By on June 26, 2012

Is Social Security the third rail of politics?

Perhaps. I don’t know a single politician who ever got elected by telling his constituents, “Let’s cut Social Security expenditures to seniors.”

That would almost be like trying to become the CEO of a company by telling the senior executives, “You know… we get paid far too much for the work we do. Let’s cut our pay and while we’re at it, reduce our executive pension programs.”

In a similar vein, raising speed limits tends to get a similar reception with most county and city governments. The lost revenue. The safety issues. The ‘children’. When discussing this idea in any public meeting, you’re likely to get little more than a combination of glazed eyes and hard stares from city officials.

But it’s a bit different in Bricklynn. That’s because Bricklynn’s citizens are a bit more involved in their town’s decision making than usual.

You won’t find speed traps anywhere in Bricklynn. Why? Because they consider it bad for business and highly unethical.

A person who gets pulled over due to an arbitrary lowering of the speed limit, without any reasonable change in road conditions, is one ticked off person. To put it in an even more blunt manner, stealing and inflicting hardship on your fellow citizens is a non-negotiable in the town of Bricklynn.

What is open to discussion in Bricklynn are the speed limits. There is a common belief with many folks throughout all levels of Bricklynn’s society that unreasonable laws encourages disrespect and lawbreaking at all levels of society.

Speed limits are seen as the most frequent law most Bricklynnites will deal with over the course of their day. They have to be safe, reasonable, and they have to encourage respect for the law. If city officials instituted a 40 mph speed limit on a road where cars routinely drive at 55 mph, it would represent a complete breakdown of the social contract between citizens and their government.

So in Bricklynn… speed limits are limits.

In the United States most federal and state traffic laws promote an 85th percentile for speed. However there is a well-established theory, based on extended long-term studies of driving behavior, that raising speed limits on most roads only has an impact on compliance with that law. Accidents, fatalities and even the speeds driven are not substantially changed by instituting more reasonable speed limits.

Speed is not the primary concern for most Bricklynnites these days anyhow. It’s distracted driving and other safety issues that are due to neglect and carelessness.

You can have a handheld cell phone in your car. Just don’t use it while the vehicle is moving. There are a few mobile signs that state the following,

“Need to use a phone? Pull over! Stay safe!”

Most folks will simply get a warning the first time they violate this law. The second time always results in a fine and confiscation of the handheld device. The law is written in Bricklynnese. But here is the English translation.

“Bricklynn has banned the use of handheld cell phones, text messaging devices, laptop computers and similar wireless gear in moving vehicles. The secondary penalties for violation of this law shall include fines of up to $500. Confiscation of the mobile device. Immediate impounding of the motorized vehicle, and in the case of reckless driving that results in injury or property damage, all of the above along with jail time. As a level three misdemeanor, the period of imprisonment for violating this law, will be no less than three days and no more than 30 days. All violators will be given one warning, and one warning only. No exceptions!” 

Bricklynn has considered many other laws that avoid traffic congestion and encourage public safety while respecting the constitutional rights of their citizens. Most of them have not passed due to the lack of interest in making Bricklynn an expensive guinea pig in a process they can not control. There is also a general distaste for employing high tech solutions such as the ones enacted in nearby Civitown. Most notably those traffic enforcement tools that effectively cede the local government’s traffic enforcement to third party private vendors.

There are a few cameras which monitor busy intersections. But those are owned by the city, and the long pauses between light changes make those intersections unprofitable for the private sector.

Unlike Civitown, Bricklynn is always open to new ideas from the public they serve; especially those that exact minimal to no cost for their citizens. So if you have any concepts or systems that would be worth discussing, please feel free.

The world should always be open to better ideas.

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41 Comments on “Bricklynn and Civitown: Speed Limits (Pt. 1)...”

  • avatar

    Interesting thoughts.

    The standard byline of “public safety” when it comes to speed enforcement seems pretty thin and lacks credibility as the economy has gotten worse.

    All of a sudden, local municipalities around Dallas have a sudden surge of “public safety” interest via increased speed traps. It has gotten to the point where speed traps are even instituted during common high congestion hours, which is ridiculous because it just aggravates existing traffic problems.

