Why Not Make “Speeding” Legal?

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Why should it be a punishable offense to “speed”?

After all, it’s not velocity which causes harm. It’s loss of control, regardless of velocity. Loss of control can happen at any speed – and it’s by no means directly correlated with high speed. If it were, travel by air would amount to assisted suicide. Yet travel by air – at very high speed – is extremely safe.

Interestingly – if you care about saaaaaaaaaaaaafety – most accidents happen at low speeds, at below the posted speed limit. They are the result of not paying attention, following too closely.

Things which aren’t “speeding.”

Loss of control is the the thing that hurts you – or someone else – whether at 35 MPH or 350 MPH.

Loss of control is also objective fact. You either did – or you did not.

This makes adjudication in the event of harm caused not only clearcut but just. A driver who lost control of his car and crashed into another car cannot argue that he didn’t lose control of his car and did not crash. Nor that he didn’t cause damage. There it is. What can he say?

He may claim the loss of control which led to the damage was due to extenuating circumstances – a deer strike, for example.

But the fact of loss of control remains inarguable, a fact. As opposed to a supposition about what might have happened; the assertion that you were driving “too fast” – which is defined in law as driving faster than a number posted on a sign.

The only debatable question is whether the damage ought to be considered the result of extenuating circumstances, something beyond the driver’s control – like a deer strike – or something which could have been avoided. Like not noticing the light turned red or that the car ahead slowed – and you weren’t paying attention or were following too closely.

Your speed being largely irrelevant.

“Speeding” is objective only in terms of whether one did or did not drive faster than a number posted on a sign. It is otherwise without meaning, entirely arbitrary, a kind of secular totem pole which modern savages are expected to genuflect before.

And which the “gods” impose punishment on the heathen for failure to genuflect.

How fast is too fast?

Why?

It amounts to someone’s opinion, when you get down to it. A government worker’s opinion. In the very best case, a speed limit is based on government workers observing the rate at which traffic generally flows on a given road and then posting a number which roughly approximates that rate of travel. This is the so-called 85th percentile method of setting speed limits and it has the virtue of not pathologizing normal, perfectly safe speeds.

But higher speeds are still pathologized – people are punished even though their actual driving can’t be faulted and they may be excellent drivers, in full control of their car (and better drivers, at very high speeds, than many drivers are at speeds below the legal limit).

And the 85th percentile method of setting speed limits is used less and less. Instead, a government workers simply picks a number – a number that almost always pathologizes nearly every driver on the road, since it’s a number below the 85th percentile speed. You can tell it is because everyone’s driving at least that fast and most are driving faster.

The limits also change randomly – almost always going down rather than up.

The sign reads 45 MPH today. Tomorrow, it reads 35 MPH – because a government worker decided 45 was “too fast.” This just happened on a road near me, a section of the Blue Ridge Parkway in southwest Virginia.

But the road has not developed new curves. It is the same road as when the sign read 45, which was just the other day. The cars which travel the road have not regressed in their ability to handle the curves which do exist, either. And – one assumes – driver capability hasn’t declined from one moment to the next, either.

Regardless, what was legal driving yesterday is – presto! – unlawful “speeding” today. It’s unjust on the face of it because of its arbitrariness, least-common-denominator-ism and because a driver who “speeds” isn’t necessarily a driver who has lost control of his car.

The claim is that “speeders” are at higher-risk  of losing control, but this is speculation. Hysterical speculation – given the fact that almost every driver is a “speeder” almost all of the time, because speed limits are set below the normal, reasonable 85th percentile speeds people drive.

The majority do not lose control of their car.

If it were true that “speeding” is as dangerous as its detractors (who are usually also “speeders”) claim, loss of control ought to follow almost inevitably every time a driver “speeds.”

The fact it does not says something about the “danger” of “speeding.”

So why are people routinely punished for this manufactured offense – can be punished for it, without even the suggestion that their actual driving was less-than-competent? And in the absence of any harm caused?

There is a better – more objective – alternative.

If a person loses control of his vehicle regardless of speed, hold him accountable for the damage caused.

Otherwise, leave him alone.

. . .

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27 COMMENTS

  1. My favorite’s when the media reports “Oh, they were doing DOUBLE the speed limit!” like somehow twice the magic number is super duper dangerous. So the guy doing 30 in a 15 must also be a maniac, 10 in a 5, etc

    • Hi Moose,

      Yup! And if a “hero” drives his car 120 MPH in “pursuit,” it’s ok somehow. He’s “trained,” eh? Well, all right then. So am I. I assume that means it’s ok for me to also drive 120? No?

      Why?

  2. I’m unashamed of speeding and do it as much as possible. Down in Illinois and Indiana people regularly go 90mph. I join in when i see a few brave liberty minded drivers doing that. The reality is cops are the ones who speed the most especially out of uniform. Blue light special.

