On This Speed Limit Business

Eric Peter’s Autos

What are speed limits, exactly?

I know … a number on a sign.


But why pay any attention to them?  

I mean, assuming there isn’t a cop around?

They’re not much use as far as advisories about the maximum safe velocity for a given road. If they were, then everyone (just about) wouldn’t be driving at least that fast.

Probably, they’d be driving slower.

If speed limits meant anything substantive, that is.

Like the redline on a tachometer, for example. That is a real limit.

Most people do not run their engines at or even near redline for more than brief moments. Because the redline is the fastest you can safely spin the engine without risking engine damage.

So they don’t do it.speed-limit-lead

The idea that driving over the speed limit is risking anything (other than a ticket) is ridiculous.

If that were not the case, then most people wouldn’t “speed” as a matter of routine – because most people aren’t reckless with their own lives or the lives of others.

The fact that speed limits are almost universally ignored (by cops, too) says something about their merits.

Prohibition comes to mind. Another absurd law that was respected accordingly.

But Prohibition went away.

Speed limits are still with us.

It’d be nice if they’d go away, like Prohibition.speed-trap

It would tolerable if they at least plausibly represented a speed faster than most people on a given road normally drive.

That is, in fact, how speed limits aresupposed to be set. Such that most drivers would not be “speeding.” The few who did could then at least be characterized as driving faster than most other drivers and one could then at least make the claim that maybe these people are driving too fast.

But that is not good for revenue – which is what speed limits are really all about.

By purposely setting limits so low such that nine out of ten drivers on any given road are “speeding,” it makes it easier to catch “speeders.” Which means more revenue via tickets issued for this manufactured offense.

So, speed limits have little, if anything, to do with “safety.”

They are useless as far as informing drivers about reasonable speeds for a given (and perhaps unfamiliar) road.

They are not (for the most part) posted on the basis of traffic engineering surveys, as they are supposed to be.fat-heroes

They are arbitrary and typically under-posted, deliberately – in  order to criminalize reasonable/safe driving so as to give police an excuse to issue “citations” which just happen to be a major source of local government income.

When there is a profit motive underpinning a law – and when most otherwise reasonable (and presumably sane) people routinely violate a law, there is a problem with the law.

And those who enforce it.

Arguably, the entire concept is flawed because it assumes there is a single “safe” speed for every driver. But each driver’s abilities vary. As does the capability of the vehicle they’re driving. A one-size-fits-all speed limit arbitrarily defines Driver A as a danger merely because he is traveling faster than a number posted on a sign – even if his actual driving can’t be faulted. And it envelopes Driver B – whose actual driving can be faulted – in the aura of  legality (and “safety”) merely because he is operating at or below the arbitrarily-set speed limit.heroes-ahead

It might be saner – and safer – to get rid of enforceable speed limits altogether. Perhaps post advisory speeds – realistic speeds – as an aid to drivers not familiar with a given stretch of road or curves up ahead. That would be genuinely helpful as a well as safe.

But then, it would reduce revenue, by taking away the excuse to pull over people whose driving can’t be faulted but who did exceed a dumbed-down, arbitrarily set, least-common-denominator number on a sign we’re supposed to obey but which virtually no one does.

Eric Peter’s Autos

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