The Truth About Cars » Speed The Truth About Cars is dedicated to providing candid, unbiased automobile reviews and the latest in auto industry news. Sat, 26 Jul 2014 01:30:09 +0000 en-US hourly 1 The Truth About Cars is dedicated to providing candid, unbiased automobile reviews and the latest in auto industry news. The Truth About Cars no The Truth About Cars (The Truth About Cars) 2006-2009 The Truth About Cars The Truth About Cars is dedicated to providing candid, unbiased automobile reviews and the latest in auto industry news. The Truth About Cars » Speed Hammer Time: Speed Trap City Tue, 16 Oct 2012 18:32:02 +0000

Imagine you are driving down on a well traveled interstate on a family vacation.

Everything is good in your life. Traffic is minimal. The road is a never ending horizon of the straight and narrow. Just you and your family. When all of a sudden…

Lights. Sirens. A cop getting ever closer to the rear bumper.

You see the cruise is still on 75, pull over, and await the inevitable.

“Sir, I pulled you over because you were speeding down this road.”

“I apologize. I didn’t realize I was speeding.”

“You were driving 75 on a 55.”

You’re shocked. Not at the speed. But at the speed limit. You saw no signs in the area showing the speed at the old double nickel. The officer writes you up. You sign on the dotted line, and start figuring out where you go from here.

So what will you do? The fine would be $280 if you don’t bother showing up to court. Do you take the time off to explain your side of the story?  Or do you simply pay the fine and go on with your life?

What would be the best thing to do?



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Texas Raises Speed Limit To 85 MPH For Paying Customers Thu, 07 Jun 2012 16:33:25 +0000

Texas hopes that speed is addictive and will drive paying speed junkies to a new toll road that will open before the end of the year. Currently, if you want to drive 80 mph, and stay legal, you need to go to Texas or Utah, and there to pretty desolate parts. You may be able to go five miles faster on newly built Texas State Highway 130 between San Antonio and north of Austin. If approved by the Texas DOT,  Hwy 130 would be the first road in the country to have a posted 85 mile per hour speed limit, News Radio WAOI says.

It will be a toll road, and drivers need some incentive to part with their money.  Says the newsradio:

“The 85 mile an hour speed limit would be the fastest in the Western Hemisphere and the second highest in the world, according to Rhino Car Hire, a European car rental company.  It says a speed of 140 kilometers per hour, or about 86 mph, is posted on some roads in Poland.”

Ooops. And of course, there still are some stretches of the German Autobahn where you can go as fast as you can afford.

(Q-tip to Dipl. Ing Speedy.)

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The Unimportance of Speed Tue, 22 May 2012 12:09:30 +0000

I’d like to lend you a car for the weekend. It’s going to be sunny, and you can head off early before the crowds get out. Take a nice road-trip: maybe, as I just did, blast up the Sea-to-Sky and into the rolling foothills beyond the Pemberton Valley.

Your choice, take anything below.
Car A: 0-60mph in 5.3 seconds
Car B: 0-60mph in 5.7 seconds
Car C: 0-60mph in 5.3 seconds
Car D: 0-60mph in 5.7 seconds
Car E: 0-60mph in 5.6 seconds

So, what did you pick? Click the jump to find out.

Apologies for the heavy-handed and clunky approach, but A through E, the cars are: 2012 BMW X5 alphabet-soup-with-the-V8, 2012 Volkswagen Passat VR6, 1984 Ferrari Testarossa, 2012 Mitsubishi Lancer Ralliart, and a 2012 Ford V6 Mustang. Oh, I almost forgot: you could also take a sixth option, Car F, which will do 0-60 in 6.9 seconds.

Lucky for me, that’s the one I chose.

And here it is.

Jack has already given us a piece on the pandemic prevalence of speed and power. His take? A call for a higher-bracket measurement; the 0-80mph benchmark that we now need to separate the nose-candy Fezzas from the front-driver family-wagens.

I’d like to pick up the threads of an earlier bit, one of his usually thoughtful screeds from the Avoidable Contact series. As Jack points out there, the world certainly doesn’t need a Hyundai Sonata that could easily walk away from Crockett and Tubbs if they miss even one shift.

But we’ve got one. We’ve also got a WRX that could go toe-to-toe off the line with my beloved Porsche 959, and in the Shelby GT500 we’ve got a Mustang that’s capable of outrunning the F40 at the top-end. A Mustang!

When I was a small boy, car magazines always had a page at the end of the review that included the various measurable properties of the car in question: 0-60, quarter-mile, skid-pad and so on. It was Very Important to memorize all this information, such that one was properly prepared for playground debate. If the new V8 Camaro pipped the V8 ‘Stang through the quarter, then it was the better car. If an available handling package meant the ‘Stang redeemed itself on the skid-pad, then it was better.

These things could be empirically and scientifically sorted out through the application of careful testing. We nascent gearheads had all the information required to bench-race any of the top performance cars and crown a winner without shadow of a doubt.

Then along comes something like the GT-R. With the heart-heavy sigh that comes from knowing this statement will probably cause unrelated debate, the Nissan GT-R is the fastest car in the world. If it’s not, then the gap is so close as to be unimportant. Godzilla has made the supercar irrelevant.

But there’s something missing about the car, a sense that perhaps instead of signing your name on the purchase order you should be handed an old-school NES controller: Up Up Down Down Left Right Left Right A B Start. It’s not uninvolving – dear me, no – but it feels artificial somehow. It feels like cheating. Godzilla? More like God-Mode.

And another thing, it’s inconveniently fast for the road. I’m sure there are visceral thrills to be found on the racetrack – and if you own a GT-R, for God’s sake sign up for a trackday and get it out of your system – but I don’t live on or particularly near a racetrack. I live in a province with absurdly low speed-limits, an active police force, and a Motor Vehicle Act that allows the constabulary to take away your vehicle if you exceed 40km/h (25mph) over the posted limit.

There’s a place just before my freeway exit where the limit drops from 90km/h to 70km/h at the tail end of a long, straight hill. When I was driving a Hyundai Genesis with the V8, I had multiple moments where I’d enter the zone without thinking, having picked up a few extra klicks in the whisper-numb Korean without noticing it, and have to quickly correct my speed. I’m not normally in the habit of driving without an awareness of my velocity, but the effortless wafting of the Genesis was very deceptive, as with so many modern cars.

Power is no longer a luxury item. It is a universality of the modern motoring experience. What’s more, from an enthusiast’s perspective, it’s a real-world liability.

We are all suffering from a glut of horsepower. It’s a silly measurement anyway: bragging rights for Victorian steam-donkey owners. Real joy is not doled out in pound-feet or kilowatts and cannot be measured at the drag-strip or on the skid-pad. True driving pleasure is entirely an ethereal thing, which is why it’s so hard to get right.

“Driving a slow car fast is more fun than driving a fast car slow,”; it’s a tired old saw, but not without merit. I’d change it to, “driving a fun car fast is more fun than driving a fast car fast.” Whether or not a car is enjoyable to drive is almost entirely divorced from its performance prowess.

