Saturday, April 09, 2011

Texas Raising the Speed Limit

Texas is considering raising its speed limit to 85mph. There are people who are saying that this is a bad idea. That is stupid.

They cite "speed-related" accidents. There is no such thing as a speed-related accident. If you are driving well and fast, you won't have an accident. Long stopping distance? That simply means the distance that can be considered tailgating becomes longer. That is why one of the few infractions that is heavily ticketed on the Autobahn is tailgating. Stop ticketing people for speeding, like American cops are prone to doing, and ticket them for asshole driving.

And speaking of the Autobahn, if speed is so bad, why does the German road system, which has many sections with no speed limit at all, have a lower accident rate than us? And why does it have a much lower multi-car accident rate than us?

This gets to the heart of the "speed-related" garbage. Reports cite speed as a factor in any accident where cars were exceeding the speed limit. Do you know anyone who follows the speed limit? I don't. And even under that broad classification, only one-third of accidents can be classified as speed-related. The majority of accidents happen on slow, side-roads and in intersections. And that makes perfect sense.

When you're on the highway, you're going very fast, but you spend most of your time going in, more or less, straight lines. There's very little opportunity for things to go wrong. When do things go wrong? When people are maneuvering. Turns, stopping, starting, etc.

They also spend depressingly little time discussing the speeds at which people are already driving. I think it safe to say that people are driving at speeds that find comfortable regardless of the speed limit. In Rhode Island, there is a two-lane secondary highway with a large grass island in between north and south-bound traffic. The speed limit is 50-55mph. Average speed? Somewhere north of 65, with the left lane always above 70. On the more open stretches of highway, with speed limits that range from 50-65mph, average speeds are over 70, with fast cars in excess of 90.

At the same time, though, we have people who are driving under the speed limit. On the highway, where the limit is 65, I encounter people driving 50 or less frequently. My observations aren't entirely anecdotal, either. I drive a lot, at all hours of the day, in multiple states, and am thus exposed to thousands of other drivers every week. The speed limit seems to have very little effect on the speeds that people drive. The nature of the roads seems to have a stronger effect on people's driving habits. Certainly, they look to the speed limit as advice on the dangers inherent to the roadway, but after that, it's personal desire.

What this means is, that if the law isn't doing anything, then change the law. We do not have laws based on ideals, or on things that seem right. We have laws based on reality! If no one obeys the law, the law is wrong, not the people.

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