State Police followed that line of reasoning, ticketing motorists for violating the Civil Defense Act of 1950, the statute that gave governors the authority to declare a state of emergency. While the threat of jail time was real, State Police chose only to issue $500 fines, Procopio said.
“Realistically, based on the circumstances of this, no one was going to go to jail just for that offense,” he said. “There was some monetary fine and a ticket was handed to them much like you would get a speeding ticket.”
It’s unlikely those motorists will see their car insurance rates rise, authorities said, although the state Merit Rating Board, which governs auto insurance issues, is reviewing the matter.
Time was not on the governor’s side when he declared the driving ban, which relied heavily on voluntary compliance, and unquestionably speeded the state’s recovery. Now that the blizzard is long gone, MEMA spokesman Peter Judge, Collins, Harris, and others I interviewed said they expect a formal review of the ban’s strengths and weaknesses before next winter.
In the end, the court system may have to decide whether police can arrest or ticket those who break driving bans. (Last week, the state’s District Court Administrative Office sent e-mails to a few courthouses instructing them not to process driving-ban tickets.)
Alternatively, DeCroteau suggested, lawmakers could write a statute that clarifies everything police and motorists need to know about a state driving ban.
As someone who drove during the ban, I certainly would have welcomed such instructions.
Bouncing along largely unplowed roads at 4 a.m. Saturday, heading to the Malden garage where the pickup truck I use for plowing snow is parked, I was sure I’d be pulled over by police.
Public works vehicles were among those excused from the ban, but “plow operator” isn’t printed on my license. So as a credential, I toted a large photograph of me sitting in my plow-equipped pickup truck.
What else could I do?
“Obviously someone reporting to work as a plow driver was most definitely an exemption, so that should have been all you needed,” Procopio said. “Good for you.”