We wait to welcome the FR-S and BR-Z with open arms, surely, but we also hail the CX-5 and the Sonic Turbo, the Kia Rio and the Volkswagen GLI. I hope that somewhere in a lab in Honda, engineers are studying the Fit in hopes of finding that last gleam of Soichiro’s original spirit.

The Miata (fine, MX-5) takes a lot of stick for being a “girly” car. It projects none of the be-louvered aggression of other sports-cars, and certainly doesn’t produce anywhere near the numbers.

But it’s not a car that’s about bragging rights, not a car for peacock strutting or posturing. It is, in short, not a car you drive for other people. It’s a car you drive for yourself. And that’s what makes for a truly great machine, no matter what the numbers might say.

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North Carolina to Seize Speeding Cars That Fail to Pull Over Thu, 14 Jul 2011 14:35:20 +0000

Beginning December 1, North Carolina will join Australia in having laws on the book mandating the seizure of vehicles for certain speeding offenses. On June 23, Governor Bev Perdue (R) signed the “Run and You’re Done” bill into law which authorizes a county sheriff to take and hold the car of anyone accused — not convicted — of speeding away from a police officer. The state House and Senate passed the measure unanimously.

Under the new law, the confiscation becomes permanent if a judge believes the car or motorcycle was used to elude a police officer while speeding more than 15 MPH over the limit with at least one other aggravating factor, such as having someone under 12 years old in the vehicle or the vehicle was at some point in a highway work zone, regardless of whether any workers are present.

Such charges could apply to drivers who have done nothing seriously wrong. In 2009, a Minnesota State rammed the minivan of a man accused of not using his turn signal, then arrested him for “eluding police” because he took less than a minute to find a place to pull over that was not covered in snow. He had his three small children in the car at the time. In 2008, a woman drove less than 10 MPH over the limit followed the general advice of waiting to find a well-lit area before pulling over. She was arrested by Greene County, Missouri police and only escaped charges when the incident hit the news.

Conviction under “Run and You’re Done” brings revenue to the police agency responsible for the seizure. The entity responsible for selling the vehicle will keep seizure fees, storage fees and sales fees. The remainder of the profit is distributed to the county government like a normal fine.

Under the new law, the vehicle can be seized and sold even if the actual owner of the vehicle is unaware of its use for speeding. Police only need to place a legal advertisement in a newspaper on two occasions and paste up three handbills near the place of seizure before selling the car. The process can be done in 24 days. A court clerk has the discretion to release a car to anyone he believes might be an “innocent owner.”

A special provision forbids the sale of highly modified performance vehicles. These, instead, are to be “turned over to such governmental agency or public official within the territorial jurisdiction of the court as the court shall see fit, to be used in the performance of official duties only.”

A copy of the legislation is available in a 70k PDF file at the source link below.

Source: PDF File House Bill 427 (North Carolina General Assembly, 6/23/2011)


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Spain: Speed Camera Gives Ticket for Driving Too Slow Mon, 04 Jul 2011 13:55:03 +0000

Drivers who pass a photo radar location frequently drop their speed far below the legal limit to be absolutely certain no citation will come in the mail weeks later. In response, officials in Valencia, Spain have begun issuing photo tickets to drivers who are moving “too slow.” Motorist Jesus Llorens received just such ticket in the mail on June 14 for sluggish driving past a camera in an Opel Vectra. The alleged offense happened in February at 11am in the tunnel of the Avenida del Cid.

“Passing through, I was going no more than 35 or 40km/h, because I was trying not to go 50km/h because I suspected a radar was there,” Llorens told Levante-El Mercantil Valenciano.

The notice sent to Llorens demanded payment of 200 euros (US $290) for traveling “at an abnormally reduced speed without just cause, obstructing the progress of another vehicle.” The fine drops to 100 euros (US $145) if paid early as an enticement for people to pay rather than fight their tickets in court. View a copy of the citation. The incident has left Llorens disillusioned with the photo enforcement process.

“It’s a pure tax collection effort,” Llorens told Levante. “They want to make money, not control traffic.”


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Don’t Drive Faster Than Your Speedometer Will Go Thu, 26 May 2011 17:47:01 +0000

Editor’s Note: This piece, by John Carr, originally appeared at the National Motorists Association blog.

Wayne Crews recently posted an editorial on cost-benefit analysis and regulations. It’s worth a read.

In the 1970s the Carter administration prohibited speedometers from indicating speeds over 85 miles per hour. The idea was around before Carter, but his people implemented it.

Regulations require some justification. The justification was, people might not drive fast if they didn’t know how fast they were going. After some hand-waving and pulling numbers out of orifices it’s possible to fabricate a number of accidents and deaths per year prevented and call that the benefit of the regulation.

As part of Reagan’s regulatory reform the speedometer rule was scrapped. Rescinding a regulation requires some justification. The justification was that there was no real evidence that limiting indicated speed would reduce or had reduced driving speed.

An ineffective regulation is harmful because it imposes costs with no benefits.

Under the laws governing agency rulemaking, both Carter and Reagan were right. NHTSA, the agency responsible for car safety rules, does not have to prove its case beyond a reasonable doubt. It must show that there is some reason to believe a regulation would be good.

It was not impossible that the speedometer rule might have an effect, and it was also not impossible that it would not. When in doubt, do you regulate or leave the market alone? The greatest power of the presidency in domestic policy is the ability to tip the balance of bureaucratic decision-making.

Personally, I think the rule was silly. I don’t exceed 85 for the thrill of watching the needle land on 90. I don’t believe my car will explode or crash because I ran out of numbers. Anecdotal evidence suggests the limit was mostly an excuse for drivers to honestly tell cops they didn’t know how fast they were going.

An agency left to review itself will conclude it is doing a good job. In more recent years NHTSA has gone on to make up numbers on speed, alcohol, seat belts, and airbags.

To create an appearance of serious thought it pays for outside reports and quietly makes sure those reports justify the government agenda. The Parker report on speed limits was initially suppressed by NHTSA because it did not support low speed limits.

Where the costs and benefits are easily calculable and and comparable, it may be sufficient to have a separate agency audit the numbers.  When the costs or benefits are hard to determine, the decision is a political question and the agency’s role should be limited to making recommendations.

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What’s Wrong With This Picture: Charlie Sheen’s Other Escort Edition Wed, 20 Apr 2011 21:26:10 +0000

The Washington Post‘s Paul Duggan blogs that Charlie Sheen arrived late to his Washington DC show after being escorted by local police officers at speeds of at least 80 MPH, an incident the actor documented in the tweet shown above. And lest TTAC be accused of pandering to lowest-common-denominator Charlie Sheen voyeurism, Duggan teases an interesting question out of the situation: can just anyone get a police escort and drive legally at illegal speeds? Hit the jump for your answer…

Duggan asked the DC police what it takes to get a high-speed police escort, and reports:

Responding to an inquiry about the police cars, D.C. police spokeswoman Gwendolyn Crump described what happened as routine. “This escort was handled as a reimbursable detail,” she said in an e-mail Wednesday afternoon. “This means that the government was reimbursed for the services provided.”

But can just anyone hire police officers to provide a lights-and-sirens motor escort? And is it okay to go 80 mph?

How much does it cost?

Crump said Wednesday that she wasn’t sure.

