America’s Other Cult

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The single-minded obsession – in some small-minded quarters – with “speeding” is an interesting one. In part because it’s so bereft of any objective definition beyond what the person complaining about “speeders” considers to be “speeding” – usually defined by him as anything faster than whatever speed he is comfortable driving.

Well, there is the legal definition. Which is objective – in a completely arbitrary way.   

“Speeding” being defined under the law as driving any faster than whatever the arbitrary number on the sign says is the maximum permissible speed. Many people mistakenly equate this with the maximum safe speed and consider that anyone who drives any faster is driving “unsafely,” by definition.

Such “speeders” are more than merely deserving of punishment. They are bad people.

Reckless people.

So the argument goes. It is the basis for all speed traps, “points” and insurance premium “adjustments” that follow.

But is there any evidence to support this business – as a moral question?

The usual answer given is that yes there is because the faster the speed the less time there is to brake and to react generally. Also that impact forces increase with speed. This is all perfectly true.

But it is also true of any speed above zero miles-per-hour.

The fallacy which forms the basis of the “speed kills” position is that driving faster than the posted speed limit – whatever it is – necessarily correlates with increased odds of having an accident. That it is objectively dangerous to drive any faster than whatever the number on the signs says is permissible, ever. This then forms the moral basis for condemning those who “speed” as recklessly risking life and limb – their own and those of others. 

But how to account for arbitrarily changing speed limits?

Was the previously legal speed limit – which was higher than the current speed limit – an “unsafe” speed to drive? If it was – as is implicit in changing the speed limit to a lower speed – then how can it be said the new speed limit is the “safe” speed?

Either there’s a standard – or there isn’t.

Well, a standard other than arbitrarily changing legal-illegal velocity maximums.

Perhaps the best-known example of this being the arbitrary reduction of highway speed limits from 65-70 to 55, nationally, back in the mid-1970s and lingering well into the 1990s. It is not possible to coherently maintain that it was “safe” to drive 65 or 70 MPH the day before the signs were changed to read 55 MPH – but not “safe” to drive any faster than 55 MPH on those same roads the next day.

If there was anything good about the almost two decades of “Drive 55” it was that it made plain the injustice of arbitrarily changing speed limits. But it goes deeper than that. It is not the arbitrary setting – or changing – of speed limits that is the primary injustice.

It is speed limits, as such.

It is the myopic – bordering on cultic – obsession with these numbers posted on signs. On one-size-fits-all and that’s all there is to it. That there is nothing else to it.

The late and very great Brock Yates challenged the dogma of the “speed kills” cult  by proving that “speeding” can be quite safe – when it is performed by a competent driver who knows how to handle it.

This was the point he was trying to make with the Cannonball Run, later turned into a parody-comedy movie that was fun to watch but missed the point, entirely. 

Yates and a few picked men – all of them known to one another as skilled behind the wheel – saddled up in various kinds of cars to see who could get from downtown Manhattan to the beaches of southern California the fastest. The winners – Yates and Dan Gurney – made it there in just shy of 35 hours in a Ferrari Daytona. To do that, they had to ignore every speed limit on the books, averaging in excess of 90 MPH.

According to the “speed kills” crowd at least someone should have been killed. It is several thousand miles from the Red Ball Garage on East 31st street in Manhattan to the parking lot of the Portofino Hotel in Redondo Beach, LA.

And yet, no one was. No Yates or Gurney. Not anyone else, either.

The same’s true for most people who “speed” – which is practically everyone, practically all the time. The degree of their “speeding” varies – but if the assertion is that the maximum permissible speed is also always and absolutely the maximum safe speed then why does most “speeding” occur without incident?

This fact stands athwart the myopic and simplistic assertion that “speeding” is the determinative – or even correlative – factor in accidents.

It is a simplistic and loosey-goosey association based on the exclusion of the determinative factor – the driver. It is not “speeding” that is always and necessarily “unsafe.”

Loss of control is.

And that can (and does) happen at any speed – if the driver isn’t much of one.

Yates and Gurney were great drivers. One cannot attribute to endless good luck their perfect record of not killing anyone – themselves included. Most “speeders” know the truth of this as well – including the cops who write “speeding” tickets all day long. Who “speed” themselves – often, in pursuit of “speeders.”

The “speed kills” cult is of a piece with – it is the intellectual forbear of – the Cult of Sickness Eternal. Which just as myopically and just as simplistically and just as obstinately sees nothing but “masks” and Jabs as the only determinative factors in the spread of sickness. Never mind the tsunami of evidence to the contrary.

Interestingly, both cults seem to enjoy punishing those who do not believe – and even more so, those who do not obey.This doesn’t make them right.

It makes them stupid – and cruel.

. . .

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77 COMMENTS

  1. There’s speeding…and then there’s speeding.

    The dangerous kind is the variety you often see sport bike riders engaging in, in which they weave through traffic going significantly faster than everyone else- and then when a driver does something which would be perfectly legit at the speeds at which traffic is flowing (like changing lanes safely) and the bike plows into him, the biker always blames the driver- as if the driver should just expect someone to be doing 80 between lanes where everyone else is doing 45.

    On the other hand, I’ll often do 100 on a two lane highway where there are few or no other cars, and unlimited visibility, and no intersections, and it’s perfectly safe- even for an old Mr. Magoo like me.

    I find that people going too SLOW is much greater danger to others. Or someone driving inattentively or recklessly at any speed….they’re the ones that are a true danger- but “speeders” are easy pickings for the armed goons whose main reason for existence seems to be to raise revenue for Caesar.

  2. I drive down the road at about 65 mph most of the time on four-lane. I am older and a slower speed in more comfortable. Not that you can’t go faster on US Highway 85 in Wyoming, 65 is too slow for that road and distances involved.

    Always in the right lane, can’t drive in the left lane, that’s for passing. While I drive and am being overtaken by a truck moving faster, I move over to the left lane so the trucker doesn’t have to make the maneuver into the left lane if the traffic lanes aren’t busy, the trucker keeps on trucking in the right lane, then I move back to the right lane after the truck is 10 car lengths in front of me.