    • Hi Moo!

      As a matter of principle, I try to get over 160 at least once a month during the summer months… but right now my Kaw is all over the garage 🙁

  3. I, too, remember when 55 became the national speed edict. The first day it was in effect I had to drive from Akron to Columbus, OH. Previously the speed limit was 70 an most folks (85% or more) drove around that speed, some as high as 75. But, very few went faster. Every few miles there was an Ohio Hwy patrol car sitting in the media with radar. I thought we’d NEVER get to Columbus. 55 was Absolute! (my brother got tagged for 57 and they made it stick)

    Prior to this speed limits, in Ohio anyway, were prima facia, not Absolute. You could usually talk your way out of a ticket by pointing out the clear, dry conditions on an otherwise vacant road.

    I think if you have to point to one thing that changed the U.S. into a police state it was that law. Now any edict from Rome on the Potomac is considered Holy Writ. To be punished to the maximum with no leeway.

    • I’m glad I’m not alone in thinking that. It did. It was horrible. I am proud to have played a small role in the repeal of the 55 mph speed limit. In the years following, driving became unbearable if you wanted to travel at the old speed limits of 70 and 75 mph. It wasn’t just Ohio. I heard stories of the same thing happening in GA, LA and even Texas.

  4. So are you willing to slam on your brakes without malice when I pull out in front of you from a side road because your speed is greater than the sight distance to a curve or hill top ???

    • Hi Tall,

      Of course!

      Why would I bear malice toward another driver for entering the road?

      Your assumption is that a driver needs a sign with a number on it to know what speed is appropriate for him to drive on a given road – and that the number on that sign is the “correct” number.

      There are several problems with this.

      First, driver skill varies. Car capabilities vary. Speed limits are one size fits all/least common denominator; they are based on the Harrison Bergeron principle.

      Second, they are primarily about revenue collection. Everyone understands this. Why do most people not consider “speeding” something to be ashamed of? If it truly is dangerous, I mean? Why do most people “speed”- every day?

      Whenever there’s a law which almost everyone is guilty of transgressing almost all the time, there is something wrong with the law – not those who transgress it.

      • “Why would I bear malice toward another driver for entering the road?”

        Seems like there are a lot of drivers out there who hate everybody else just for being on the same road and possibly momentarily slowing them down.

        Generally, I agree with you about speed limits, especially on the open road, mostly because they are so randomly and seldomly enforced. I can’t afford a ticket and don’t want any unnecessary interaction with your friends in blue (ha!) so I try to adhere to the limits, but lots of other folks don’t. That’s all right with me if they just go on by, but not when they tailgate in a single lane construction zone.

        Speed limits are just a reverse lottery, so pardon me if I don’t want to play.

  5. Colorado has raised the speed limit on sections of I-25 in Denver a few years ago. Part of the reason was because everyone was speeding at 55 anyway, so why not just match reality? CDOT is in the process of installing “smart” speed limit signs in Glenwood Canyon on I-70 that will default to 60 (up from 50) MPH in clear dry weather. It is a test program to see how it goes. Might be a sign of things to come if it works well. But better keep an eye on the signs for sure.

    Utah increased the speed limits to 80 MPH on rural highways sometime in the last two years. Knocked about and hour and a half off my drive time to Las Vegas.

    • Hi RK,

      I am old enough to remember Drive 55. Many here are, too,

      For almost 20 years, the highway speed limit on most of the Interstate system was 55, by federal edict. It had been 70-75 (generally) prior to the edict.

      Now it is back to 70-75 (Drive 55 was repealed around 1996, IIRC).

      Was it suddenly “safe” to drive 70-75 again? How so?

      The whole thing should have made people realize how arbitrary and corrupt speed limits are.

      And that they are far from “limits” in other than a legal sense. They certainly do not correlate to the maximum physical speed for a given road, at which point you’ve arrived at the threshold of the Danger Zone.

      It’s just an edict from the government warning that you’ll be forced to give the government money if they catch you driving faster than they’ve decided to allow you to drive.

      That’s all.

      • Eric, I had a torque arm go away the last week of 70mph. I went to Dallas the day it changed and got ticketed for 70mph in an area I’d driven the day before….in a truck.

        Somehow my car was dangerous there the next day.

        It was then I went on a quest for a radar detector that worked. I didn’t find one till 1980 when the Escort was marketed.

        I still have another brand that sorta kinda worked, just not well enough. I forget the name.

        Bought a Passport when it was available. I’d run it up front and the Escort in the back window.

        They got along pretty well.

    • I think Denver is one place where you could theoretically be pulled over and given two tickets: one for speeding and the other for obstructing traffic!