“I’ll check on it.”

Inconclusive, eh? Must be one of those “if you have to ask the price, you can’t afford it” situations…

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Kansas Legislature Approves 75 MPH Speed Limit Thu, 07 Apr 2011 13:46:44 +0000

The top legal speed in the state of Kansas is one signature away from becoming 75 MPH. State legislators on Friday gave final approval to a bill raising the limit from 70 to 75 MPH. If approved by Governor Sam Brownback (R), Kansas would join a dozen other states that have already made the move. Only Texas and Utah have a higher, 80 MPH limit.

State Representative Marvin Kleeb (R-Overland Park) argued that the increase was justified because Kansas had the lowest limit of any western state (aside from the coast). Vacationers would be attracted to the friendlier driving atmosphere, spurring economic development, Kleeb argued in a January hearing. The legislation specifies that speeding tickets issued on freeways with the new limit would not be reported to insurance companies unless the police officer indicated the driver’s speed exceeded 85 MPH. The Kansas Department of Transportation estimated that pasting “75″ over existing 70 MPH speed limit signs would cost no more than $25,000.

When Congress repealed the 55 MPH national maximum speed limit in 1995, the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety predicted thousands of additional lives would be lost each year. The opposite has occurred. Despite states raising limits far beyond the double nickel, the US Department of Transportation announced Friday that road fatalities in 2010 fell to the lowest level since 1949 when systematic records were first kept. Fatalities dropped three percent from 2009 levels to 32,788 killed with 1.09 fatalities per 100 million vehicle miles traveled.

The speed limit increase was added to a catch-all piece of legislation containing several provisions of interest to motorists. The bill also requires that drivers renewing their vehicle registration sign a statement affirming that they will maintain insurance on the car. Motorcyclists will also be allowed to drive through a red light that refuses to change to green “within a reasonable time.” Often, signals that are activated by pavement sensors fail to detect motorcycles and stay red. A provision also prohibits municipalities from imposing “court costs” to bulk up revenue from seatbelt tickets which are set by state law at $10.

A copy of the final legislation raising the speed limit is available in an 85k PDF file at the source link below.

Source: PDF File House Bill 2192 Conference Report (Kansas Legislature, 4/6/2011)


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Legislative Update: Four States Advance Traffic Camera Modification Bills Fri, 01 Apr 2011 13:56:12 +0000

Lawmakers in four states this week advanced legislation that would, if passed, either place mild restrictions on or outright ban the use of automated ticketing machines by municipalities. The Florida state Senate Transportation Committee on Tuesday voted 4 to 2 to approve an outright prohibition on the use of red light cameras — just one year after the legislature had given in to the lobbying effort of localities in authorizing their use. Senate Bill 672 must now clear the Senate Community Affairs Committee before being considered by the full Senate.

The Tennessee Senate Transportation Committee voted 8 to 0 Wednesday to move a far less impressive measure. Senate Bill 1684 has almost a dozen provisions, none of which will have much effect on the cities currently operating red light camera and speed camera programs. The official legislative analysis of the measure estimates that local governments would lose $689,700 if the bill becomes law and the state $30,800. The analysis notes that most of the “restrictions” simply reflect what cities are currently doing.

“According to the Tennessee Association of Chiefs of Police, it is current practice to reject citations for right turn violations when there is no evidence indicating a vehicle has crossed a stop line after a traffic light has signaled red,” the legislative analysis noted. “Multiple citations are not issued for each distinct and separate offense. Citations are currently rejected when registration information captured by surveillance cameras does not match that of the cited vehicle.”

Of the substantial changes in the measure, only four local governments would feel the legislation’s ban on the use of a “litigation tax” and $75 fees imposed on red light camera ticket recipients. Another provision banning the use of a speed camera within one mile of a significant speed limit change would affect ten cameras and cost municipalities that depend on this type of trap a total of $404,585. The bill must now be clear the Senate Finance, Ways and Means Committee before moving on to a floor vote.

In Iowa the state House voted 90 to 8 Wednesday to adopt HF 549, which would have legitimized the use of red light cameras and speed cameras in the state for the first time. Under the legislature’s rules, however, the deadline for passage through a Senate committee has expired, effectively ending the bill’s chance of final passage. Cities in Iowa have increasingly turned to cameras after the state supreme court ruled that localities did not require the legislature’s permission to install them (view ruling). Most of these jurisdictions were upset that the bill would have reduced the amount of a red light camera fine to $50 — the only substantive provision in the measure.

South Carolina’s Senate on Wednesday delivered a unanimous rebuke to Ridgeland Mayor Gary W. Hodges. A state law passed last year, backed by a a pair of attorney general opinions, declared the Ridgeland speed cameras on Interstate 95 illegal. Hodges ignored the opinions and claimed he had the legal right to use the cameras that have since generated about $1.3 million worth of citations. The Senate had previously given preliminary approval to Senate Bill 336 on March 3, but today’s vote sent the measure to the House for its approval. If signed into law, the bill would force Ridgeland’s cameras to come down. A class action lawsuit is pending to force Hodges to issue refunds to the vehicle owners ticketed by the unsanctioned program.


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Texas Moves to Eliminate Nighttime Speed Limits, Raise Speeds Thu, 31 Mar 2011 18:23:40 +0000

Texas is the last state in the nation that still imposes different speed limits on its highways depending on whether it is daytime or nighttime. Roads marked 70 MPH during the day can only be legally driven at 65 MPH when its dark. Big rig trucks must also obey specially lowered speed limits. The state House Transportation Committee yesterday filed a favorable report on legislation that would simplify the Lone Star State’s speed laws and boost the speed limit in most rural areas.

“A difference in vehicle speeds can contribute to accidents,” the House committee report explained. “HB 1353 seeks to minimize the number of accidents that can occur when cars and trucks change lanes or pass or tailgate slower-moving vehicles by removing the different, lower speed limit for heavy trucks.”

Instead of a 70 MPH daytime and 65 MPH nighttime maximum speed on rural highways, the default speed limit in all conditions will be 75 MPH. The change would apply to interstate highways, state freeways, farm-to-market and ranch-to-market roads. Only school buses would be forced to adhere to specially lowered limits. The National Motorists Association argues that, contrary to what some might argue, the change will make the roads less dangerous.

“Having split speed limits between cars and trucks sharing the same roadways is poor traffic safety design,” NMA Executive Director Gary Biller the told TheNewspaper. “The same is true for variable daytime/nighttime speed limits. Anything that has the potential for adding driver confusion or uncertainty is inadvisable.”

The Texas Department of Transportation (TxDOT) along with the Utah Department of Transportation, post the fastest legal speed limits of 80 MPH on certain roads. Utah has reported an excellent safety record for its 80 MPH stretch of Interstate 15. Likewise, Texas last year reported a record drop in accidents statewide, with the high-speed roads showing excellent results. After five years of testing, TxDOT also found the 75 MPH limits appropriate for roads outside the urban environment.

“Crash records show that when the speed limit in these areas increased to 75 MPH in 2001, the number of traffic deaths on those segments decreased,” said Carlos Lopez, TxDOT Traffic Operations Division director, in a 2006 department explanation of speed limit changes in West Texas. “Motorists can prevent crashes by practicing safe driving habits.”