    I do think that people have difficulty with right side peripheral vision and tend to hog the center for that reason.

      • I read your comment about Kroil back sometime ago. It is by far and away the best penetrating oil there is. PB Blaster is a less expensive second choice.

    • If you move to the left lane to allow a truck to pass on the right then you are part of the organized chaos problem seen on many US highways. Why is it North American drivers have such difficulty comprehending Keep Right EXCEPT To Pass? No exceptions, No analizations, No nothing. Driving in the left lane other than for overtaking causes disruptions in traffic flow and road rage.

      • If the traffic lanes aren’t busy is what I wrote.

        If there is lots of room on the road and no other traffic, the trucker can just fly by.

        I don’t do anything like that when there is traffic.

      • Also, I just don’t notice the truck gaining on me when the truck is 300 yards behind me like some dumbass clueless driver. I use my rear view mirror long before that. If the truck is about a mile back, I know he is there and there is plenty of time to let the trucker know what is happening. Not another vehicle in the line of sight on that side of the four-lane road.

        The truck’s trailer is probably hauling 45,000 lbs or more, grain, corn, soybeans, or canola. The trucker just wants to stay in his lane.

    • I know your intentions are good, and you are thinking and paying attention, which is also good (and rare). But if I were still driving trucks I would not like it. This is of a piece with motioning to other drivers to signal that they should go around you, in front of you, through the intersection before you, etc. Nice thought, but don’t do it. You drive your vehicle; I’ll drive mine.
      When you try to read minds, or imagine that some nonstandard behavior might please other drivers, you can make things worse. They might not interpret your nonverbal communication in the way that you meant it.
      Changing lanes to pass in light traffic was never an annoyance for me. Attempts by other drivers to “help” were, because they disrupted my rhythm and made me wonder what other weird things they might do.

      • If I am driving in the lead position, I can use the passing lane if I want and have every right to do so. I might need to turn around because I forgot something and head in the other direction. I may need to take a left at the intersection, any number of reasons to occupy the lane. I only revealed my MO, the purpose of the maneuver. What difference does it make to you?

        Shouldn’t matter to you, you’re driving the truck, I am driving my vehicle without any kind of violation whatsoever.

        I see truckers tailgating other motorists in a limited speed zone because the trucker is trucking, not obeying the rules of the road. Both lanes are occupied, merging traffic needs the left lane, merging traffic needs the right lane. No passing.

        At 70 mph drivers tend to go beyond the speed limit and end up slamming into a flatbed. They’re dead after that.

        The reason for the posted speed limit, prevents accidents and traffic fatalities.

        • “I can use the passing lane if I want and have every right to do so. I might need to turn around because I forgot something and head in the other direction. I may need to take a left at the intersection, any number of reasons to occupy the lane.”

          Yes, of course. But you wrote specifically: “so the trucker doesn’t have to make the maneuver into the left lane.” No, don’t.

          • The trucker doesn’t know the reason for the movement into the left lane, he figures I am going to use the lane to turn at the next intersection.

            It is a rarely done.

            Truckers are moving 75 mph to 80 in a 70 mph speed zone and want to get around you. If there is nobody on the road, I’ll do the lane change. Two vehicles on the highway with no other cars or trucks within two miles is not a traffic hazard.

            Tires are throwing grit and bits of sand as the truck passes, I have a pitted windshield from all of the sand hitting it. You can’t avoid that, soon, I will need a new windshield. Driving into the sun with a pitted windshield is no fun. If the truck passes on my right, there is not as much grit and sand being thrown at the windshield.

  3. Pete the buggerer national traffic camera system provides for revenue and surveillance. This eliminates the need for traffic cops, another defund the police initiative. I would hope the police would protest by stop writing tickets regarding the defund the police, but they won’t, they like the power they temporarily have.
    I think the camera BS is also part of the Left’s new goal of a national police force made up of: Environmental Police with tailpipe monitors and land use regulation, Racial Police to monitor content and use of email, Business police to ensure safety diversity and equity, etc. They already have the ATF, EPA, OHSA and FBI as political police force, just take over from the states and local by deputizing them into the Fed system. All they need then is a Gulag system.

  4. Speed – or speed limits – are different based on conditions, vehicle & driver.
    One size doesn’t fit all, but in our safety obsessed brainwashed America, because someone put a sign on the side of the road, we curse those who drive faster than us for “breaking the rules”.

    I was watching a show & a foreigner made the comment that Americans are so hung up on rules. I agree.

    I don’t care how fast you go so long as you don’t cause damage.

    But speed – as well as all driving based enforcement – has become an excuse for the police to force unwanted contact with us. Which then leads to negative consequences (insurance rates, abuse, death) for a situation in which no one’s rights were violated.

    Violations of rights is the only valid reason to have a criminal law. So do away with speed enforcement, people will drive the same as they are now, just without the threat of Johnny Law molesting them.

  5. Funny how cops speed to catch speeders. Funny how cops speed even when they’re not on an emercency call and don’t have their lights on. This gives away the arbitrary and capricious nature of the speed limits… if “speed kills,” then cops should be considered killers, right?

    Just like “assault weapons” are evil if you or I own them, but they magically transform into “patrol rifes” when every cop has to have one.

    Here’s a particularly sickening example of cop hypocrisy… DUI and showing up to the gun range drunk would get any of us arrested, but of course Johnny Law is more special than you or I, because he’s a SWAT operator:

    https://www.jacksonville.com/story/news/crime/2022/02/03/jacksonville-police-officer-fired-being-drunk-return-work/6652683001/

  6. The “Cannonball” record has attracted a lot of attention and attempts to best the time during the last decade, particularly during the first year of the pandemic. I don’t remember seeing stories of deaths/injuries related to an attempt — those would have been headline news with Ed Bolian out of Atlanta pilloried as the modern equivalent of Josef Mengele.