    Dallas Police themselves appear to still be fairly lax unless a specific problem area crops up. They still let State Troopers handle most of the speed enforcement on the major interestate, which is something I’ve seen in other cities that don’t focus as much on speed enforcement.

    It has gotten so bad though that Dallas County Constables, people who are supposed to be delivering warrants and arresting people who have warrants out for their arrest, are spending more time running speed traps then serving their function.

    • 0 avatar

      What are you talking about? Dallas County constables had their traffic patrols takne away from them a couple of years ago. And state troopers (Texas DPS) rarely patrol inside urban areas.

      Dallas (the city) has mostly left the southern half of the city’s freeway enforcement to the Dallas County sheriff, but sheriff is neither constable nor state police.

      • 0 avatar

        Granted, my information on the Constables may be out of date. It was a pretty big controversy a few years ago and I had seen them patrolling aggressively, which really rubbed me the wrong way. The fact that it was ever a common practice was completely at odds with their job function. Glad it was corrected, but my point was that we had a law enforcement agency dedicated to one function while performing another, and largely for the purposes of revenue generation rather than tracking down wanted criminals or serving the county judge.

        I also wasn’t criticizing either Dallas PD or State Troopers, just making an observation. I do see State Troopers all the time in the city though. Usually on the Interstate or the Tollways. It’s not frequent, but at least a few times a month. They have jurisdiction but Dallas PD themselves don’t seem that big on speed enforcement.

        However, my real point was that many of the surrounding suburbs have greatly increased traffic enforcement just as the economy went south. Coincidence? That doesn’t count certain cities that already had a reputation for speed traps. I’m pretty content that my city hasn’t gone that route but the shiny new cop cars they just purchased makes me wonder if that is about to change.

      • 0 avatar

        I agree with your criticism of the constable traffic patrols.

        You see state troopers on North Texas Tollroad Authority (NTTA) roads becasue they contracted enforcement to TxDPS. Other than that, you almost never see TxDPS patrolling DFW’s urban areas.

        You are correct that DPD is not big on traffic enforcement. The DPD chief has (thankfully) said that they are focusing on actually fighting crime.

        Which suburbs have increased enforcement?

      • 0 avatar

        Carrolton, Farmer’s Branch, and Irving have seriously stepped up patrols. I commute through those areas frequently and have for the past few years. Farmer’s Branch is interesting because they run speed traps early morning. I rarely see anyone else run regular traps before 8am.

        Oddly, I cannot remember the last time I saw a Farmer’s Branch officer on the interstate. Which is fine by me! Drive fast through the city at your peril.

        Carrolton has also been patrolling the Bush Tollway aggressively. Haven’t seen them in the past few months, but last year up until the end of the year I’d see them more then the State Troopers.

        I’ve always appreciated Dallas has had a somewhat Laissez Faire attitude and that was before the current police chief. I’ve got a friend on Dallas PD and his attitude was generally that he had better things to do then run speed traps.

        Addison, Coppell, and Flower Mound have always been aggressive, so no news there.

        Not in the Dallas area, but back when I was in college one of my professors was a municipal judge for New Braunfels and he all but said you could drive down I-35 as fast as you’d like so long as a State Trooper wasn’t out. The local cops didn’t see speed enforcement on the Interstate as worthwhile and to be fair I rarely saw an accident driving through there.

        I did my internship at the Austin Police Traffic Investigations unit way back in the late 90’s. Interestingly enough, they had statistics on the most number of accidents by street. Those were not necessarily the same areas getting the most number of speed traps.

      • 0 avatar

        In our Houston neighborhood, the constable patrol is the only one properly enforcing traffic laws. Mostly running stop signs and entering a one way street the wrong way for a short cut.

        The HPD mostly runs traps with very high ticket frequency so they can have time to do other things after meeting their non quota quota.

      • 0 avatar

        If there is increased activity, it will show up at

    • 0 avatar


      As I recall, way back when I used to go to Houston, the town of Humble had “constables” instead of police. Those were not the same as County Constables.

