In International Law and Human Rights the other day, the professor engaged the students in a discussion about who would be willing to run a red traffic light and under what circumstances might an otherwise law-abiding citizen break such an important law? Even though several students raised their hands (not me mind you!) when the scenario included an empty small intersection at three in the morning, the situation that is of a particular interest to me is crossing the red light if no other cars are in sight and you have a very ill person (a friend) in the car whom you are trying to take to the hospital. Even I was willing to raise my hand to that situation. However, I realized that if I were in that situation and I ran the red light, I would do so with the idea that I am breaking a law and that if a ticket and a fine are the result, I would be angry but would know that this is how things work. I made the choice to run the red light to save my friend so paying a fine should be a minor inconvenience.
Many, of course, do not agree with me. They say that it is not fair. That they are trying to be good people saving lives and should not be penalized for breaking the law in that case. For me, this is not about an action being fair or not fair. It is about making a choice – to run the red light and risk a ticket but save a friend or not to run the red light and risk losing a friend. Make the choice and bear the consequences. I personally would pick the first option and even though unwillingly, I would pay the fine. Because that fine is nothing compared to my friend’s life.
Any thoughts on this situation?