  7. The absurdity of exceeding the “speed limit” being relative to safety is easily demonstrated. Before the maximum speed limit was reduced to 55mph, to reduce consumption of fuel, cars that were far less safe, and handled far less well were permitted to drive 70MPH. In some less densely populated States, no speed limit at all. Suddenly, as if by magic, modern cars were determined to be no more safe than cars made 50 years ago. As if all the mandated safety of modern cars was totally ineffective. So either they are more safe, and capable of being driven faster and still be relatively safe, or all the safety edicts were totally ineffective. Pick one.

  8. ‘But how to account for arbitrarily changing speed limits?’ — eric

    One of the most insidious aspects of the Biden occupation government’s jihad against America is its announcement that the 85th percentile speed used by traffic engineers is likely to be changed.

    Will they lower it to the 70th percentile speed? Or just make up entirely arbitrary limits, as in the notorious ‘Drive 55’ debacle of the benighted Seventies, which featured shitty cars and moss-green polyester leisure suits for the soy boys of the day.

    All I know is that if a fedgov-funded speed camera gets placed on the downhill highway curve leading into my little burg, where the speed limit suddenly drops to 45 mph, it’s going to get shot out some dark, moonless night.

    And I saw nothing, officer …

    FJB.

    • As a civil engineer who works with roadways I can say that the 85th percentile is only one aspect of speed limits. They are actually not completely arbitrary. We do put a lot of effort into designing the grade and profile but we do have to make assumptions for an average vehicle’s capability.

      So the limit is by necessity really only meaningful if you drive a family car or typical tractor and trailer. It can’t have meaning for everyone of course. So the problem isn’t the selection of a number, which in a normal world full of free market selections, responsible people and respectful AGWs the number would properly only be one piece of information you’d use to select your speed. I already do that as I drive a 4WD truck modified to work better off road. So I already adjust *down* my speed in some situations where I know the posted limit is in fact not safe for my vehicle and I know it.

      Which brings up another point. In my state speed limits are routinely analyzed for statistical effects. They are sometimes raised on lengths of highway where people are actually traveling (yes, the highway people know your real average traffic speed) over the posted limit and crashes have not occurred and on other stretches they are reduced where there appears to be justification due to the number of accidents reported.

      One problem researchers have found is that for a variety of reasons people see speed limit as the speed you must travel. So at this point it’s tilting at windmills trying to change the mentality that they’re supposed to be a suggestion you use to judge whether you can actually go faster or slower. Blame that on the policing them and homogeny of cars. Most vehicles now should handle well in excess of the speed limit (my softly sprung Jeep to the contrary).

      • Well-said, Anon!

        I have a variety of vehicles, ranging from high-performance sport bikes to an old truck.I drive each with respect for its capabilities – and limitations. As well as my own. Your point regarding advisories – as opposed to limits – is spot on, too.

        • I don’t remember how long it’s been since I’ve been stopped for a driving infraction till just recently. South wind was howling and I was going north. Came up on a dirty black little thing that used to be black and white but this was just shitty black and no lights. We were going downhill at about 50mph in a 75mph range. I don’t drive my old truck fast but I came up on this POS really fast if you consider 50 mph fast. I was just trying to wait out a really slow moving car going south and this POS continued to continue to slow. I wasn’t all that close but my diverticulosos was working on me and I was driving like I’d always drive when someone was going way too slow and I was trying to stay off their ass. I finally got a chance to pass and just as I did I saw it was a DPS that immediately turned on emergency lights so I slowed to a stop using my foot, no need for brakes. I’d been taken by a ever slowing DPS. It’s the oldest trick in the book. He was going so slow he had no chance of stopping someone speeding so this was his way of getting a stop.

          I wasn’t in a big hurry but did need to shit and was slowing at just the right speed to come up on him and be able to barely speed up to get around once the really slow car was past. I wouldn’t have had that happen if I’d been in a big rig since he wouldn’t have been pulling a bullshit move like that with 80,000lbs on his ass going down a steep hill. He was the one driving recklessly but he had the badge. I could have easily slowed fast enough using almost no brakes and had him rear-end me. So he says I was coming up on him and getting too close and everyone can fill in the blanks. I told him I had to shit and needed to get around. The wife was sitting there looking disgusted. So he was REALLY NICE and took my license showing I was a trucker, went back to his POS and wrote me a warning for following too close. I turned on my turn signal and accelerated much faster than I would normally do. I’m a very safe driver and never follow too close. He was just showing off. If I had been in a big rig I would have never gotten that close. It took no time at all for him to see I had no tickets for anything. He just needed to make a stop because he wasn’t going to catch anyone speeding coming at him. HE was the person being dangerous. I suspect he had a brake light switch so he could slow much faster without brake lights. I was only 3 miles from town and if he’d fucked with me I’d have taken a shit right there. I don’t recall being stopped for anything besides one of those shitties they like to stop big rigs for as in doing a safety check for anything they can find like a back-up light that doesn’t work but did that morning or having too much slack on the steering that doesn’t have any slack but they’ll stand there and have you turn it back and forth and say “You see that? See that slack?” Of course there won’t be any slack but it’s his word against yours. I got a ticket for that one morning the day after I’d replaced the rack and it had NO slack of any sort. He gave me a ticket for too much slack on a brake that the entire brake system had been replace also that same day. And the thing that really pissed me off was the ticket for no DOT numbers on the tractor that were nearly new and black numbers on a red tractor.

          He was a real shithead. He stopped me one day going back to the pit to get a load because I had left my tarp on. He was SO surprised when I turned out to be unloaded. I told him running into the hard wind leaving the tarp on would save fuel, something I did often because it saves fuel and saves money. He found a bit of oil on a brake fitting that I could have wiped off and it would have taken months to show again.

