"As Long as Most People Speed, Obeying the Law Can Be Dangerous"

Frank Williams
by Frank Williams
as long as most people speed obeying the law can be dangerous

That's what The Star-Ledger columnist Bob Braun (via nj.com) concluded when he drove the same 55-mile route two times: once keeping pace with traffic, and once at just above the 65-mph speed limit. If you've driven on the highway anywhere lately, I don't need to tell you the outcome (but I will anyway). Keeping pace with traffic, Braun drove 80 – 85 mph and had no cause for concern. Driving 68 mph, he was passed by almost everyone, tailgated and found himself in dangerous situations more than once. He quotes Charles Lave, University of California at Irvine economist: "I find that there is no statistically discernible relationship between the fatality rate and average speed, though there is a strong relationship to speed variance. Variance kills, not speed." Perhaps the lawmakers need to be reminded of this fact as they consider lowering speed limits in the name of saving fuel. (An aside: does that mean the more fuel-efficient a car is, the faster it'll be allowed to go?) If our elected representatives are stupid enough to drop the national speed limit back to the double nickel, accident rates will go up as the variance between those who want to get there in a reasonable time and those who drive the speed limit increases. It makes more sense to raise the speed limit for safety's sake. As Braun points out, "if everyone uniformly sped, or, if everyone obeyed the limits, then we'd be safer." And you know the majority aren't going to obey the limits.

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  • Rpn453 Rpn453 on Jul 22, 2008
    essen Says: July 22nd, 2008 at 10:12 am rpn453, I don’t know what state you live in. All I can tell you is if you are doing the speed limit in the left lane in NJ and going slower then the traffic on the right you will get 1. pushed aside by a state trooper 2. pulled over and/or cited. We also have laws about deliberately impeding the flow of traffic. (and using cell phones). That would be an interesting day in court! I think I might just drive in the left lane now to see if I can make it happen and bring the issue up in court. Maybe I can initiate some positive change and get the speed limit raised to 85 or 90 mph like you want. I wonder what the judge would say when the officer admits that he was speeding right before giving me a ticket for obeying the law. By law, the only person who can legally exceed the speed limit in any lane is an emergency vehicle with its emergency lights on. Please find me the section of any North American traffic code that disagrees with that statement. But I'm not really going to do that. I'm just arguing the perspective of anyone who strictly obeys the law. I'll stay in the right lane, drive the speed limit, and relax while watching the traffic flow by.

  • Landcrusher Landcrusher on Jul 23, 2008

    rpn453, Ya, you try that. You might want to read my earlier post though. Okay, I will give you a break since there are 8 pages. The police officer will simply state that he was driving the limit, and you were not. Your car is not equipped to accurately inform you of your speed. You lose, pay the maximum fine for aggravating the court. Lastly, it really doesn't matter what the law is. Being a left lane bandit is irresponsible and rude, even if you are over the limit. That's just the way it is. If the highway in front of you is not congested, then you should allow others to pass. You are not a cop, and if you were, you wouldn't do that because you would know better (and likey be going 90).

  • Rpn453 Rpn453 on Jul 23, 2008

    Landcrusher, you're almost certainly right. I really wouldn't expect any better out of a police officer. Most are hypocrites; their job is to defend the law and yet they often don't abide by it. I wonder if it would change anything if I had a GPS in addition to an accurate speedometer and a witness in the car using a camcorder to record the whole situation? I seriously would enjoy challenging the system on this, but I think trying to get the ticket would be more aggravating and time consuming than the legal part. For one thing, I'd need to get a big old beater 1-ton truck with concrete-filled 6" sched. 40 bumpers if I was planning on pissing off that many other motorists!

  • Landcrusher Landcrusher on Jul 23, 2008

    rpn, You missed the main thrust of my point. A GPS will not give you accurate speed unless it has at least 14 distinct receivers. Still, it likely won't be within a single mile an hour at 60, on a dependable basis unless you also have it talking to a ring gyro set with a good processor and some fancy software. I am not kidding. You really cannot know your speed. Therefore, you must ALWAYS yield to someone wanting to pass. The limit is NOT an excuse. The ONLY exception would be if you are traveling at a safe distance of the car in front of you also waiting to pass(congested highway). If the guy behind you wants to be a tailgating idiot, I suggest you let him pass anyway and keep a good distance from him so you don't end up in a multi car pile up. If a cop ever comes up behind you, I suggest you also let him pass. Tickets have supposedly been beaten by dedicated lawyers based on the trick you want to use, but I think the cops are now pretty well trained to avoid giving testimony that will fall into that trap. Guilty or not, they will walk away unscathed, you will not. It's not worth it to stick it to the man over cops driving habits.