasn't barricaded, and another section requires that a person be convicted of reckless driving before having to pay up to $2,000 for emergency response or rescue operations."

If you drive into floodwater, and have to be rescued, it would seem that it's your fault -- period. What do you think? Should the "stupid motorist law" apply to more stupids?

Cast your vote below:

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If a road isn't marked as a flash flood zone and a car gets caught in a flash flood, I'm not sure the stupid motorist law should apply.  How is the person supposed to know it could end up more than just a puddle on the road?

JohnQ.Public topcommenter

Yes, a motorist who goes around a barricade to enter a flooded street should be cited and fined. That was the point of the statute - to deter people from going around barricades that had already been put in place to close a road during flooding. The point of the law was not to penalize motorists who did not otherwise know that a road would be impassible.

I already pay for the fire department and police department in my taxes. Firefighters and police officers are already on the clock and being paid, whether they sit in the fire station, respond to a house fire, and conduct a swift water rescue. The only additional cost to the fire department to respond to a swift water rescue is the cost of gas to get there, but since they take their apparatus to the grocery store for dinner or a Quick Trip for sodas, even that is debatable. When we talk about the cost of a rescue, what costs are we really talking about that I haven't already paid for? And as a taxpayer, should I get a refund if I haven't used their services. I've been in the same house for 16 years and not once have I required a fire department response for anything. Do I get a refund for not using them? No - of course not. So why should I be charged when I actually have to use them? And what's next - a stupid fire law? If a fire is caused by a stupid reason, e.g. letting all the liquid boil out of a pot, should I be charged for that response too because it was a stupid reason for a fire?

Brett Giles
Brett Giles

Hmm, I would think so. So many loopholes in that law, does anyone get fined? I think if the city has to drag your car out of a river, whoever put it in the river should be responsible. Accident or no, it's your fault, and that's what insurance is for. Stupid people. I guess I don't know if insurance would cover that, but even if they don't the city/county can bill you in installments.


@TaxpayingVoter Get out of your vehicle and use a long stick to try and determine depth and flow.  Throw a large rock into the water and listen for how quickly it is swept downstream.  Call the authorities and see if they know whether or not it is passable.  If they don't know ask them to send someone out who can check for you...Or just cross your fingers and drive through... "Taxpaying Voter" doesn't require common sense I guess.


@JohnQ.Public What?  Okay first, the inherent danger to the lives of everyone involved.  I conduct swift water rescue, and it is about the most dangerous thing you can do.  Secondly, your average fire fighters aren't swift water rescue.  So then you have to call out Search and Rescue from way the hell on the other side of the state.  You need a helicopter at about $1000 an hour.  Sorry to inform you that stuff isn't just, "Already paid for." Dumbass.  How about people use common sense.  You see a flooded roadway get out and survey the area, maybe call 911 to see if the authorities have seen it if not could they send someone out to determine if it is passable...I guess that takes to much work, fuck it just drive on through...

JohnQ.Public topcommenter

What else should government charge for on an a la carte basis then? Next time you want to use a surface street - that'll be $4.50, freeway - that'll be $6.00 please. Traffic light out at the intersection near your house - that'll be a $2.95 bill to you for the city to change it. Oh, that book you want at the city library - there'll be a $2.50 entrance fee and $2.50 per book charge. Oh, you want to play in your neighborhood park too - that'll be a $9.50 entrance fee. Let's just make all government services a la carte.

I agree completely - people need to use common sense but accidents happen. As someone who conducts swift water rescues, you know better than most that running water can be incredibly deceiving and that water that looks relatively benign can be deeper than expected or be running swifter than expected below the surface. You know never to take running water for granted because it can always contain unexpected surprises. Most swift water rescues, as I understand it, are not of people who tried to cross water that was very obviously too deep - it is of people who tried to cross water that was just a little too deep or a little too fast.  So don't be such a sanctimonious asshole. I appreciate your service in Search and Resuce and as a first responder. I really do. But you know as well as I do that even people with a lot of common sense and who are cautious can accidentally find themselves in difficult situations.

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