          Being a trucker you’ll get a ticket for things that don’t really exist. That same a-hole (rookie)got so desperate he pulled out an air gauge and started checking tires one day to no avail since I had one tire that I knew had a slow leak and I’d air up to 105 lbs every time I had to fuel up or stop for something because I have always taken good care of my tires since they’re very expensive. He showed me it was close to being half way down. I told him to hang on and fetched my brand new Milton gauge, one of the two I carried since you need two for different style wheels. I had a one style on the trailer and a Bud’s on the tractor so I had to have two styles. I put that new gauge on it and it showed over 10 lbs more that his POS hand me down gauge. This little prick thought he was hot shit. I finally showed him my license that was proof I’d been trucking 50 years. He said I was wrong I had only been trucking 46 years till I told him I had a hardship license that dated me back to when I was 14. I knew more about trucks that the amount of trucks he’d ever seen and told him so. Nothing like a rookie that thinks he knows it all to piss you off big time. He’d never driven a big rig in his life but knew everything there was to know about one. I taught the company mechanic enough things he found out he was sucking hind teat and we finally became friends.

        • I drive by intuition, so I tend to drive large old trucks to avoid tickets. I am safer and more efficient whipping a hatchback at 100+ mph but it’s natural to only go 10 mph over posted limits in a lifted 4×4. If I have to drive car at the speed limit I get very distracted or annoyed.

          • It’s the same for me, Anon –

            Horse for courses. An old truck has much lower limits than a modern car. One size doesn’t fit all – whether vehicles or speed limits. Or skill. These are all factors which come into play when deciding what speed is appropriate. It’s both absurd – and mindlessly vindictive – to insist on one (low) standard – as for speed limits – based on one arbitrary set of factors (e.g., old lady in a ’95 Buick).

            • A product of the Puritans, who equated violation of their laws with sin, and sin with violation of their law. Carried on by the Yankees, and now the Progressives, who have made it contagious.

      • “One problem researchers have found is that for a variety of reasons people see speed limit as the speed you must travel.”

        Agreed that speed limit has become analgous to travel speed. But the other problem is that when someone actually does cruise below the PSL it creates a situation where the left lane becomes choked with tailgaters who make it impossible to go around the slower driver. And worse, many times the slower driver is traveling only 2-3 MPH below the PSL so someone might attempt to pass at the speed limit, which further infurates tailgaters.

        I was taught to travel with the flow. In fact, I was driving on the Washington beltway with a learner’s permit at 70 MPH (posted 55 at the time) , because that seemed to be how fast everyone was going, but dad told me to speed up because I was being passed on the left. That’s also where I saw someone reading a newspaper while driving, but that’s another topic…

      • Back in the days of USENET there was cross over between groups. The civil engineering road group would get overlapped with the main driving group and the main bicycling group. That CE group was filled with clovers who clung on to formulas that had been in use since the 1920s or 30s. Then a factor of safety was applied. It was absurd.

        The bicycling group was filled with anti-motoring zealots who hated these four plus lane roads through whatever hamlet was being discussed but wanted the 30mph speed limit. The driving group was mostly about how speed limits are grossly underposted. Which is what happens when you build a superhighway and then put up a 30mph speed limit sign. Of course those in the other two groups would do the 100mph in a school zone routine.

        It is absolutely insane how much of the road system in the USA is done based on 1930s cars plus a factor of safety. The result is traffic jams and design insanity.

  9. Perhaps the radical leftists that pullulate the NE are so hard-wired to gravitate to the left that they also prefer the left lane for driving.

  10. Look up Brookside, Alabama for the dirtiest of dirty cops & government harassing motorists for profit. It’s been in the national spotlight lately. The local leftist rags try to make it a bullshit racial thing but any race, any sex, any age were targeted equally.

    https://www.al.com/news/2022/01/brookside-mayor-pulls-ticketing-cops-off-i-22-says-we-need-help-here.html?outputType=amp

    Or try another “hero” in a little shithole called Gordo, Alabama. He only ruined an innocent man’s life.

    https://www.al.com/news/2020/10/disabled-iraqi-war-vet-imprisoned-for-medical-marijauna-possession-granted-parole.html?outputType=amp
    WTF does my little Alabama hometown need 11 effn cops for? I guess they’re needed to kill men in their own backyard.

    https://www.al.com/news/2022/01/alabama-police-chief-wounded-man-killed-in-tuesday-shooting.html?outputType=amp

    It’s why I patently refuse such sweeping statements as “back the blue” and hang up when the FOP or state police association cold call to solicit a donation. But there’s a few bad apples, right? Bullshit. 9 times out of 10 they’re just authoritarian prickly assholes —bullies hiding behind a badge.

    • Hi Mike,

      Yup; similar situation here in my small rural county. Even if I wanted “police protection,” it’s logistically unavailable (in time) given the distances and diffusion. Someone breaks into my place and it’s up to me and my Mossberg; the armed government worker will show up after it’s all over. But they just got a bunch of new Ford Explorers with the very latest radar….

      • Then there are counties like the one I live in. Where the sheriff has a “call us if you need us” program. I have seen exactly one Gestapo agent on the road here in the last two years, and that was a State trooper on a State highway. Several years ago, when Missouri had a handgun purchase permit system, when I went to the local sheriffs office to gain such permit, the sheriff encouraged me to get a concealed carry permit, which at that time was also required by the State.

      • One of the more interesting features of my little hamlet is an abundance of sheriff deputies and state patrol enforcers live here. A few years back I was robbed by some gypsies. I was concerned that they got one of my firearms so I called it in. Within seconds there were several deputies on the scene becuase they were all headed home from work. And they were very interested in finding the thieves because they live here. Another time I was out on an after work bike ride when a neighbor’s dog decided to give chase. The leash got wrapped around neighbor’s leg and down he went. Being an older gentleman and with a head wound I called 911. While I was on the phone an off-duty paramedic and a police officer just happened to be passing by and began to administer first aid. I’m certain that this neighborhood is an exception, not the rule, but then again, everyone’s doctor is “the best,” all teachers are greedy and incompentent except for the ones that changed your life and it is nearly impossible to vote out an incumbent politician.