If adopted by the full House and Senate, the measure would take effect in September. A copy of the legislation is available in a 53k PDF file at the source link below.

Source: PDF File House Bill 1353 (Texas Legislature, 3/30/2011)


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Massachusetts Appeals Court Upholds Use of Laser Jammers Tue, 15 Mar 2011 14:23:17 +0000

Police in Massachusetts may no longer stop a car merely because a laser jammer or aftermarket backup camera partially obscures the motto on a license plate. A three-judge panel of the Court of Appeals decided on March 2 that the state police had no business pulling over Patrick H. Miller simply because the phrase “Spirit of America” at the bottom of his plate was partially covered as he drove on Route 93 South in Stoneham on April 30, 2009.

At around 9pm, Trooper Dana Shea decided Miller’s GMC van was worth investigating. Miller had not been driving erratically and committed no traffic violation, according to Shea. Instead, the trooper believed the aftermarket backup camera device he had installed violated a state Bureau of Motor Vehicles regulation.

“Nothing contained in 540 CMR 2.00 shall be construed to prohibit the use of any metal or other frame covering, the border of any such reflectorized number plate so long as such frame does not cover or obscure in any manner the register number or any other words, symbols or numbers lawfully imprinted on or affixed to such number plate,” the Code of Massachusetts Regulations, Chapter 540 Section 2.23(3) states.

The appellate judges found that this expansive regulation does more than just implement the law, which states that the license number and registration stickers be clearly visible.

“The regulation, however, goes further and prohibits a frame on the license plate from covering any words or symbols, even those other than the registration number,” Associate Justice Elspeth B. Cypher wrote for the court. “Regardless of the merits of particular regulations, an administrative agency has no authority to promulgate rules or regulations that conflict with the statutes or exceed the authority conferred by the statutes by which the agency was created. It would appear, therefore, that the regulation is indeed invalid because it exceeds the scope of the enabling statute.”

The justices stopped short of throwing out the regulation because the precise wording of the regulation was limited to license plate frames, not backup cameras or other devices that might block the bottom of a plate. They found no need to strike down the rule because the case could be resolved without doing so.

“The trooper believed that these facts gave him a reasonable basis to believe that the defendant was violating a regulation when, as matter of law, he was not,” Cypher wrote. “The trooper did not have any basis to stop the defendant; therefore the stop was improper and the evidence obtained as a result of that stop must be suppressed.”

As a result, the drunk driving charges against Miller will likely be dropped.

Source: Massachusetts v. Miller (Court of Appeals, State of Massachusetts, 3/2/2011)


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Missouri Expands Unpopular Freeway Variable Speed Trap System Fri, 11 Mar 2011 15:41:18 +0000

The Missouri Department of Transportation (MoDOT) announced Wednesday that it was expanding a system for lowering speed limits on the freeway, despite its own surveys showing the public has a “high level of dissatisfaction with the system.” A study conducted on behalf of MoDOT by the Missouri University of Science and Technology included a few positive statistics about the performance of Variable Speed Limits, but the overall conclusion was that the program failed to provide the promised benefits.

In May 2008, MoDOT installed a Variable Speed Limit system on sections of Interstate 270 and Interstate 255 in St. Louis. Using electronic signs, MoDOT officials lowered the speed limit from 60 MPH to as little as 40 MPH throughout the day in response to changing conditions. The goal was to make traffic speeds more consistent to reduce congestion. In practice, however, the system frequently displayed a low speed limit when the road was clear and the 60 MPH limit in bumper-to-bumper traffic. Big rig trucks driving in the right-hand lane frequently blocked the view of the lowered limit sign, setting up motorists for hefty speeding tickets for driving as much as 20 MPH without their knowledge.

As a result, 79 percent of the public believed the program did nothing to reduce travel times. A full 65 percent want the program eliminated, and 71 percent think the speed limit should be raised to 70 MPH. Police officers in the area were equally unenthusiastic about the project.

“Over three hundred law enforcement officials completed paper surveys,” the study reported. “Law enforcement officers also reported negative responses to the VSL. They do not believe that it has reduced the number of crashes, alleviated stop and go traffic, or reduced congestion. Moreover, they overwhelmingly believe that it has been ineffective in increasing driver compliance with posted speed limits. The vast majority report that it should be eliminated and not considered for expansion.”

MoDOT touted the slight reduction in travel times found in three of the four segments analyzed to declare the program a success. It also cited accident reductions on Interstate 270, even though 69 percent of police officers surveyed thought the program did nothing to improve safety. Beginning in July, MoDOT will use the electronic signs to lower the speed limit down to 10 MPH. The new signs will be “advisory only,” meaning police will not issue citations to anyone driving under 60 MPH.

A copy of the study is available in a 1.6mb PDF file at the source link below.

Source: PDF File Evaluation of Variable Speed Limits on I-270/I-255 (Missouri Department of Transportation, 10/10/2010)


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UK Contemplates 80 MPH Speed Limit Tue, 01 Mar 2011 17:45:29 +0000

The Daily Mail reports

Motorway speed limits could rise to 80 mph to shorten journey times and boost the economy under a radical review of road safety, Transport Secretary Philip Hammond signalled today.

He is concerned that anti-car campaigners have for too long used ‘road safety’ as a convenient excuse to both stymie raising speed the limit on motorways from the current 70mph, and to push for more 20mph zones in urban areas – even when they are inappropriate.

Britain has some of the safest roads in Europe, and within that motorways are by far the safest.

In future, Mr Hammond will demand that safety alone cannot be the sole determining factor when changing limits and that a thorough cost-benefit analysis which takes into account the economic impact must also be carried out when deciding such matters.

Now, imagine that lede in the US media. Tough, innit?

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Does Speed Save? Tue, 08 Feb 2011 19:18:28 +0000

A recent report from High Road Auto Research [full report in PDF here] finds that

It has been consistently found that the higher a vehicleʼs travel speed (even when driving at or under the legal limit), the greater the focus of the driver on their surroundings. The increased perception of danger triggers an increased endocrine reaction within the brain. This, in turn, forces the individual to play closer attention to objects in motion around the vehicle. Even relatively small changes in vehicle speed can result in substantial increases in spatial acuity and response time.

On the surface the report seems to be trading in truisms: after all, who would argue that higher speeds don’t trigger faster stimulus responses in drivers? But how does that apply to the real world of highway safety legislation and speed limits?

The report concludes:

In the past, speed limits have been set at or near the 85th percentile speed of the traffic, that is, the speed at or below which 85% of motorists choose to travel. This choice stems from the research undertaken by Usher (1970) who stated that: “the 85th percentile speed is that most  desirably approximated by a speed limit. Because of the general straight and steep slope of the typical speed distribution below the 85th percentile, a speed limit set only a little lower will cause a large number of drivers to be violators”. The Research Triangle Institute (1970) study of the  relationship between speed and accidents endorsed the 85th percentile speed as the criterion for the setting of maximum speed limits. These researchers recommended that the upper  speed limit be set at the 85th percentile speed, with supporting enforcement against those exceeding the 95th percentile speed. Similarly, at the other end of the speed distribution, it was recommended that minimum speed limits be set at the 15th percentile speed, with enforcement action to  be taken against those travelling slower than the 5th percentile speed. Isaac, Taylor and Zac (1970) undertook a survey of practices used in the United States to establish maximum speed limits, together with a major  review of the  various techniques for establishing speed limits.