      The different agencies and their distinctions can be confusing.

      Typically County Constables report to a County Judge and are used to serve or execute arrest warrants. They are still licensed peace officers and have all the powers that come with it, but the agency itself has a fairly specific purpose.

      City Marshalls are usually the same thing, but report to a Municipal Judge and the nature of their warrants are almost always misdemeanors, and usually for traffic and parking violations that have just added up for an individual.

      Local constables are usually police in everything but name.

      • 0 avatar

        Harris County is weird. Because of some political situation from a long time ago, the county sheriff didn’t provide sufficient protection to unincorporated areas, so constables picked up the slack. I lived in an unincorporated urban area of Harris County, and constables provided all our police services. You almost never saw a sheriff’s deputy. You can’t compare it to Dallas County.

        Constables generally do not report to a county judge except for specific issues like budgeting. And the county judge is not in fact a judge, but is more like the mayor of the county. Constables are elected officials.

        AFAIK, the only constables in Texas are county constables. I think, like you said, all city-level paper-servers are marshalls.

      • 0 avatar

        Ours are county, don’t know about Humble.

  • avatar

    “So in Bricklynn… speed limits are limits”

    That’s actually a bad thing. If you want “fairness”, then by-the-book enforcement is less fair than is a prima facie limit that accounts for changes in conditions, i.e. there may be circumstances when it is perfectly safe to drive above the posted limit, possibly by a wide margin.

    On the other side, there probably isn’t a locale in the western world that doesn’t have a generalized “safe speed” requirement, i.e. one can’t drive faster than is safe for conditions. If traffic is heavy, weather is bad, visibility is poor, etc., then the 85th percentile limit doesn’t apply. That kind of restriction isn’t going to go way, nor should it.

    • 0 avatar

      I’ll second this.

      There’s a lot of good literature on the difference between equal treatment and equitable treatment, for the two are not always the same.

    • 0 avatar
      Steven Lang

      It wouldn’t. The issues related to safe driving conditions are covered by ‘reckless driving’ laws… and other related traffic issues.

      Speed limit laws do not cover all mitigating circumstances. They do focus on times related to the normal flow of traffic in a given area.

      Hope this helps…

      • 0 avatar

        “Speed limit laws do not cover all mitigating circumstances”

        To me, they don’t. But in your article, you’re arguing for a “speed limit that is a speed limit.”

        It strikes me that you’re attempting to eliminate arbitrary enforcement, but in the process, you’re creating an alternative that is itself arbitrary.

        Let’s take a hypothetical — let’s suppose that we have a road with a speed limit of 50 mph, which was based upon the 85th percentile. There are two cars traveling on that road at 65 mph:

        -Car A is driven by a guy who is trying to impress his girlfriend
        -Car B is driven by a guy who is trying to get his sick mother to the hospital.

        In Bricklynn, we treat both of them the same. (The same is good, right?) This pursuit of equality results in the differences in their circumstances being ignored.

        I know that you want to avoid corruption, but you are creating your own version of it by ignoring bad outcomes and unique circumstances. Absolutism is its own form of tyranny.

      • 0 avatar
        Steven Lang

        I’m not eliminating arbitrary driving enforcement at all.

        Speed limits are intended for normal driving conditions. Unusual situations always call for arbitrary driving enforcement.

        That dynamic does not change by instituting a speed limit that is reasonable, given the normal conditions of the road and traffic.

        At least that’s what I have always understood speed limits to represent.

      • 0 avatar

        So in Bricklynn… speed limits are limits, except when they aren’t?

      • 0 avatar

        Steven, what you may be missing is the concept of prima facie speed limits. See

        “The issues related to safe driving conditions are covered by ‘reckless driving’ laws” WHAT?!?? Reckless driving laws are supposed to be for completely out of bounds, wanton driving behaviors.

    • 0 avatar

      It would be nice to have “smart” roads, where the limit is adjusted by the actual conditions. Driving 70MPH on the freeway may be impossible during rush hour, but perfectly reasonable at 2:00 am.

  • avatar

    This treatise makes little sense. What is your point here?