  11. Re: Who “speed” themselves – often, in pursuit of “speeders.”

    funny one. got pulled over in a 35zone, wasn’t speeding. the cop took so long to get to me, with his lights on, that I thought maybe he wasn’t pulling me over. But there was no one else on the road. I asked my wife “is he after us?” “I don’t know?” So I pulled over, waited and waited, and yes, it was me. I asked him “why were you going so slow?” he says in a very distinct serious tone “but sir, I couldn’t speed myself to catch you?” It caught me off guard and I started laughing, my wife too. He didn’t understand why we were laughing so hard. He was a very young man, probably brandy new. Anyway, it turns out our rental car didn’t have auto-lights and I was driving without lights at night. He let me go as we continued to chuckle.

  12. I totally agree that “most” speed limits are way too low.

    On the other hand, setting speed limits based upon the highest speeds it would have been “safe for Dan Gurney to drive” might be a tad too optimistic. 😉

    • I think that the correct speed limit would be “reasonable and prudent.” I.e., variable, depending on weather, traffic, visibility, and overall road conditions.

      Unfortunately our legal system doesn’t like this because it’s difficult to prosecute effectively because the definition is inherently vague. If you set it at some more or less arbitrary number, such as 55, it becomes trivial to measure anyone and see immediately if they are in violation or not.

      There are a few less-than-completely arbitrary methods of setting speed limits out there. “Maximum safe speed for road design” and “85% rule” being a couple. But, those might set the limit high enough that the local government starts to become concerned for everyone’s $afety. So, here we are.

      • Hi Publius,

        “Reasonable and prudent” is much too subjective. And fixed limits are too arbitrary. It is why I support speed advisories – for informational purposes only. The only basis for justified action is when a driver loses control – for whatever reason – and causes harm to the person or property of another. I realize such a standard makes many people uncomfortable. I have never understood why…

        • Devils advocate here, and I don’t know answer, but I think there has to be some sort of “limit”. Should I be able to cruise down a residential street at 120, or maybe I’ll go see if I can get my new Dodge demon hellcat whatever up to 150 from one end of the school zone to the other? I know, those may be ridiculous examples, but the point is that, while I don’t know where it is, there has to be a line somewhere. There’s a point where civilized society gets to say no, asshole, you can’t do that.

          • Hi Floriduh,

            This is an example of the use of extreme – hyperbolic – possibilities to make the case for punishing people on he basis of non-extreme actions. A freak shoots up a school. Everyone must hand over their guns, notwithstanding that school shootings are rare and (more relevant) almost no gun owners commit such acts.

            It is absolutely true that some will drive at excessive speed – defined by their subsequent loss of control – if there are no speed limits. But it is equally true that irresponsible people will still do the same, regardless of the law. So the choice we face is: Do we accept that bad things will happen sometimes – and deal with those things on a case by case basis… or do we impose bad things on everyone, in a hopeless jihad to eliminate risks?

            It strikes me as infinitely preferable to hold individuals accountable for the harms they cause – while leaving everyone else alone. I also think that such a system encourages responsible behavior – by expecting it. Whereas the system we have encourages irresponsibility – by pawning off responsibility for the exercise of sound judgment on others.

            On signage.

          • “Should I be able to cruise down a residential street at 120?”
            Is their a LEO at the entrance to your cul de sac? No. And yet someone driving at excessive speed on it rarely if ever happens. Without LE being visible, people control their speed upon their ability, and conditions. The “law” having little to no effect. They may use the speed limit sign as guidance.

          • I have to agree with FL Man here; there has to be a line somewhere. One, not all cars are equal; a Ferrari will be infinitely better than a Toyota in every way. Two, not all drivers are Dan Gurney, or even close to it. Remember, Dan Gurney competed and WON in F1! That’s something few of us are capable of. Three, one cannot go speeding down residential streets, because children will be playing.

            Now, as for speed killing, it does-provided contact is made. It’s simple physics; the faster an object travels, the more kinetic energy it has. 1/2mv^2 is always and forever true. It explains why even a small vehicle, such as a motorcycle, can total wreck a car if it’s traveling at high speed. It’s the same reason why a baseball player or golfer snaps their wrist immediately before contacting the ball. Why? It’s to get the bat or club traveling faster, so as to impart maximum kinetic energy to the ball, thus driving it farther. SO! The faster one is going, the more kinetic energy one has. More kinetic energy means greater chance of damage and/or death.

            Then, there’s the matter of stopping distance. While not all cars are created equal (I dare say a Ferrari will have a shorter stopping distance than a Toyota traveling at a given speed), total stopping distance will always be longer; it’ll always be directly proportional to speed. Again, that’s physics; that’s just the way it is.

            Now, total stopping distance is comprised of more than just braking distance. Depending on the vehicle, there are either two or three components to total stopping distance: braking distance, reaction distance, and in the case of air brake equipped vehicles, pressurization distance. We’ll define braking distance as the distance it takes a vehicle to slow down after brake application. Reaction distance is the distance travelled while realizing there’s a problem that has to be dealt with and applying the brakes. Pressurization distance involves the time it takes for the air brake system to pressurize, actuate the brakes, thus initiating braking; depending on the vehicle, system, and brake type, this can be up to 1.25 seconds!

            Now, no matter how good a vehicle one is driving, the faster one goes, the longer these component distances will be. Reaction distance will be greater, simply because one covers more distance at higher speed. Pressurization distance, if applicable, will be greater, as more ground will be covered while the brake system pressurizes. Finally, braking distance will be longer, since more energy has to be dissipated when traveling at higher speeds; it takes time to dissipate this energy, so more distance will be covered. IOW, one can’t simply drive at whatever speed they feel like, especially on a residential street or a parking lot; because there’s more going on in those environments, one cannot go 100, no matter how much they feel like it.

