08 July 2011

A Reasonable Proposal

Eric Peters on speed limits:

No more arbitrary or artificially low speed limits. Speed limits should be set by highway safety engineers, not government bureaucrats, and in accordance with the 85th percentile rule. That means doing a traffic survey – noting what the natural flow of traffic is on any given stretch of road – and setting the limit about 10-15 MPH higher than the average. Right now, most roads have limits that comport with the “slow average” speed of traffic – in effect, turning almost every driver on the road into a lawbreaking “speeder” subject to a ticket. It’s an outrage and worse, a ridiculous outrage. Excepting Prohibition back in the 1920s, few laws have ever been so casually, so routinely, ignored by a majority of citizens – who are otherwise law-abiding and reasonable people. Either they somehow morph into unreasonable people when they get behind the wheel, or the laws about speeding are themselves unreasonable – and absurd.

In spite of all the clamoring about how traffic laws, particularly speed limits, are designed for safety, it seems readily apparent that traffic laws are intended more for revenue than for safety.

Consider that most traffic laws assume a certain set of conditions.  For speed limits, it is assumed that the driver is of average ability, has an average car, the road is in average condition, and is driving in average weather.  Of course, this condition is almost never met in the real world.  There are a decent number of “average” drivers, presumably.  But it is highly unlikely that all average drivers have average cars.  And it is considerably more unlikely that they only drive on average roads in average weather.  As such, the assumed conditions are only met a tiny fraction of the time.

More-skilled drivers should be allowed to drive faster than less-skilled drivers due to their superior abilities.  And all drivers should be allowed to faster on roads that are in better condition.  And those driving better cars should be allowed to go faster since their cars can handle it.

This can easily be accomplished by getting rid of speed limits.  Most people can accurately determine speed limits for themselves based upon the conditions in which they drive.  Those with better cars can reasonably determine that they should be able to handle the road at faster speeds.  Those who are more skilled can reasonably determine that they should be able to go faster because of their superior skills. And everyone can determine a reasonable speed limit for themselves based upon road and weather conditions.

As such, there is little need for speed limits today.   Most people do not have death wishes, and can thus be counted on to drive in a manner that ensures their own safety.  And the law should not be used as a way of collecting revenue for the government.  Therefore, speed limits should be abolished, in the name of freedom, and in the name of common sense.

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