    “In the United States most federal and state traffic laws promote an 85th percentile for speed.” Wrong. 85th percentile is rarely the basis for most speed limits. There’s a reason rural limits are almost always the same number within a given state–they match arbitrary numbers legislated into statute. And city limits? They almost always exploit loopholes to drive the limits far lower than 85th percentile.

    Speed limits would almost always be significantly higher here if 85th percentile was really the main rule.

    “Bricklynn has banned the use of handheld cell phones” I see, so on law X we’re not as arbitrary, but on law Y, we’re totally arbitrary? If talking on cell phones is absolutely, intolerably dangerous, it sure isn’t coming out in broad traffic safety measures. Further, there’s scant evidence that handheld is any different than earbud.

    Sorry, but this is a terrible piece. You are showing little intellectual integrity, and you don’t even come to a coherent point.

    • 0 avatar
      Steven Lang

      “If talking on cell phones is absolutely, intolerably dangerous, it sure isn’t coming out in broad traffic safety measures. Further, there’s scant evidence that handheld is any different than earbud.”

      You are implying that it is easy to monitor handheld cell phone usage on a broad scale.

      It is not. Not unless we put in a little secret camera in each one of the vehicles that are going through a given area. That would be a rather nasty and intrusive measure, don’t you think?

      The fact that handheld cell phones impair the driving capabilities of drivers is not in doubt. Sorry. If you believe that texting and handheld cell phone usage doesn’t impair a driver’s reaction time or awareness of their surroundings, then there is no use in discussing this any further.

      • 0 avatar

        “The fact that handheld cell phones impair the driving capabilities of drivers is not in doubt.”

        Actually, it is on a couple of levels:

        -Research would suggest that phones are distracting, whether or not they are handheld

        -Real-world crash data shows that phone users crash less than average. That would suggest that distraction might be preferable to the alternative.

        In any case, if one is going to use the research to conclude that handheld usage should be banned, then that same research would lead one to conclude that all phone usage by drivers should be banned. There isn’t much scientific basis for banning one, but not the other.

      • 0 avatar

        “Real-world crash data shows that phone users crash less than average. That would suggest that distraction might be preferable to the alternative.”

        This is rather subjective is it not? As I understand it, police at a crash have only a couple of items that by law, they can enter as causes for a crash; doubtful theres a checkbox for phone. Add to it most people are not going to state, “yeah was TOTALLY gobbing away on my phone when WHAM, I ran into that milk truck”.

        I can tell you from my perspective and I’m quite sure I’m not the only one, the idiot who nearly side-swipes you, or ran the red light and almost hit you, or wandered slowwwwly into your lane without using a turn signal, was on their phone. May not be able to prove that after a crash, but a betting man would wager on it being the cause.

      • 0 avatar

        Undoubtedly, distraction equals bad. What’s missing though is perspective, priority, and correlation between some studies of how bad the distraction can be and what’s happening on the roads. If the lab is correct, dead bodies should be stacking up, they aren’t, what’s missing?

      • 0 avatar

        Given how widely cell phones are used, if their use was anywhere near as dangerous as commonly alleged in the media–often even being compared to drunken driving–then it would show up in year-over-year, broad safety metrics, like fatalities per 100 million miles traveled. Yet this figure just keeps improving, as if cell phones either weren’t a factor at all or a minor factor.

        You are clearly jumping on bandwagons without bothering to educate yourself. That is clear by your mention of handheld devices. Please, for the love of all that is good, before you propose to create more restrictions on everyone’s life in a well-read blog, try to know what you’re talking about.

      • 0 avatar

        “This is rather subjective is it not?”

        Not really. We have data about crashes, data about phone usage and data about phone usage with respect to crashes.

        You’ll be hard pressed to find a study that shows that non-phone users are crashing at disproportionately lower rates. And I would like to see an example of crash rates of a state or country that experienced a disproportionately faster decrease in its crash rates following a phone ban, because so far, I haven’t seen even one.

        “Undoubtedly, distraction equals bad.”

