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Stupid Motorist Law causes unnecessary humiliation for drivers

Monsoon season has packed a major punch for residents across the state by damaging property and forcing road closures due to extreme flooding. Yet, in a state known for our bone-dry heat, flooding comes as a shock for natives and newcomers to town.

While there are plenty of jokes about Phoenix lacking any type of moisture, those who live here know first-hand how quickly the valley can be swallowed up by dark clouds, heavy rain and our infamous dust walls. These storms seemingly come out of thin air, shake the city, and breeze on their merry way after a short time. But the damage caused amounts to a much larger ticket than just wet roads and dirty cars.

Occasionally, roads will be completely flooded by the influx of random rain, like we’ve seen in the past few weeks. Shortly after, anyone with a smart phone received that annoying notification from the National Weather Service: Flash Flood Warning in the area.

“Flash floods in Phoenix? Yeah right; that’s not going to affect me” is the thought process of many, including me. And if you do find yourself in an area of a lot of water, most avoid it. Seems like a simple enough concept, right?

If keeping your car away from floods wasn’t a good enough incentive, Arizona has a law that fines individuals for getting caught in a flood called the “Stupid Motorist Law.”

“The 'Stupid Motorist Law,' which corresponds to section 28-910 of the Arizona Revised Statutes, states that any motorist who becomes stranded after driving around barricades to enter a flooded stretch of roadway may be charged for the cost of his/her rescue,” according to Wikipedia.

However, The Arizona Republic and Channel 12 took a closer look at this law and found that very few have been fined, even though perennial monsoons seem to endanger at least one individual.

Not only is this law’s title relatively condescending, the weak implementation of the rule shows that very few actively choose to drive in flooded waters. Rather, some just happen to be in the wrong place at the wrong time.

"There was a number of people who were driving along and just got stuck in the middle of some rushing water and had to find their way out," Phoenix Police Department Sgt. Steve Martos told Channel 12 concerning the most recent rescues.

Yes, the public is not encouraged to drive into flooded waters and the rescues can be very costly. But doesn’t this law pour more salt in the wound of the mistake the driver has already made? Humans are known to make mistakes; if individuals are just passing through, some may not know about the possible dangers monsoon season can bring.

I think the actual punishment associated with the law, the fine drivers are slapped with for their poor decision, is not a bad idea and probably scares off many from such risky choices. But calling our drivers “stupid” is a bit extreme.

“If you somehow think it's OK to drive through a water-covered area where water wouldn't normally be, you deserve to get punished,” Brian Pedersen of Tucson Weekly said.

Moral of the story: Don’t get stuck in a flooded road on your own accord. It could cost you an arm and a leg and a whole lot of embarrassment.

Reach the columnist at or follow her on Twitter @BeccaSmouse

Editor’s note: The opinions presented in this column are the author’s and do not imply any endorsement from The State Press or its editors.

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