While drivers usually drive at reasonable and sensible speeds this is not  always the case. A method of zoning that relies on the perceived inappropriate speed of the driver is necessary.  In most situations, drivers are aware to some degree of  the  speed limit that applies on the road they travel (motorists are aware that all roads in Australia have a speed limit ranging generally from 60km/h in urban areas to 100 or llOkm/h on rural highways). Thus, the 85% speed reflects these constraints and hence, they are not true indications of what 85% of the population would choose if no constraints apply. The goal is to supply the driver with a constraint that they then must exceed in order to trigger the endcrine reaction. This new zoning limit must be influenced by the signage, enforcement activity, amount of  traffic, time of day, etc.

The reason High Road’s study seems to break with road safety dogma is that, rather than treating motorists as children, it takes into account the brain’s responses to speed. As intuitive as the “speed kills” formulation seems, it falls into the trap of the overprotective parent who shields their offspring from stressful situations, rather than allowing them to rise to the challenge. As it turns out, humans respond dramatically to stimulus like speed, and the brain appears to compensate for the reduced time in which to make decisions by boosting chemicals associated with concentration and rapid decision-making. Anyone who has read Malcolm Gladwell’s powerful 2005 book “Blink” will find this perspective refreshingly on-point… whether the safety crusaders are prepared to challenge their safe assumptions about safety remains very much to be seen.

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Michigan House Votes to End Speeding Ticket Tax Thu, 16 Sep 2010 14:02:54 +0000

The Michigan state House of Representatives yesterday voted unanimously to repeal its so-called driver responsibility fee program, an unpopular tax on traffic citations. State Representative Bettie C. Scott (D-Detroit) was the primary sponsor of legislation that will end most of the fees by January 1, 2012 and, before then, cut the amount motorists owe by half.

“Obviously we must do what it takes to keep our roads safe for all travelers, but driver responsibility fees place an onerous and unnecessary financial burden on too many Michigan drivers,” Scott said in a statement. “The Driver Responsibility Act is flawed legislation that has failed the test of time. It has unfairly penalized our hard-working residents during one of the worst financial crises we’ve ever seen.”

Since 2004, Michigan has used the program to impose a tax of $300 to $2000 on certain driving offenses, plus an annual tax of $100 to $500 a year for anyone with more than seven points on his license. A package of four separate bills would remove the point tax and fees for everything except driving while intoxicated, failure to stop at an accident, eluding a police officer, reckless driving or any offense causing death or serious bodily injury.

Between 2004 and 2009, the state has assessed about $800 million in fees, only $400 million of which was actually paid. The National Motorists Association strongly opposed the fee program, pointing out that the state has some of the worst speed traps in the country, generating fees by setting speed limits that do not match the flow of traffic. The Michigan District Judges Association and the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People have also strongly endorsed repeal of the fees.

“People are frustrated with the ridiculous amount of money charged for minor infractions and penalties,” said state Representative Eileen Kowall (R-White Lake), sponsor of another bill in the repeal package. “These bills will help decrease the financial burden on drivers who already are being punished with large fines and court costs.”

If passed by the state Senate and signed by the governor, the Michigan repeal will become law. In 2007, the state of Virginia introduced a similar speeding ticket tax, called an “abuser fee” bill, which generated a storm of negative publicity. The legislature had no choice but to repeal the program in 2008, offering a full refund to those who paid.

A copy of House Bill 4098, as passed by the House, is available in a 50k PDF file at the source link below.

Source: PDF File House Bill 4098 (Michigan General Assembly, 9/15/2010)


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The Effect Of Speed Limits On Actual Travel Speeds Thu, 05 Aug 2010 22:24:48 +0000

Editor’s Note: The following was originally written by Jim Walker for the National Motorists Association blog, and has been republished with permission from the NMA.

I have worked closely with the Michigan State Police for several years in their pursuit of correcting as many Michigan posted speed limits to the correct 85th percentile speed level as possible. Yes, we have a very enlightened state police administration that wants to see posted limits set for safety, not revenue.

I have testified before Michigan legislative committees in support of the State Police to help explain the science involved, helped to nominate the key officers for a Governor’s Traffic Safety Advisory Committee Award which they won in 2006, and helped the police find areas of state trunk line routes (numbered highways) which should be re-surveyed because the posted limits were set far below the normal speeds of traffic.

In late 2006, the state police came to Ann Arbor and did speed studies on several state routes through Ann Arbor, parts of Business Route US-23 and parts of Business I-94.  The posted limits on these trunk line routes are legally under the control of the state police and MDOT, not local authorities, but the local authorities can sometimes “push back” in the court of public opinion.

After a long period of negotiations and explanations with a city that does not want posted limits raised at all, three areas were re-posted in early 2008 with corrected speed limits raised to the 85th percentile speed of free flowing traffic under good conditions.

The City Council even passed a resolution opposing these safety-oriented changes, but they do not have legal control over state routes, so they finally agreed to the three areas to be changed.

After allowing a period of adjustment while drivers got used to the newly posted higher limits, I re-surveyed these three areas to see what changes there were, if any, in actual travel speeds.

The huge study done in 1992 by Martin Parker says there would be little change in the speeds people actually drive.

This was, of course, the result.

Actual travel speeds changed by a maximum of 2 mph in some parameters, not at all in others, and some speed points were lower with the higher posted limits. The actual traffic speeds remained the same as they have been for 23 years.

One thing did change. As was expected, the vast majority of safe, sane, competent drivers who go along with the normal flow of traffic are no longer arbitrarily defined as criminals, and no longer subject to big ticket fines and even bigger insurance surcharges.

One of my key goals is to get a reluctant Ann Arbor city government to adopt the proven practices to set the safest speed limits as described in the Institute of Transportation Engineers Engineering Handbook, the Michigan Manual of Uniform Traffic Control Devices, and the revised set of Michigan traffic laws that went into effect in November of 2006.

It is an uphill battle, because of two reasons.

First, the city makes so much money from traffic tickets that safety practices take a back seat to the revenue.

Second, the flow of misinformation and deliberate disinformation that has come out of Washington since the early 1970s has convinced many citizens that lower numbers painted on the speed limit signs means lower actual traffic speeds and safer driving.

Anyone who has read the scientific literature knows this is totally false, but a lot of education is needed to repair the damage and correct the false beliefs many people have about posted limits.

Hopefully the City Council members and others who read the charts will see the proofs that actual travel speeds do NOT rise with corrected 85th percentile posted speed limits and that will remove one counter argument for posting 85th percentile speed limits to maximize safety.

Definitions included at the bottom of the page.

History Of Speeds On North Main Street (Northern Section)
Data is from the middle of the section where the posted speed limit was corrected to 45 mph in 2008, from the former 40 mph.  Data is taken at Points 1 and A on the MDOT Traffic Control Order Map.

