The Double Nickle Strikes Back
One of the many important lessons I learned from my father was a healthy disrespect for partisan politics. A self described "pox-on-both-your-houses" independent, the elder Mr Niedermeyer has only ever donated to one political campaign in his entire life: the effort to repeal the federal 55mph speed limit. Though he now seems more interested in hypermiling than high-speed hoonery, it may be time for the paterfamilias to reach for the checkbook once again. The Wall Street Journal reports that Senator John Warner has written the U.S. Energy Secretary and the Government Accountability Office asking them to study the possibility of once again lowering federal speed limits. Though Sen. Warner says he's not necessarily advocating a return to the double-nickel, he wants to bring the issue before congress before the fall election recess. "I am every day trying to work on concepts to achieve some conservation now," Warner says. "I mean N-O-W." In his letter, Warner requests that the feds determine the speeds at which modern vehicles operate most efficiently. It's all a bit moot of course, as NHTSA data shows that three quarters of drivers broke the speed limit within a month of being interviewed. Oh, and Senator Warner retires this fall. And, as the WSJ aptly points out: "The speed limit issue isn't really about any of that. It's a powerful, easily grasped symbol of the freedom, mobility and affluence Americans enjoyed when energy was cheap. Letting go of that sense of freedom won't be easy, even if it is the sensible thing to do."
... and another thought applies here. "Ships in harbour are safe. But that is not what ships are for." Cars may be most fuel efficient in sixth at 40mph... but why have a car then?
I really like the speed limits for different classes of vehicles. This was used in Italy when I lived there. Big trucks and buses were restricted to the right lane only unless literally passing and their top speed was 100 kph. There were also some microcars that were restricted to 100 kph as I recall. Everybody else drove in the middle lane at 65-80 mph. The left lane was reserved for fast (FAST!) cars running in the triple digits. Officially the speed limit on the open highway was about 80 mph but if you wanted to you could drive faster. They could pull you over for being an idiot or exceeding good sense (weather, time of day, traffic levels). You were also screwed if you caused an accident. I think like the rear-ending law here in TN there if you were the faster car you were at fault. I mean you could have been going slower and that 1.0L Fiat might have been stupid but they were going as fast as they could. The speed differential was you fault. They could (ought) to do the same here. Folks would get smarter but it would require some creative police enforcement. Jacked up 4WDs or beat to death used cars with poor lighting, shocks or tires need not use the left lane ever. Folks would be required to maintain their vehicles better. I got stopped up north once (I lived in southern Italy) and the police really gave me crap b/c my Rabbit was cosmetically a beater. I had been investing in mechanical improvements, not paint and body work. He really gave me a good cussing (I knew what he was saying) but let me go. Let gas prices do it's job sorting out what we drive and use something like the vehicle class system to sort out how we drive them on the highway. Around here (Nashville, Atlanta, Knoxville, to a lesser extent Chattanooga) - the traffic SPEEDS UP once you get into the city. Open highway speeds = 70-75 and the city speeds are 10 mph FASTER it seems.
Busbodger> I like the italy system. Right lane for my neon, left lane for my motorcycle :)