Five Dollars and a Receipt
If you were old enough to be driving in 1974 you should recall the gasoline crisis. Most of the oil in the world was owned by members of OPEC (Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries). To make a long story short the Arab members of OPEC quadrupled prices in the United States when they put an embargo on the countries supporting Israel in the Yom Kippur War. The United States government decision in 1971 to remove themselves from the Gold Standard also greatly contributed to friction with OPEC. The huge western oil companies of the United States were dependent on OPEC oil. They amassed fortunes along with OPEC as gas supplies dwindled and prices rose. Congress reaped the benefits of oil company fortunes while negotiating for favorable trade agreements with OPEC. Enough history…. on with my story.
Dear old United States congress passed a 55 Nationwide Mile Speed Limit in response to the gas crisis and insurance company donations claiming it would save lives. If you lived in New England the law didn’t mean anything, because the roads couldn’t handle higher speeds. If you lived in Nevada or Montana where there was no posted daytime speed limits for automobiles the law really got your attention. Truck speed limits were posted at 65 miles per hour in many western states. The people of Montana were very unhappy. The state refused to post the federally mandated speed limit signs. The federal government reciprocated by withholding all federal highway funds for Montana. The state decided to take some innovative action to maintain speeds on the highways and get their federal funds back.
The State of Montana enacted the federal legislation. The 55 mile an hour federal speed limit would be enforced. If you were caught violating the speed limit you would be fined $5. The officer issuing the ticket would collect the fee at the time of the infraction. You would be issued a receipt at the time. There would be no record of conviction for violating the 55 mile limit. The people of Montana were ecstatic. We all carried several five dollar bills. Once you paid your fine and received your receipt it was off again at the speed you considered safe. Surprisingly, the people of Nevada and Montana were not bad drivers. They just wanted to get where they were going.
Regardless of what Montana residents thought about congress, they supported and approved of the Montana Highway Patrol. The Highway Patrol officers gave all of the driving tests in Montana. When you required a new license or renewal test it would be administered by your local Highway Patrolman. The tests were informal, honest, and comfortable as you proceeded while discussing local news and events. The Highway Patrol also had a six to eight man saturation team nicknamed the wolfpack. Their scheduled areas were made public every week as they moved around the state enforcing vehicle codes and laws. You didn’t mess with the wolfpack. They didn’t miss anything. All six or eight cars would be in a short stretch of highway.
The wolf pack didn’t accept five dollar bills……..they made you fix any infractions on your car.