        Distraction is bad when compared to a theoretical ideal of how people should drive. But it may not be bad when compared to how actual humans choose to drive in the real world when not using the phone.

        I’ve pointed this out before, but research from the University of Utah shows that drivers on phones drive more slowly, maintain more constant following distances, and make fewer lane changes when using their phones. When they hang up, the distraction is replaced with more erratic behavior. Erratic is worse than distraction.

      • 0 avatar

        Nice to see we agree, lol.

      • 0 avatar

        It is scary, isn’t it?

  • avatar

    This is all stuff that’s been said (and generally acknowledged) for decades without the simplistic scenario that’s being put around it. Try taking the political tone from the data and let latter stand on its own. Otherwise you could have written the same story to promote of any tyranny of the majority cliche.

  • avatar

    I guess this is supposed to be a utopian vision of how the author believes municipal government should work. In the real world the citywide speed limit on municipally owned surface streets was set 80 years ago by a group of then- elected officials who either said “I dunno, 35 seems about right,” or “Let’s ask the state capitol.”

    Since that initial setting of the limit, the date of which was lost in the sands of time, neighborhood associations, various busineeses, civic groups, and other special interests have at various times come to their elected representatives and petitioned them to have the limit changed. Most often they want the limit lowered.

    And the elected officials respond as elected officials do: They give their constituents what they want. So the limit drops to 25 mph unless otherwise posted.

    Then one late afternoon in early August, one of the various chairmen or other potentates of one of the neighborhood associations, civic organizations, or other people who believe themselves to be important is nearly run into the ditch by some stupid kid on a crotch rocket, so he calls the chief and demands that he send one of his patrol officers to go out and write some tickets.

    So they do for awhile, average speeds drop, the potentates are satisfied, and after awhile the police stop writing tickets. Everyone is content until a different stupid kid runs a different potentate into a different ditch and the process is repeated again Eventually the police learn where the areas of town are that have the perfect combination of a speed limit that’s set too low (most likely at the insistance of the people who live or have other personal interests on that particular stretch of road) so that there are plenty of speeders to write without much difficulty and a place to park that’s both out of sight and easy to pull out of in pursuit of violators.

    Then, when one of the potentates complains to the chief of police that more tickets need to be written, the chief can pull out the ledger and say “Gee whiz, we wrote XXX tickets last month. Whaddya want from us?” And the potentate will then go and agitate to have the speed limit lowered again, completing the circle of life.

    And that is how a “speed trap” is born.

  • avatar

    The one that always gets me is speeding fines are based on a set number over the limit. So in my 40 km, school zone neighbourhood you can drive 90 km (2.25x the speed limit) and get the same fine as driving 150 km on the highway (1.5x the speed limit). Going 60 km in the 40 (1.5x) gets you next to nothing.

    Back of the envelope calculations say Energy in a car is proportional to v2, whereas stopping power is constant (to the limits of brake fade). So if speed doubles, energy (and stopping time) goes up 4x. going 60 in a 40 means you need 2.25x as much time to come to a stop, whereas 120 in a 100 means stopping time is increased only 1.44x. Same fine and points though, even though.

    • 0 avatar

      Where I live, you pay an additional charge, and get extra points if you are pulled over in a school zone.

    • 0 avatar

      But braking isn’t absolutely linear so while energy is expended it isn’t the same as time over distance. I support the objective view that it should be based on a percentage over the speed limit rather than an arbitrarily set number as you pointed out 60 MPH in a 35 zone will net you the same ticket as 40 in a school zone (15 MPH nominally stateside). Even though that school zone ticket (barring the additional fee of it being a school zone) is more than double the speed limit.

      To refer to the original topic: Libertarian troll is libertarian! Seriously, Bricklynn sounds like an awful place to live where the majority rules with an aggressive laissez-faire attitude to mask their majority demands on people. Speed limits haven’t been visited for decades and while I acknowledge modern cars have a hard time rolling below 25 MPH on a flat surface it doesn’t mean we just get to chuck the whole system out the window. Another poster pointed out the truth of the matter in that most requests are for speed limits to be LOWERED in residential zones because of a random accident/incident. In most cases we need more stop lights instead of stop signs, fewer intersections on larger roads instead using funneling lights that may be longer but keep traffic moving faster, and a widening of most roads. Only small residential should be single-lane affairs, everything else should be two or more.