Survey Date Sep 2006 Aug 2008
Posted Speed Limit 40 MPH 45 MPH
% of Vehicles Obeying Speed Limit 33% 71%
50th Percentile Speed 43 MPH 43 MPH
85th Percentile Speed 47 MPH 47 MPH
90th Percentile Speed 49 MPH 49 MPH
% of Vehicles at 50 MPH or Higher 8.4% 8.6%
Fastest Speed Recorded 55 MPH 54 MPH
Total Range of Speeds 29 to 55 MPH 33 to 54 MPH
Maximum Difference in Speed 26 MPH 21 MPH

History Of Speeds on Washtenaw Avenue, Near the City Club
Data is from the middle of the section where the posted speed limit was corrected to 40 mph in 2008, from the former 30 mph.  Data is taken at Points 5 and P on the MDOT Traffic Control Order Map.

Survey Date Sep 2006 Aug 2008
Posted Speed Limit 30 MPH 40 MPH
% of Vehicles Obeying Speed Limit 8% 86%
50th Percentile Speed 35 MPH 36 MPH
85th Percentile Speed 40 MPH 40 MPH
90th Percentile Speed 41 MPH 42 MPH
% of Vehicles at 45 MPH or Higher 0.7% 1.7%
Fastest Speed Recorded 47 MPH 49 MPH
Total Range of Speeds 28 to 47 MPH 28 to 49 MPH
Maximum Difference in Speed 19 MPH 21 MPH

History Of Speeds on Washtenaw Avenue, Ann Arbor, Michigan
Data is from the middle of the section where the posted speed limit was corrected to 45 mph in 2008, from the former 35 mph.  Data is taken at Points R & S on the MDOT Traffic Control Order Map.

Survey Date Sep 2006 Aug 2008
Posted Speed Limit 35 MPH 45 MPH
% of Vehicles Obeying Speed Limit 4% 79%
50th Percentile Speed 42 MPH 43 MPH
85th Percentile Speed 47 MPH 46 MPH
90th Percentile Speed 48 MPH 47 MPH
% of Vehicles at 50 MPH or Higher 4.7% 2.6%
Fastest Speed Recorded 58 MPH 52 MPH
Total Range of Speeds 33 to 58 MPH 34 to 52 MPH
Maximum Difference in Speed 25 MPH 18 MPH


50th Percentile: Speed at which 50% of vehicles are above that speed and 50% are below.

85th Percentile: Speed at which 85% of the vehicles are below or right at that speed.

90th Percentile: Speed at which 90% of the vehicles are below or right at that speed.

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Bugatti 16.4 Supersport Ensures Another Decade Of “Veyron-Killer” Wannabes Mon, 05 Jul 2010 15:29:38 +0000

And you thought it was over. You thought that, with Top Gear’s “Car Of The Decade” trophy accompanying Ferdinand Piëch’s “Ego Of The Decade” award in the Volkswagen trophy case, Bugatti could move on and let tiny companies based in sheds and garages fight over who has the world’s fastest “production” car. But no. That’s not how things work in Wolfsburg… er, Mollsheim.

Instead of going quietly into that good night, Bugatti just had to strap some go-faster orange paint and wheels (good for an extra 182-ish horsepower) to one of its last Veyrons, call it the “Supersport,” and set a new speed record (267.81 MPH, production cars limited to 257 MPH). And all so they can close the line building €1.65m-€1.85m Supersports to close out the Veyron’s production run (the truly tasteful should not overlook the €1.95m “World Record Edition”). Well, and to regain its rightful place from the upstarts at Shelby Super Cars.

Think of this as groundhog day: The Veyron has seen its shadow (cast across the history books, natch) and we’ll be blessed with ten more years of “Veyron Killers.” Somewhere in the back seat of a completely stock Volkswagen Phaeton, Dr Piëch is feeling what humans refer to as “joy.”

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Quote Of The Day: Volt In Need Of A Jolt? Edition Mon, 28 Jun 2010 19:49:54 +0000

Accelerating up the motorway slip road, the Ampera charges hard and deceptively quickly up to 50mph, but by then the single-speed electric motor’s flat torque curve has begun a nose dive and acceleration at high speeds is poor.

The 0-62mph time of 9 seconds and top speed of 100mph are an indication of this – most family hatchbacks with that sort of sprint capability will have a top speed of nearer 130mph

The Telegraph‘s Andrew English lays into the Chevy Volt/Opel Ampera’s high-speed acceleration, in an early test drive on European roads. Apparently an Opel engineer was embarassed enough by the performance to tell English that

We are considering driving the wheels directly from the petrol engine


Opel’s Andreas Voight continues on this unexpected theme, telling English:

There are a number of different ways we could do it, but the whole thing is subject to some intellectual property rights negotiations so I can’t say any more. You will see an announcement this autumn

Except that GM already has a two-mode “parallel” hybrid drivetrain, and the Volt has been presented as an extended-range EV. Allowing the gas engine to power the wheels would be a fundamental repudiation of everything the Volt is supposed to be.

Luckily was on-hand to help The General get on top of this nasty development. Via the independent website, GM’s spokesfolks say

This report is inaccurate. First off, the Volt cannot be driven without electric power. It always makes use of electric power within the drive unit.

Secondly, we have no plans to make any mechanical or control strategy changes prior to launch.

The team is in the final stages of validation and durability and have not identified any reason to make any changes. We have a very innovative drive unit that includes a number of clutches and a planetary gear-set which is highly efficient and exists in our pre-production vehicles today. For competitive reasons we won’t provide more details on the operation at this point, but will soon.

Notice that GM does not comment on the Volt’s high-speed performance, and has not officially allowed reporters to drive a Volt over 50 MPH yet (although there is a rumor of someone hitting 92 MPH in a Volt). So, how will the Volt perform at freeway speeds? Though some argue that freeway performance for the Volt is irrelevant, the reality is that Chevy designed the Volt around the idea that it could be used as a single-family car. After all, what’s the point of eliminating range anxiety if the Volt isn’t up to long freeway jaunts at speed?

The answer to the problem: weigh less than 3800 lbs. But how?

[Want more answers than questions... check out Consumer Reports' test of a pre-production Volt]

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Wisconsin: Slow Driving Not Cause For Traffic Stop Tue, 04 May 2010 14:09:03 +0000

Driving slowly is not a crime justifying a traffic stop, the Wisconsin Court of Appeals ruled last Wednesday. In an unpublished decision, Judge Anderson reviewed the events leading up to the August 13, 2008 arrest of Tommy K. Miller. At around 1:19am that morning, Miller’s white Lexus SUV passed by Hartland Village Police Officer Matthew Harper who happened to be patrolling Cottonwood Avenue. Miller was traveling 5 MPH.

Harper watched the SUV for a few seconds as it pulled into a parking lot. As he was about to investigate on foot, Harper saw the white SUV leave the lot. At some point, Miller turned back and drove past Harper slowly and accelerating to the speed limit after he passed. Harper floored his accelerator in pursuit, pulling over the SUV even though he admitted that he saw no traffic violation or any suspicious driving. Miller failed a breath test and was convicted of driving under the influence of alcohol (DUI). Judge Anderson only considered whether the initial traffic stop itself was justified.

