Tuesday, February 19, 2008
Want to be dangerous? Ride and drive slower!
I was listening to my favorite radio station this morning, and the hosts got onto the topic of driving and speed limits. And like most Americans, the Morning Musers have been successfully programmed to think that all speed limits are good, and that speed kills. Granted, this type of thinking is common amoungst the fear-stricken, nanny-state softies known as modern Americans, but it upset me nonetheless. So, in the spirit of dispelling some of the lies being fed to us by legislators and law enforcement, I offer the following information. Hat tip to the National Motorist Association for some of the material below:
Firstly, slower isn't always safer. Federal and state studies have consistently shown that the drivers most likely to get into accidents in traffic are those traveling significantly below the average speed. According to an Institute of Transportation Engineers Study, those driving 10 mph slower than the prevailing speed are six times as likely to be involved in an accident that someone driving 10 mph over. That means that if the average speed on an interstate is 70 mph, the person traveling at 60 mph is far more likely to be involved in an accident than someone going 70 or even 80 mph.
Secondly, most drivers won't intentionally put themselves into perceived danger. People generally will not go faster than what they feel is comfortable and safe, regardless of the posted speed limit. For example, an 18-month study following an increase in the speed limit along the New York Thruway (from 55 to 65 mph), determined that the average speed of traffic, 68 mph, remained the same. Even a national study conducted by the Federal Highway Administration also concluded that raising or lowering the speed limit had practically no effect on actual travel speeds.
Lastly, the assertion that most accidents are caused by speeding is incorrect. While the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) claims that 30 percent of all fatal accidents are "speed-related," this is misleading. This only means that (in less than a third of the cases) one of the drivers involved in the accident was "assumed" to be exceeding the posted limit to some degree. It does not mean that speeding caused the accident. Research conducted by the Florida Department of Transportation showed that the percentage of accidents actually caused by speeding is very low, 2.2 percent. Speed is an unfortunate catch-all excuse by law enforcement, because an object must be in some degree of motion in order to crash into something else. Therefore "speed" can be said by the non-reputable to be the "cause" of every accident, or "a contributing factor".
Our nation's traffic fatality rate (deaths per 100 million vehicle miles traveled) is the lowest it has ever been. This in an age when cars and motorcycles are faster than ever. Enforcement of artificially low speed limits is little more than a revenue generation tool for government, and -- as the science shows -- does nothing to improve safety.