            Having said all that, I think that the 85th percentile method for setting limits is probably as fair as can be implemented. As FL Man said, and I agree, a line has to be drawn somewhere. People cannot simply drive whatever speed they feel like. If you want to go fast, do a track day! Not only is the track designed and built for high speeds; it’s a safe, controlled, and predictable environment conducive to high speeds. The public roads and streets aren’t a race track, and we have to all remember that; we can’t simply do whatever the f*ck we want on public roads and streets.

            • MarkyMark:

              You’re living up to your Massachusetts moniker. Congratulations, you’ve shown yourself to be a puritan and a yankee.

              Because YOUR logic makes perfect sense to YOU, WE should all be subject to YOUR “fair” arbitrary rule and if WE violate that rule, WE should be punished by the state even if no actual harm results from it, because “WE can’t simply do whatever the f*ck WE want on public roads and streets.”

              Why not 90th percentile? Why not 80th? What if I am a more competent driver than you are? What if I am less so and can’t handle the 85th?

              Why, we can’t simply let Quakers and witches do whatever the f*ck they want in the Massachusetts Bay Colony. A line has to be drawn somewhere. They must be burned and hanged.

              • Mr. Liberty,

                You’re making an invidious comparison at best, and a specious one at worst. What I’m talking about is a mutually agreed upon and understood standard. What would happen, for example, if a meter meant something different to you than it does to me? See what I mean?

                • In no way did you describe a “mutually agreed upon and understood standard.” You described a standard which would be set to your sense of fairness, which would be backed up with the gun and badge of the state.

                  Doing harm to an actual victim (i.e. not “society” in general) should be the threshold requirement. Any lesser standard constitutes punishment for what could have happened, but didn’t.

                  • My point is that we can’t just have our own standards for everything. We all agree that a meter is 1/10,000,000 the distance from the North Pole to the Equator, right? What would happen if we all had a different idea of how long a meter should be?

                    The same applies to driving on the street; we cannot just do WTF we each want to do, because the results would be chaos. Isn’t that why we have the rules of the road? Isn’t that why we have right of way rules? And so on?

                    If you want to go fast, do a track day. The track is a place designed for safe, high speed operation. It’s also a closed environment where there are no animals, pedestrians, or idiot drivers sharing the road with you. The public roads and streets aren’t a race track, though you seem to think otherwise.

                    • You are confusing objective standards (such as how many cubic centimeters are in a liter) with subjective standards (such as what ought to be a maximum speed limit on a particular segment of a street).

                    • Hi Mark,

                      Of course we can have our own standards – for many things! I can put 225 pounds of plates on the bench press because I can handle that weight. It is my standard. If I added two more plates – the standard of a man stronger than I – I’d be in trouble, because that is beyond what I can safely handle. But should the man who can handle 315 pounds be debarred from working out with that weight?

                      Should he be limited to my standard?

                      I’ve driven with Bob Bondurant; he was a more skilled driver than I am. Should he be made to operate at my skill level? I am a more skilled driver than my ex-mother-in-law; should I be obliged to operate her level – and punished if I do not?

                      You write: “The track is a place designed for safe, high speed operation. It’s also a closed environment where there are no animals, pedestrians, or idiot drivers sharing the road with you. The public roads and streets aren’t a race track, though you seem to think otherwise.”

                      Again, the presumption underlying your argument is that “speed” – subjectively decreed – is the decisive factor. I have pointed out the inarguable fact that it is not. As for example by pointing out that an inattentive driver doing the speed limit is much more likely to lose control than a driver who is paying close attention but may be “speeding.”

                      No one – not me – is making the argument that public roads are race tracks. This is a silly argument. I am saying that people who think that anyone who drives faster than some arbitrary speed limit – or faster than they think is “safe” – are hysterics.

                  • Even Germany, which many would consider a driving utopia, has speed limits on the Autobahn at times-’nuff said. The 85th % rule could be used, or maybe the 90% rule. The point is we can’t just do whatever the f*ck we want; we have to think of others, and how our actions impact them.

                    • Hi Mark,

                      Whether Germany or any other country has this or that law isn’t really the issue. The fundamental issue is whether it is justifiable to harm people who haven’t caused any – on the basis of some subjective claim that they might cause it. Consider the typical traffic fine for “speeding.” Most of us who get these deeply resent it. Why? Because we know we’re being fleeced; we know we didn’t do anything wrong in a moral sense. Now consider how most of us would feel if we lost control and caused an accident. Unless we’re sociopaths, we’d bow our heads and mea culpa. We’d accept responsibility for our mistake and want to make it right.

                      This is right.

                      Objectively so. Inarguably so. “Speeding,” on the other hand, is just another arbitrary construct rendered “illegal” – like growing/selling pot.

                      I think you may be hung up on the worry that, absent speed limits and other such, people will just drive recklessly and there will be “blood in the streets.” What is the evidence for this? It presumes most people are reckless – restrained only by speed limits and such from driving at speeds beyond their ability to safely control. Does this make sense to you? Do you drive the speed you drive because “it’s the law” or because in your judgment, it’s a reasonable/safe speed for you to drive? Do you think the speed others drive should be the speed you’re forced (by threat of punishment) to drive?

                      Why must it be one size fits all – when clearly, it doesn’t?

              • Mr. L,

                I also find it rather telling that, rather than deal with my fundamental arguments, you resort to personal attacks. For example, you compare my arguments to the logic that led to the Salem Witch Trials. Actually, with the COVID nonsense, we’re seeing a repeat of Salem, but I digress.

                Let’s assume you’re a great driver. Let’s assume that you have an above average reaction time of 0.2 seconds vs. the 0.3-0.4 seconds that is average. No matter how quick your reaction time is, the fact of the matter is that, for a given speed, you will still travel farther at a higher speed. Granted, your reaction distance may be shorter than mine or someone else’s but, when traveling at a higher speed, you’ll cover more ground. Let’s do some basic math, shall we?

                To convert from miles per hour to feet per second, the conversion factor is 1.47. That is, for every mph, you’ll cover 1.47 fps. 10 mph equals 14.7 fps; 20 mph yields 29.4 fps; and so on. With me so far? Good.