      • I’ve always detested Denver driving but Golden was much better even in the winter….which is often like summer here in Texas.

        Then again, I’m not keen on any place where it’s so cold I can’t see or breathe.

        The other side of that is delivering a load in Denver and be in heaven because it’s 80 degrees and I’ve come from Texas where it was 110 and hear the guys wailing because it’s so hot.

        • Ah, got my moniker back. Wasn’t signed out but signed in again. How does a computer forget? Is it digital Alzheimers?

        • The whole Colorado front range is just Southern California now, with everyone mobbing the mountains instead of the beaches.

          I would never leave Montana but we still have family living down there. It’s a long but great trip from here to Cheyenne and then hell from there south. We tried to go around once but US24 from Limon to CS is about as hellish as I-25. I can’t believe it is still only mostly 2 lanes. Practically every little farm road in TX is divided 4 lane now.

  6. Democracy is communism. All a result of allowing people at or below the norm for intelligence, ability, and ethics set policy for the minority which is above the mean for intelligence, ability, and ethics.

    Speeding is inherently trivial. In the bigger scheme of things, it simply doesn’t matter how fast you travel, but a drooling 79 IQ individual likes to see people more capable brought down to his level. They have no choice due to their nature, they need rules, and thus need to be ruled. Accordingly, they are approving grist for the mill of any scumbag who promises to get tough with (you pick the activity- speeders, dopers, gun owners, men, whatever).

    When an individual commits a “crime”, by definition it is trivial- even the worst and most heinous- the serial killer, the serial rapist, the terrorist. They only destroy a few lives. When government breaks the laws, such as constitutional laws meant to bind it, by its very nature it destroys vast number of lives.

    Government is evil and must be constantly be fought and parried. When people break rules you get art, music concerts, magnificent buildings, and real progress. When government breaks the rules you get the gulags and Auschwitz.

    • Excellently said, Ernie – hat tip for best post of the day (so far)! 🙂

      It is remarkable, isn’t it, that people (and popular culture) celebrate – as an example – the Rebels (as in Star Wars) but never follow through to the logical conclusion that government is always evil because of the nature of government. The moment the individual is no longer sovereign, in full (absolute) ownership of his life and the products of his life (property) he has been reduced to involuntary (and perpetual) indenture at best.

      I agree with you about democracy especially. It’s precisely why the Greek and Romans despised it. Bad enough to be lorded over by a Caesar or Napoleon – even a Hitler. But by the least common denominator? The untermensch? That is democracy.

      It is why – among countless outrages – there are traffic laws (and infractions thereof) which cater to the least-able,most-addled morons and which by dint of that, “Harrison Bergeron” those who are not morons and are able.

      I’ve used the mother-in-law analogy on many occasions to try to get the point across. My (ex) mother-in-law is far to the left of the Bell Curve, as a driver. She is a menace – actual, not hypothetical – at below the posted speed limit on any road. She tailgates, wanders into the opposite lane of traffic; has no idea how to control her car. I do. I also don’t tailgate or wander into the opposite lane of traffic. I am a damned good driver (I rarely toot my horn, but will on this occasion) with track time and serious driver training under my belt, plus decades of experience driving almost every type of vehicle made. Unlike her, I have a perfect record of no accidents.

      But I have received many tickets.

      I am under constant threat of being ticketed for “speeding” and other such Harrison Bergeroning because the laws are based on her abilities and skill set.

      It makes my teeth ache!

  7. For the record, I have no problem with advisory speed precautions, such as for highway ramps, areas of poor visibility such as intersections and blind curves, areas of pedestrian traffic and highway workers, that sort of thing. It is good to be informed of possible hazards while driving, as a better informed driver can be expected to make appropriate choices. Reckless behavior with any machinery in the close proximity of danger can be lethal to anyone, driver included. But to criminalize a rate of speed, even when the excuse is most often “but what if”, is simply “creating” crime where there is none. Anyone near roadways and automobiles should be exercising due care, whether operating one or not. Again ADVISORY signage would be more appropriate, and certainly adequate for prosecution should someone come to harm due to any reckless actions. And, believe me, there are a lot more injuries caused by complacent , and even recalcitrant, “victims” than is admitted.
    The decades long “illegal” national speed limit of 55 mph was the epitome of this dictatorial bullshit. Entire states attempted to refuse even posting, let alone “enforcing” it, only to be blackmailed by the feds who threatened to withhold Federal funds for “mandatory” Interstate Highway maintenance. It all came down to money being used as the “force” to enforce an illegal federal mandate, and everyone knew it! You don’t need a “speed crime” to save fuel. When your out of gas, that problem pretty much takes care of itself, doesn’t it?
    Just like the fuel economy fatwas that have absolutely no bearing on emissions, but get thrown in there just to make the impossible even more so.

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