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Tuesday, September 12, 2006

Points for and against speed limits from rants and raves

New rants and raves from the Car Talk website! Here are two letters, one from the previously mentioned Lee Estes, who previously stated his obvious distaste for speed limits on our interstates, and who has shown his lack of personal responsibility for the safety of others. He ceasely forgets that drivers regularly drive beyond the safety limits of their cars, despite cars being built better than they were years ago.

The counterpoint to his argument is written by Mark Sousa. Though his response can be a bit over the top (using Star Wars lasers to wipe out offending drivers), I would have to say that the problem is not the speed limits nor the enforcement of speed limits themselves.

The most prevalent problem that I see on the road concerns stop signs and stop lights. Namely the idiots who think of them as suggestions and not a requirement. I've lost count of all the times I have nearly become a substitute for someones hood ornament because they a) couldn't be bothered to take their attention from their cell phone, b) weren't watching where they were going, c) just plain old didn't care, or d) all of the above. Any way, here is the first letter.

Point

Lee Estes sent the following letter:

Dear C&C:

Are you guys nuts? The entire trend of Western civilization for millions of years has been to get things down faster and go places quicker than in the previous millennium. Yet you continue to whine on about SPEED LIMITS and how the rest of us are supposed to comply with this ridiculous requirement.

First: Speed limits are arbitrary decisions made by politicians, with no basis in automotive safety WHATSOEVER. They just post those signs to annoy people like me and give complainers like you guys something to complain about and fill otherwise dead air time.

Second: America is a land where the males (at least most of us) have an abundant supply of testosterone (although you two may be an exception); therefore, high-speed travel is our natural right. Traveling too slowly causes the male body to develop an excessive quantity of estrogen.

Fortunately, here in Michigan we have the RIGHT idea. We know the posted speed limits are advisory only. Only if you are unable to drive with a sufficient degree of skill are you required to actually obey those damn signs. As a person who travels in excess of 30,000 miles per year, I say 55 or even 65 mph is ridiculously slow. If I drove within the speed limit I would still be trying to get home from last month.

(Here's the part you find really shocking.) I routinely drive the interstates in Michigan at speeds of 90 to 110 mph (no, not kph, mph). I don't get in wrecks. I don't run other cars off the road. I give other drivers room. Although sometimes I have been known to lean on a serious speed nazi (defined as anyone in the left lane traveling at less than 80 mph). The state police obviously know what I'm doing is not a problem. I rarely get pulled over, and ticketed even less. So LIGHTEN UP. Modern cars, tires, shocks, brakes, seat belts, air bags, etc., make for a safer car than a '63 Dodge Dart. If that Dodge is the basis for your opinion on what's too fast, no wonder you guys are wusses. Nobody could drive a car like that! But some cars can go faster safely. End of rant.

Counterpoint

Mark Sousa sent the following letter:

"Live fast, die young and leave a good-looking corpse" isn't viable for me. The last time my corpse might have been good-looking was 20 years ago. I've got a feeling it's problematic for Lee Estes, too, since most people wouldn't consider a corpse with a surprised, moronic look on its face (probably caused by the proximal appearance of the word "Peterbilt" 10 feet in front of his hood ornament and getting more proximal all the time) to be good-looking.
Speed limits aren't the problem.

Enforcement is the problem.

What we need is a device that will track and destroy the vehicle of anyone bouncing around the interstate at a speed greater that 10 percent above that of the current average in their current driving lane...while performing personal hygiene functions, while talking on a cell phone, while reading the paper (like they could learn anything, anyway) all at the same time. Hey, buddy--that's my wife and kids in this econobox you're rather erratically and intermittently aiming at. Thank God you can't concentrate on anything long enough to actually hit us (WHOOPS! CRUNCH). Please feel free to point yourself at any bridge abutment you want, BUT I don't want to go with you--not just because I'm not ready to leave this mortal coil yet, but also because I don't want to go out with anyone who is so conceited as to think that HIS 15 minutes of adolescent highway misbehavior is worth scaring the crap out of my kids or my wife or especially ME...AND I'VE BEEN COOPED UP IN THIS CAR WITH THEM FOR FOUR HOURS ALREADY TODAY....GO AHEAD, HIT ME!