                Let’s say you’re traveling 25 mph in a residential zone. 25*1.47=36.75 fps. Now, because you’re so CONFIDENT in your driving ability; because you’re the great F1 wannabe that was never discovered; you decide you can do 50 down a residential street. 50*1.47=73.5 fps. IOW, say a kid darts out in front of your car chasing his ball, during the 0.2 seconds it takes you to realize and react to what’s happening, you’ll cover 73.5 feet vs. the 36.75 feet you’d have covered at the slower speed. That’s the difference between a close call vs. killing an innocent kid. The math is unequivocal and unassailable; there’s no arguing with it.

                Is it possible my reaction time is longer? Yes. Is it possible that, as a result, my reaction distance will be longer than yours? Again, the answer is yes. However, the faster you go, the more ground will be covered during that reaction time. There comes a point beyond which there isn’t enough distance to react to prevent a collision from happening. For example, if we’re doing 70 mph on the Interstate and you’re tailgating me in the right lane; you’re riding 6′ from my bumper; if I have to stop suddenly, you’re going to hit me before you realize what’s happening, let alone be able to do anything about it. 70*1.47=102.9 fps. Your reaction distance will be:L 0.2*102.9=20.58; that is to say that you’ll travel 20.58 feet while realizing and reacting to my sudden stop. Last time I checked, 20.58′>>6′. Again, the math is unassailable and unequivocal.

                As I said, one, there has to be line somewhere; regardless of the differences in cars’ capabilities and drivers’ abilities, there has to be a line somewhere for safety’s sake. Two, if you want to go fast, go to a track day; you’ll have a protected, closed environment conducive to high speed. The public streets and roads are not a race track. It’s just that simple.

                It’s this anarchy that keeps me from totally buying in to libertarianism. While I’m all in favor of saving punishment and accountability to those who cause real harm; while I agree that, in order to have a crime, a victim must be produced; I cannot agree with the “do as thou wilt” ethos underlying libertarianism.

                • Damn it, why can’t there be an edit utility for our comments? Eric, is there any way you can put an edit utility in the comments? I discovered an error. The correct math should be as follows below.

                  25*1.47=36.75; 0.2*36.75=7.35′ reaction distance. 50*1.47=73.5; 0.2*73.5=14.7′ reaction distance-about the length of a car. Now, say you’re passing a car when a kid darts out to chase down his ball. You’ll be at the kid by the time you react to his unexpected presence. Yes, you’ll hit the brakes by the time you hit the kid, but you’re still going to hit him. Had you been traveling at 25, your reaction distance would be 7.35′, meaning your speed is greatly reduced by the time you hit the kid.

                  Damn it, I wish there were a way to correct mistakes…

                  • Hi Mark,

                    I’ll ask the computer guru about it!

                    As far as the rest. I don’t dispute the math; I question the premise. An inattentive driver strikes a kid and kills him. The driver wasn’t
                    “speeding.” Is the kid any less dead?

                    How do you prove that the “speeder” is more likely to kill the kid than the driver who just wasn’t paying attention? Arguably, the driver who wasn’t paying attention is more likely to be the cause of the kid’s death. Because braking distances are irrelevant when you’re not paying attention and don’t brake, at all.

                    In any event, the only way to prove anything is if the driver does kill or harm – someone. In which case, “speed” is immaterial – is it not?

                • Hi Mark,

                  You write:

                  “It’s this anarchy that keeps me from totally buying in to libertarianism. While I’m all in favor of saving punishment and accountability to those who cause real harm; while I agree that, in order to have a crime, a victim must be produced; I cannot agree with the “do as thou wilt” ethos underlying libertarianism”

                  But that is not libertarianism. It excludes the obligation to act responsibly and morally. I don’t need a speed limit sign to get me to not drive 90 MPH in a neighborhood full of kids playing in the street. And any person who would do that is not going to be deterred from doing it by a speed limit sign – anymore than “gun free zones” deter criminals from bringing guns into those “zones.”

                  The faulty premise here (above) is that libertarianism promises a perfect system. No. It doesn’t It promises a better system. Risk is accepted as part of life rather than the basis for throttling life (ever more aggressively, as once the principle that “risk” is unacceptable is established, it is inevitable that no risk – however attenuated – isn’t worth trying to mitigate, whatever the cost).

                  In a libertarian system, it is true that some people would act irresponsibly and cause harm. But this is also true of the system we’ve got. With the difference being that people who do not act irresponsibly, who cause no harm, are harmed as f they had. In a libertarian system, such people would be let alone.

                  That’s why there’s moral elegance in the no victim no crime standard. If there is a victim, it is undeniable that harm has been caused. If not, it is equally undeniable that no crime has been committed.

                  • Eric,

                    I’m going to amend what I said earlier. While what you say may be the ideal version of libertarianism; while what you say is how it would be in an ideal world; the fact of the matter is that it results in anarchy where everyone does their own thing. That promotes chaos no matter where it happens.

                    We all operate by rules of the road, don’t we? For example, look at the right of way rules; they decide who goes first in a given situation. What would happen if we just all went whenever we felt like it, vs. following the rules of the road?

                    • Okay, so how can one ensure that the rules are followed? Is that possible on a larger scale other than a local, Amish community? Even there, they have some structure though; look at their local church.

                      Furthermore, how can larger, more powerful, and more structured societies be combatted? Isn’t it true that a larger, more powerful society will sooner or later invade a weaker one, especially if the smaller, weaker society has something the stronger society wants, e.g. rare earth minerals?

                      To me, anarchy sounds good on paper, but I don’t see how it can work in the real world.

                    • Hi Mark,

                      Why the obsession with rules? Why not focus on whether there is a problem? These issues are so much simpler – morally and otherwise – when judged according to that standard, as opposed to trying to craft rules – always general and so inherently arbitrary – that everyone must follow else be punished for not following them, irrespective of their being a problem (i.e., some harm caused).

