Cruis’n USA was a well received arcade game that was ported over to the Nintendo 64 and sold in 1996. You piloted a car that raced other cars on different highways across America. It is kind of like the already illegal in real life Cannonball Run, but because this is a video game even more things were added to the game that brings up even more legal questions.

In Cruis’n USA you must finish first in fourteen races across America from west to east, starting in Golden Gate Park and ending in Washington D.C. The obvious investigation to make is why this race is allowed to happen. In real life the Cannonball Run was a race across America from east to west, starting in New York City and ending in Redondo Beach, California. There is no evidence of participants crashing into people on the road or causing much damage. They were definitely speeding and probably driving recklessly, but that was about the extent of their breaking the law. It is pretty easy to see them getting away with this, or just being pulled over for speeding once or twice during the race. In Cruis’n USA you crash into civilian vehicles on a semi-regular basis, and if you don’t, one of your competitors will. Luckily no one walks on the sidewalks while you are racing, so you don’t have to worry about injuring people that are walking. Another bit of luck is that you aren’t able to do any property damage when you hit buildings or trees even though you are usually going over one hundred and twenty miles per hour.

A Cruis'n crash
A Cruis’n crash

The first thing to realize in Cruis’n USA is that no car is ever pulled over. You will encounter many police vehicles in every race. You can fly by them at ludicrous speeds and they will not come after you. You can crash into vehicles that are not racing and the police will not chase you. You can crash into police vehicles and you will not have a warrant put out for your arrest. There are a few ways this might be legal. There are no speed limit signs in the game. It could be that this is an alternate America where all the highways are Autobahn type system. The racers are not breaking the law because the speed laws are less important. At the end of each race there is a group of people waiting and cheering. If you finish in first you are handed a trophy for that race. This makes me believe the race is sanctioned in some way. It could be that speeding is allowed on the street during this time because the race is allowed. This could also explain away the liability for accidents. It is possible that the government has informed people that a race will be happening, a race that lasts all of two minutes in most cases, but the government and race officials have not actually closed the race route to the public. People that go onto the road know what risk they are entering into and accept that they might get into an accident because they are going onto a dangerous street. This also helps explain why there are cars coming to hit you head on in later races. There could be some people that just want to watch a huge accident so they enter the race in the wrong direction for that intent. Or there are people betting on the race that need to have a certain car removed so that the car they bet on will win. This could all happen when the race route is still open to the public even though there are cars speeding down the highway.

Car approaching highway hole
Car approaching highway hole

Another weird thing about the highways of Cruis’n USA is the holes that sometimes appear in the road. The road will jut up at something like a forty-five degree angle and then the road will disappear and your car will fly over a chasm that looks like it has fire shooting up from it. Again, these are public highways. They may be closed for the race, or open to those who dare to drive, but it seems unlikely that these jumps were added just for a two minute race. How does the government get away with such blatant road hazards? It could be that there is no money for road repairs and Satan himself has been slowly pushing his way through the Earth’s core and no one has fixed the holes, but I think the game would mention that and maybe even make it a part of the gameplay. Most states have laws in place so that municipalities or the Department of Transportation can be sued for negligence of maintenance of highways. It is usually difficult to bring such a claim forward, but there is at least the possibility of someone being held liable for giant holes in the road. That does not seem to be the case here. Here no one is liable for what happens once a road is built. The government provides people with a way to get around but then does nothing to make sure it remains safe.

The America of Cruis’n USA does not seem much different from our own. But there does appear to be a nation wide racing league that holds races that cause a high risk to public safety. These races are either sanctioned by some sort of racing league or they are done clandestinely and put normal drivers in the middle of it all. There is also the problem of a rapidly deteriorating infrastructure across the country. Roads have fallen into very dangerous disrepair in many parts of the country. This has to be well known, yet no one does anything to stop it. Sure Cruis’n USA may sound fun, but it’s actually dangerous and scary and you shouldn’t do it and you should stay home and go to work and pay your taxes.


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