Incite -- (v) 1: give an incentive; 2: provoke or stir up; "incite a riot"; 3: urge on; cause to act
Monday, April 05, 2004

Tell us something we didn't already know...
Written by: Beck

Hypothesis: speed limits on freeways are set artificially low, and their enforcement is really all about revenue generation as opposed to safety.

In support I provide you with two articles, one from Long Island and one from Kentucky.

From Kentucky, we get a thorough analysis of people's driving behavior, making the observation many of you may have shared that speeding is a more and more common phenomenon. Observes Robert McCool (what a name!) of the University of Kentucky,
"I don't necessarily think we're seeing more classic speeders, people who keep their foot in the carburetor," he said. "I do believe we're seeing more housewives and others who used to drive at or near the speed limit, but now run 5, 10, 15 mph over the limit and think it's perfectly normal."

McCool thinks many factors are responsible: Overcrowded roads; modern automobiles and SUVs that feel more secure at high speeds and might falsely empower drivers to get on the gas; lifestyles so overscheduled with long commutes, work, soccer practices and children's extracurricular activities that drivers are tempted to save time any way they can.
But people still wouldn't be so flagrantly flaunting the law if they genuinely felt they were committing a crime or that speed limits accurately and fairly defined the boundaries of safe driving. I'd be very curious to see a statistic of how much revenue various municipalities generate from speeding citations every year. But wait, there's more:
Indeed, Eric Skrum, a spokesman for the National Motorists' Association, argues that the problem isn't so much a matter of people driving too fast, but of speed limits that are too low.

"The majority of speed limits are posted under what they should be," Skrum said. There are many reasons for that, he said, but a big one is that many jurisdictions set speed limits low in order to collect speeding fines.

"Too many cities are dependent on that revenue, so they need to keep speed limits arbitrarily low," he said.

Raising speed limits to levels more in line for what roads were designed for actually could make for safer driving, Skrum argues.

"If the speed limit is lower than it should be, you have a good portion of the people going at what they feel is a comfortable speed somewhere above the limit, while the people who stick to the limit become obstructions for everybody else. But if you have a reasonable speed limit, you're going to have better compliance, less tailgating and weaving in and out because more people will be driving at roughly the same speed. It's speed variance that causes accidents."
So there you have it. Speed limits should be raised. Still, how about those policemen relentlessly enforcing the law on the roads. Certainly they must believe in the laws they're enforcing. Why is it, then, that the story out of Long Island doesn't surprise me at all?

In Long Island, the president of the Policeman's Benevolent Association announced, evidently with neither irony nor shame, that police officers shouldn't ticket other police officers, or their family members. Gotta love those double standards.
"Police officers have discretion whenever they stop anyone, but they should particularly extend that courtesy in the case of other police officers and their families," Frayler said in a brief telephone interview Thursday. "It is a professional courtesy.
As a professional citizen of the United States, allow me to extend YOU some professional courtesy by thinking that you're full of shit. I lack sufficient eloquence to express what a slap in the face this is to tax paying motorists. Republican lawmaker Angie Carpenter has some further asinine blather to add to the noise:
"It's the same way they would offer a professional courtesy to a doctor pulled over on the way to the hospital to deliver a baby," she said.
Beautiful analogy there Angie. You moron. A doctor rushing to an emergency room is just like not ticketing some police deputy's wife who's driving 85, no matter the fact that you just wrote me a ticket for going 80.

So what's the solution to all this? I'm not suggesting policemen should enforce speed limit laws MORE strictly. Rather, I suggest they look to one of the few things a European nation has managed to get right. I've driven on Germany's autobahns, and I have to say it was one of the most pleasant experiences in my life. I was driving in a wimpy rental car and spent a lot of my time in the right lane, getting out of the way of motorists in Saabs, so it's not like I was enjoying the speed aspect of it. I enjoyed the fact that slow people got the hell out of the way and drivers who wanted to go faster got the hell out of the way. Montana almost managed to get it right, but they cratered in the end. Will any of this ever change? Don't bet on it. But I can dream.

Credit for the original links to Fark.

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