                    • Hi Mark,

                      You say libertarian ideals promote chaos. Is there chaos in your freely chosen personal dealings with friends and family? Or is it rather give and take/live-let-live?

                      It’s been proven that eliminating arbitrary traffic laws decreases chaos. For example, a study was done (I think in the UK) of the way drivers respond to the elimination of stop lights/signs and so on. People adjusted and traffic flowed more smoothly, naturally. If you think about this it makes sense. People become more alert and attentive. They act judiciously and (usually – though not always) considerately. Mindless traffic laws encourage passivity – rule-obeying. This results in less attentive, less-skilled driving.

                      But at the end of the day, even these arguments are merely utilitarian. The unassailable moral argument remains: Doing violence to people who’ve not caused harm is wrong. To do it because one feels they “might” cause it is deliciously absurd. The person so arguing is saying they have the right to harm people who’ve not harmed anyone… solely because they worry they might!

                • I know you’re convinced of your own fairness and technocratic logic, but what’s objectionable is punishing somebody that does not cause actual harm. What if there’s no kid there and nobody gets harmed? What should happen to the driver? Fine? Arrest?

                  • What about doing as the Bible says, where a prudent man foreseeth the evil, and hideth himself from it? What about heading things off at the pass? What about taking steps to prevent harm-BEFORE it happens? What about the Golden Rule, and treating your fellow man as you would like to be treated?

                    Again, it’s rather telling that the technocrat insult was hurled at me; resorting to personal attacks says a lot…

                    • What ought to be done and what is required by the state are not the same. I’m not a proponent of reckless driving, but that does not mean I support the notion of state punishment for an act that does not cause actual harm.

                      Also, I don’t view the phrase “technocratic logic” as a personal attack at all. You dedicated many lines to the technical details of why a speed limit should be set. I used that term as descriptive of your argument.

                      You still have not addressed why a person that causes no harm should be punished by the state though. What if there’s no kid there and nobody gets harmed? What should happen to the driver? Fine? Arrest? Do tell.

                    • Hi Mark

                      The problem with “foreseeing” harm is that it wants objective definition. Some resort to hyperbolic extremes to try to make a counter-argument (e.g., the driving 100 MPH in a neighborhood) but even then, one is accepting this dangerous idea that might cause harm equals has caused harm – and that is a very dangerous notion, for reasons that ought to be obvious by now. People are often swayed by it regardless because – initially – it seems reasonable. We agree that it’s reckless to drive 100 MPH in a neighborhood with kids playing. But what happens, every time? Almost no one ever actually does that but now it’s illegal to drive faster than 25 MPH in that neighborhood – and everyone must buckle up and show “papers” a checkpoints where they must prove they are not “drunk.” This inevitably follows.

                      The only way to prevent it is by defending the idea that people have an absolute right to be free unless they have caused harm; by accepting the fact that risk exists and that it is preferable to stop trying to eliminate it than to impose harms on everyone for the sake of trying to eliminate it. That empowering control freaks and busybodies always leads to tyranny.

          • Have you ever seen or heard of the work of Hans Monderman?

            He removed all the signs. All the restrictions. All the controls.

            Guess what happened? Traffic jams went away, overall speed up, safety improved.

            • Yes, Brent, the genius of the “leave people the hell alone” approach has been demonstrated many times. The power goes off and the signals stop working, but after a while traffic flows better than ever – until the cops show up to “direct” it.
              People would generally act responsibly if they were expected to. Instead, they are taught from childhood that a driver’s job is to constantly look for a sign that will tell them what to do. Don’t think, don’t pay attention, just obey.
              Just as with covid, control freaks gotta control. If this really had been the Black Death, nobody would have to be forced to avoid social contact. If the vaccines and face diapers worked, nobody would have to be forced to use them. Given a driving populace not dumbed down by government orders, nobody would blow through an intersection at 80 mph just because there’s no stop sign.
              It is impossible to penetrate the non-thinker’s mind about this stuff.

        • That might be a better rule, but you’re never going to get that.

          I’d also like to point out that slow drivers can be just as dangerous as fast drivers, if not more so under certain circumstances.

        • I don’t know the current status but decades ago many Oregon roads were “Basic Speed 55” and reasonable / prudent was the basis for this. Dry and clear 65 ish not a problem, but not when it was wet/dark/foggy. Sure was fun back in ‘72 zipping down 101 Oregon Coast in the ‘63 Alfa not worrying about getting pinched by the bacon.

          Too bad nanny state has replaced common sense in so much of life Americana.

        • I can see where cops would consider “reasonable and prudent” for someone with a Ron Paul bumper sticker to be about 10 mph on the interstate.

  13. Speeding is THE Only crime I don’t feel guilty about the few times I got caught.

    Cars these days are made to go fast and can cruise above 80 with ease, so why is it when everyone does 75-80 on the highway (Dirty Jerzy), we gotta sudden slow down when we see an AGW sitting in his cruiser, that’s a riskier situation than letting the slow move right and moving right yourself when someone’s even faster than you.

    We need to also get back to the basics, driving would be more engaging if the cars have character and minimal distractions to divert your attention

    • Yeah, the differential speeds of say people obeying 65 and those doing is 85 is pretty dangerous in itself. The worst though is the obey’ers in the passing lane that stay there. It bottles up the highways bad, and then most start passing on the right which aggravates the problem even worse and even more dangerous.
      On busy highways in the NE, the right lane is now the passing lane. very few cars in the right lane now. so stupid.
      Doesn’t happen on rural interstates though. Seems most people are more courteous and know how to drive, or at least know the basic rules of the road.
      Do they not teach stay right except to pass anymore?

    • I-70 in Colorado has a speed limit anywhere from 50 to 75, depending on terrain. Once you get west of Grand Junction it stays at 75 until the Utah border. Once over the border that same road with same terrain and traffic, goes to 80 and pretty much stays at 80, except for a short section through Fishlake National Forest, until the junction with I-15. The only indicator that there’s any difference at all is the sign at the border.

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