What we need is to refocus the Star Wars program. Who cares if some little country tries to hit us with a ballistic missile...never gonna happen! Put this technology to work tracking the speed of vehicles on our streets and roads. Build a device that tracks vehicles moving significantly faster than the rest of traffic, or just driving stupidly, or just track the ones that annoy ME. Blow their junk off the road and do it in a way that doesn't cause a pothole or a stain on the roadway and put it under MY control.

That's what we need!

See ya, Lee.

Mark

As an answer to the above point and counterpoint, here is a follwup rant to those two points of view.

The speed wars are definitely heating up out there (i.e., "Speedy" Lee and "Idonwannadie" Mark). Both these guys are a little extreme, and both got a few points right. Most of the problems arise from speed differential, inattention (from fast OR slow drivers!), and just plain lack of skill/training. Lee's right in the fact that even a basic Honda can outperform, safely, pure racing cars from a few years back.

Unfortunately, Mark's right in that a frighteningly large number of drivers are using these vehicles' higher limits WITHOUT understanding the physics of going faster, or spending any time increasing THEIR limits or abilities.

Lee states that it is a right to drive fast. Along with any right comes responsibility. Lee's attitude shows a lack of responsibility toward high-speed driving. What training have you had? Or are you relying on "natural ability"? (By the way, I know many racers that were fast right from the start, and racers that have honed their skills for years without rising above mediocrity.)

Mark, there are a lot of drivers out there who are safer driving fast than you are sitting in your driveway. If YOU find YOURself in an emergency situation AT THE SPEED LIMIT OR BELOW, you will find your self in as bad a predicament as those speeders you despise. You need proper training to drive safely, regardless of the speed you choose to travel at.

And Mark, don't buy into state-provided statistics. The state of Washington provided a brochure on the dangers of speed when they raised speed limits. In that brochure was printed stopping distances for the average car from 55 and 65 mph. It listed the distance needed to stop from 65 mph as 900 yds. WHAT?? The only way to stop from 65 in 900 yds. is to jump out and let the car roll to a stop on it's own!! The average sedan now does it in less than 160 ft., and many sports cars stop in less than 120 ft. from 65 mph. Yet all other scare propoganda in the brochure is based on this outdated data. On the back, credit for the information is given as an NHTSA study from 1956. 1956!!!!

As it turns out, all other speed-related data the government gives out is easily checked and is, not surprisingly, just as suspect. And yet Lee's despised "speed nazis" go on believing. In accident reporting, "speed-related" is used as a catchall, and when it is brought up to scare citizens, it shows up in 34 percent of all fatal crashes.

BUT, if you remove "speed-related," that ALSO includes alcohol/drugs, bad weather (even low speeds can be entered here), and the best one--"speed too low" (a real beauty, that--using slow drivers to make fast drivers look bad!), the amount left ends up being less than 5 percent!
Now, the problem with using these stats is that no matter how you look at them, they only prove a negative number. There are no stats on "successful speed." Even if the 34 percent figure is taken at face value, that percentage of fatals could still be only 1 percent of fast drivers. There's no way of measuring. It would be sad to paint a picture of fast drivers using only 1 percent of the total information, now wouldn't it?

In conclusion, Lee, grow up; Mark, wise up, and I'll keep driving my modified car fast, quietly.

Thanks,

Chris V.

I would have to agree that the problem lies not with the speed limits themselves, but with our rather mediocre and hideously inadequate driver education system that does not take to develop in teens the skills that are needed to operate a vehicle. A typical sixteen year old does not have the experience necessary to safely operate a motor vehicle while doing such thing as using a cell phone. Most people I see can't even walk straight while talking on a cell phone. And they think that they are safe to drive while using them!?


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