The prosecution argued that the stop was justified because Officer Harper was acting as a “community caretaker” and ensuring that nothing was wrong with Miller that would have caused the slow driving at such a late hour. A circuit court agreed with this interpretation, but Anderson suggested the 2009 state Supreme Court case Wisconsin v. Kramer applied to the situation. In that ruling, the high court found that the community caretaker function must be “totally divorced” from his role of enforcing the law. In other words, a judge must evaluate whether the officer is acting on a hunch that a crime might be taking place, or whether he actually has an objectively reasonable reason for the stop.

“Harper did not testify that he was motivated by a belief that the driver was in need of any assistance, medical or mechanical,” Anderson ruled. “Additionally, Harper did not articulate an objectively reasonable basis for his actions as a community caretaker. Indeed, the record is void of any showing that Harper was concerned that Miller may have been in need of assistance. The record tells us little more than Harper ‘wanted to stop [Miller's] vehicle right away before it merged onto [Highway] 16.’ Harper’s actions were not ‘totally divorced’ from his law enforcement function and, therefore, do not qualify as actions within his community caretaker function.”

The judgment against Miller was reversed. A copy of the opinion is available in a 30k PDF file at the source link below.

Source: PDF File Wisconsin v. Miller (Court of Appeals, State of Wisconsin, 4/28/2010)


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Missouri Senate Votes To Ban Photo Enforcement Thu, 29 Apr 2010 13:35:51 +0000

The Missouri state Senate on Monday voted overwhelmingly to ban the use of red light cameras and speed cameras. The measure’s champion, state Senator Jim Lembke (R-St. Louis), had failed in previous efforts to convince his colleagues to end the use of automated ticketing machines. This year, however, he was emboldened by the state supreme court’s decision last month to strike down Springfield’s photo ticketing as illegal (view opinion). Lembke successfully attached the red light camera prohibition to a broader, 106-page transportation measure that included a number of miscellaneous provisions. The vote was 23 to 8 in favor of the ban.

“No county, city, town, village, municipality, state agency, or other political subdivision of this state that is authorized to issue a notice of violation for a violation of a state or local traffic law or regulation, shall use or employ an automated photo red light enforcement system at any intersection within its jurisdiction,” Lembke’s amendment stated.

State Senator Timothy P. Green (D-St. Louis) received unanimous support for his companion amendment addressing speed cameras. Photo radar is rare in Missouri with Charlack, a tiny city of 1431 residents, deploying cameras to trap drivers passing through on Interstate 170.

“Notwithstanding section 304.120 or any other provision of the law to the contrary, no county, city, town, village, municipality, or other political subdivision of this state may use photo radar speed detection to determine compliance with any speed limit imposed by this chapter or by any local ordinance on any state highway,” Green’s amendment stated.

Green and Lembke were bolstered in their bipartisan effort by rising grassroots concern over the proliferation of automated ticketing machines in Missouri. Activists organized by the Liberty Restoration Project and supported by various Tea Party groups have held several anti-camera protests in Columbia, Kansas City, Springfield and St. Louis (view video). Last year alone, three states — Maine, Mississippi and Montana — joined four cities in voting to ban photo enforcement.

The underlying transportation legislation containing the Lembke and Green amendments, House Bill 2111, has been referred to the Senate Governmental Accountability and Fiscal Oversight Committee. As the measure has already passed the state House, differences between the House-passed and Senate-passed bills must be worked out in a conference committee. The compromise bill would then require a final vote in both chambers before being sent to the governor to be signed into law.


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Quote Of The Day: The Politics Of Limitless Speed Edition Tue, 27 Apr 2010 21:45:15 +0000

Deutsche Straßen sind nicht der Nürburgring.

But there I go, quoting German Minister of Transportation Peter Ramsauer out of context, and in the original. Herr Ramsauer’s rebuke comes on news of a late-night crash involving a future Mercedes ML Class prototype, that resulted in the death of a 26-year old man over the weekend. The crash took place on a stretch of non-speed-limited autobahn between Singen and Stuttgart, favored by Mercedes and Porsche for high-speed testing. Apparently the victim had been involved in a minor accident and was trying to exit his vehicle (stalled in the left lane, according to Der Spiegel) when the Mercedes test mule slammed into his car, killing him instantly. The 52-year old test driver is under investigation for negligent homicide.

Minister Ramsauer’s full quote in Autobild goes something like this:

We must wait for the results of the investigation. Test drivers are professionals. They should not behave themselves like Rambo, rather their driving must serve as an example to the rest of traffic. The German streets are not the Nürburgring

Of course, don’t expect the good Minister to actually change the speed limit laws. After all, the German automakers have long enjoyed an advantage over their competitors thanks to Germany’s autobahn system. If only in the PR and marketing departments. But then, why wouldn’t the phrase “autobahn tuned” come up in the vast majority of Mercedes ML sales?

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California: Legislation Would Create Green Light Cameras Wed, 21 Apr 2010 14:33:51 +0000

Red light cameras in the state of California originally were first used to issue tickets to the owners of vehicles that entered an intersection after the light had turned red. In just the past few years, the cameras have shifted focus and now primarily ticket the owners of vehicles that make rolling right-hand turns on a red light. Assemblyman Tom Ammiano (D-San Francisco) wants to further transform the system by introducing green light cameras. The new system, which initially would only operate at a single intersection in Ammiano’s district, would target people who turn right while the light is green.

“The city and county of San Francisco may utilize an automated traffic enforcement system to enforce a violation of subdivision (d) of Section 22101, from Market Street onto the Central Freeway located at the intersection of Market Street and Octavia Boulevard,” Assembly Bill 2729 states.

Ammiano introduced the bill at the request of bicycle activists who succeeded in prohibiting right-hand turns at the intersection in question, but existing law does not allow the use of automated machines to issue tickets to cars making turns while the light is green. Despite the push for introducing the new form of enforcement, there is no evidence that such the devices would have any positive impact on safety. No such camera has been used in the US. Some groups have suggested that there are more effective alternatives.

“The auto clubs have expressed a concern with the significant expansion of automated enforcement represented by this bill,” the official legislative analysis of AB2729 explained. “They cite a history of abuse surrounding the use of automated enforcement and a growing objection by the public for this form of enforcement. Consequently, they suggest that engineering solutions be used on an expedited basis to remedy what they acknowledge to be a significant safety problem, rather than expanding the use of automated enforcement. There has traditionally been a high degree of discomfort among legislators as well as the public at large with automated traffic enforcement technology in general.”

An attempt at the beginning of the year by Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger to implement a statewide speed camera program to help balance the budget met with silence in the Democrat-controlled assembly. An Assembly Transportation Committee hearing scheduled for Monday on Ammiano’s bill was postponed.

A copy of the legislation is available in a 150k PDF file at the source link below.

Source: PDF File Assembly Bill 2729 (California State Assembly, 4/21/2010)


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Australia: Facebook Page Undermines Covert Speed Camera Effort Tue, 20 Apr 2010 13:51:02 +0000

The motoring public in Queensland, Australia has foiled a police effort to deploy “covert” speed cameras across the state. Police have expanded their fleet of unmarked vehicles equipped with automated enforcement devices in an effort to boost the number of citations issued. The idea is to ensnare drivers “anywhere, anytime” by blending in with ordinary vehicle traffic in vehicles as diverse as a Toyota sedan, a Volkswagen Golf, a Mitsubishi Lancer, a Subaru WRX, a Hummer H2, and various types of trucks and SUVs.

