Monday, June 20, 2011

Speed Limits: Highway Robbery by the Government?

I've had way too many conversations with Austin PD lately. Yeah, yeah, I know – the speed limits are posted; it's my fault, there are speed limits for a reason, blah, blah, blah.

You know what? In some places, actually most places, I agree with the idea of a speed limit. I don't speed in residential areas. Even as a teenager, I wouldn't do 26 mph in a 25 zone. Because I knew the potential for the presence of children. Commercial areas, areas with a lot of traffic, definitely need speed limits or it would be impossible to turn into or pull out of businesses.

Even highways need a speed limit where there are intersections, and people pulling out of driveways, side roads, etc.

Freeways? No intersections, no lights, limited access and egress. All the traffic going in one direction. I believe the far left lane should be a no speed limit zone, like parts of the autobahn. I'll acknowledge the need for speed limits on freeways in town. But does it need to be so arbitrary? I think not. Okay, maybe unlimited speed in town, even in the “fast lane” might be asking for problems. However, why the hell does the speed limit need to drop from 70 mph to 65 mph just because you got into town? How much difference does 5 mph really make in your ability to stop? Okay, so you're in town. There are still no lights, no stop signs, no intersections or driveways. You still have limited access and egress. True, there may be more traffic, but the traffic itself will enforce speed naturally. Ever tried to haul ass during rush hour? Not possible, unless you want to drive on the shoulder, which is illegal anyway. Thus, natural enforcement of speed.

Which begs the question: What really is the “reason” for most speed limits? I'll tell you: Revenue. Pure and simple. Sure, in residential and commercial areas, it may be about safety, but not out on the highway. If speed limits were really about safety, if the all-knowing and all-caring government were that concerned for our safety and truly believed driving slower would keep us safer, don't you think they'd require a governor on all vehicles? Our cars, trucks and motorcycles wouldn't be able to go faster than 70 mph or whatever arbitrarily decided-upon speed was deemed the fastest safe speed. It's possible. It would even be easy. A lot of commercial trucks have them already, as required by the transportation companies. Most states require vehicle inspections to make sure we don't become dangerous to other drivers. We maintain our brakes, brake lights, head lights, turn signals and other safety features, and submit to an annual inspection at a state authorized facility. If speed limits were about keeping us safe, they could add a speed governor to that list of mandated safety features. But then they'd lose out on all that income from speeding tickets, wouldn't they?

Which is why it's so easy to believe it truly is about making money. Otherwise, why would there be that drop from 70 mph to 65 mph? It's so that you can obey the state law, or maybe violate within a certain tolerance (most jurisdictions give an allowance of 5 to 10 mph), but then suddenly, if you're not paying attention, or if you just assume that since you're on a freeway it's 70 mph, you're getting pulled over by the city cop and get slapped with a not-insubstantial fine.

Bastards. Time for Ticket Dismissal classes now.

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