  • avatar

    In Fremont, CA, the city actually raised some of the speed limits in the suburbs. Most of them seemed too low for most people, and now they’re reasonable. So it does happen.

  • avatar
    DC Bruce

    The 85th percentile rule works most of the time . . . on limited access highways. On city streets and unlimited access highways, I’m not so sure. There, the speed limit has to account for people pulling out of their driveways, parallel parking, entering from side streets and so on.

    Even the 85th percentile rule doesn’t always work on limited access highways if they weren’t designed correctly. For example, the Capital Beltway (I-495) a circumferential highway around the City of Washington that was designed in the late 1950s. The speed limit is 55; I would guess the 85th percentile speed is closer to 65. The problem is that some of the entrance ramps do not have a long enough acceleration lane to even permit an entering driver to accurately judge the speed of the traffic he’s merging into, even assuming he has a vehicle with sufficient acceleration capability to do so without forcing the traffic to slow down. The experienced Beltway driver knows this and therefore avoids the right lane whenever possible, except when he’s preparing to exit. But even that behavior creates its own set of problems. . .

    Automated speed traps have their own problems, arising from the fact that they leave no room for judgment. Busting down a highway at 4:00 a.m. at 15 over the limit is most likely not the least bit unsafe; whereas doing that at 4:00 p.m. very well might be. And speed traps in urban areas are pure nonsense. The speed of traffic on major streets can be effectively controlled by traffic signals. If there are knuckleheads who exceed the speed limit only to sit and wait at the next red light, they’re very unlikely to create a significant safety hazard.

    • 0 avatar

      This is a good comment. Drivers tend to do a good job of choosing speeds with which they are comfortable, i.e. that suit their ability to maintain a reasonable level of car control.

      But they can do a poor job of choosing speeds that account for hazards to others. So yes, they can usually pick a speed that will keep themselves from sliding off of the road, but they don’t necessarily choose a speed that allows others to safely enter from side roads or at merge points.

      Road design should account for these factors. If traffic moves too fast on its own and there is no way to modernize the highway, then design changes should be made that are designed to calm them, instead, such as narrowing the lanes.

      • 0 avatar

        I’m a little suspicious of traffic calming because it usually is done with speed humps, center roundabouts at four way stops, removing lanes and artificial narrowing of streets at intersections, which is hell if you commute on a bike, very bad for a car’s suspension unless the speed bumps are uniform (and in most cases around me they are definitely not) and doesn’t help emergency vehicles get around, either.

      • 0 avatar

        I agree.

        They usually ride 5′ off the bumper of my sport bike even if I’m in the middle lane going with the flow of traffic…

    • 0 avatar

      “The speed limit is 55; I would guess the 85th percentile speed is closer to 65.”

      OK, then create a right lane speed reduction around the entrances. That’s no reason to make people in the middle or left lanes also go only 55.

  • avatar

    Here in suburban Chicago area, we still have 55, and 95% go over 70! But, the Democrats cater to inner city saftey nuts. “Oh no, we can’t have that speed limit, everyone will die!” Only 65 when you get 60 miles from the Loop.

    Indiana, Missouri, Michigan have 70 on Interstates, and 60-65 in their suburbs, even 60 in cities!

    IL politicians spend too much time in city, and think all Interstates are like Lake Shore Drive, crowded and “OMG you will die going 70!” But, it’s all about tickets.

    • 0 avatar

      * 1000!

      I just got back from visiting Grandma in Virginia and lo and behold my gps (which I haven’t updated in a while) had WRONG speed limits for almost all the major interstates! The GPS indicated lower than posted (55 in a 65, 65 in a 70, etc) which means the states must have raised the limits within the last few years.

      Illinois? Still at 55….

      If you’d like to see how silly the 55 limit is, take 294 north of o-hare until it merges with 94. Sometimes there are no cars within a mile of you….

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