“The underpinning philosophy of Queensland’s speed camera program is general deterrence, designed to create the perception in the minds of motorists that speed cameras may be deployed anywhere, anytime,” a police statement explained. “The deterrent effect is fundamentally linked to the random scheduling of speed camera operations — the unpredictability of which is intended to encourage motorists to adopt more responsible driving behavior at all times while on the road.”

Officials call the covert vehicles “Q-Cars” after the heavily armed World War II merchant vessels known as Q-ships that were designed to lure and destroy German U-boats. Although Queensland had an extensive unmarked car program in the 1980s, officials dropped them in 1991. The program was revived at the end of 2009 after a two-month trial of a pair of covert speed camera cars resulted in 1265 citations, including 25 tickets for “undue noise” and tire smoke.

Earlier this month, the Facebook group Police Cars, Gotta catch ‘em all began undermining this effort by cataloging each of the covert vehicles as they were spotted on the road. The page has already uncovered a number of tricks employed by police, including driving cars with bumper stickers and student driver emblems intended to fool people into thinking the vehicles are not police cars. The page also caught a Holden Rodeo Speed Camera and other vehicles trying to camouflage themselves on the side of the road.

“I spotted the VZ ute on Compton Road today, sneaky bugger hiding in the trees,” user Brian Lee wrote.

Queensland Police Service officials were not pleased by photographs (view sampling of photos) being collected on the page.


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Chicago Tribune: No Probation For “Extreme Speeders” Mon, 22 Mar 2010 21:15:44 +0000

Enforcing laws against victimless crimes is never easy. Limited resources force local governments to constantly assess their law-enforcement priorities, assigning the squad cars and jail beds to the most pressing problems facing their jurisdiction. The problems that don’t make the cut? Unless there’s a revenue motive at play (see: red light cameras, speed cameras), local law enforcement often has little choice but to tolerate the breaking, or under-enforcement of certain laws. Which begs the question: on a scale of, say, murder to marijuana possession, just how bad is speeding?

It’s a question that the fair city of Chicago is grappling with right now, following an investigative report by the Tribune that shows:

For hundreds of motorists caught driving that fast every year, court supervision helps keep their insurance rates low while stopping officials from using the tickets as a reason to suspend their licenses… A Tribune analysis of state police tickets, license data and court records shows that since 2006, Chicagoland courts have given supervision to nearly two-thirds of those found guilty of driving 100 mph or faster.

The implication: citizens of Chicago can speed with impunity. But then, what motorist sees speed limits as being as important as, say, laws against theft or assault? Luckily, the Trib’s exposé isn’t about legal theory, or even the devastating effects of unpunished speeding… it’s pure political gotcha.

Judges across the area defended supervision as a helpful alternative to conviction, but some were surprised at how often their peers handed it out. Also surprised was the state’s keeper of driving records: Secretary of State Jesse White. Citing the Tribune’s findings, White now wants to ban supervision for extreme speeders.

Not because the state doesn’t have bigger law-enforcement priorities, or because road deaths are disproportionately due to speeders (winter conditions and drunk drivers are the big killers on area roads). Or because serial supervision-receivers aren’t being targeted (a 2005 law forbids more than two supervisions per driver per year). The IIHS’s Russ Rader does bring up a good point when he argues that “a lot of what these (supervision) programs effectively do is hide the records of careless, reckless drivers.” But what neither he, nor the now on-the-warpath White want to face are the real reasons for the popularity of the court supervision program for speeders. A local judge explains:

Some judges do 7,000 cases a month, and you have municipalities who are as interested in revenue as they are in a conviction.

Ah, the old “R” word. In addition to community service and a probationary period, court supervision usually involves a larger fine than might otherwise be levied. In essence, it’s a plea deal that pays for itself (if you speed often enough) by keeping a conviction from running up your insurance premium. The court brings in revenue, and drivers caught breaking a law that every citizen breaks at least once if they drive often enough, get to move on with their lives. Where’s the problem?

White will try to change that. Based on the Tribune’s findings, his office helped draft a bill last week to ban supervision for people going at least 40 mph over the speed limit. Because most area interstates have 55 mph limits, it would cover the vast majority of the area’s triple-digit speeders.

“No driver has any business driving that rate of speed,” said White spokesman Henry Haupt.

Note that he didn’t say “no driver is capable of safely driving at that rate of speed.” This is acutally important, considering that the Tribune caps off its politician-riling muckraking with a fittingly inapplicable example:

In July 2008, Johnson’s Lexus sped past a trooper at 110 mph while weaving along I-57 near Dixmoor, before exiting and hitting 105 mph on a side street. Police said his blood-alcohol level was 0.120, which is 50 percent higher than the legal limit.

In the eight previous years, Johnson had received five supervisions on six speeding tickets.

Still, a judge waived the state-mandated six-month driver suspension for the DUI arrest. Then another judge gave the Bourbonnais man supervision for two years. Illinois law allows supervision for a first-time DUI. In exchange, Johnson agreed to pay $1,035 in fines and promised to follow the law.

But in June 2009, while on supervision, Johnson was clocked at 100 mph on I-57 in Markham. He never showed up in court and remains missing. To date, no judge has revoked the court-approved supervision for his high-speed DUI.

You see, the problem isn’t the non-enforcement of DUI laws, it’s the non-enforcement of speeding laws. Johnson shouldn’t have received supervision because he was driving over 100 mph, not because he was drunk off his face. Good thing we have newspapers like the Chicago Tribune to set our law-enforcement priorities straight. And good thing we have politicians as spineless as White to be cowed into embarrassed, unthinking knee-jerk reactions. Otherwise the good people of Chicago might think that speeding isn’t always necessarily an endangerment of others, and is therefore a less urgent law enforcement priority than, say, driving drunk. And God help us if that ever happens.

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America Lives At 70 Miles Per Hour Wed, 17 Mar 2010 16:09:53 +0000

Based on anonymous driving habit data from customers in 45 states, GPS navigation firm TomTom reckons that Americans tend to drive at about 70 MPH on the freeway, regardless of the posted speed limit. More specifically, most Americans tend to stay within a few miles per hour of the speed limit on interstate freeways. The WSJ [sub] reports that these findings are consistent with efforts to raise freeway speed limits around the country, as Virginia recently became the latest state to raise its freeway speed limit to 70 MPH or above. Naturally, there are still safety advocates still sticking to their “speed kills” talking points, but despite these state-by-state speed limit increases, America’s road fatalities per vehicle mile traveled has been dropping consistently. That Americans rarely drive over 70 MPH, even when limits are as high as 75 MPH, shows that motorists tend to find their natural comfort limit at that speed anyway. And the fact that states with higher freeway speeds tend to be large, sparsely-populated Western states indicates that motorists tend to vary their speed only slightly from the 70 MPH “state of nature” even when faced with longer distances and less traffic. [Hat Tip: ClutchCarGo]

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