QOTD: Are Speed Limits (Finally) Where They Should Be?
The Interstate Highway System is pretty much set in stone (or concrete and asphalt, to be exact), so there’s little hope of more driving engagement for bored motorists who long for a few twisties during their long-distance slogs.
Governments can raise or lower speed limits, but they sure can’t do much to alleviate boredom. In our morning discussion here at TTAC, Indiana and Pennsylvania came up as the worst offenders for yawn-inducing drives. Geography is fickle like that. Of course, a sure-fire way to reduce the boredom that sets in between cities is to simply close the gap in less time.
Just think: fewer awkward silences between yourself and a passenger, fewer awful songs on local radio, and more time saved, at the expense of more gas consumed. It seems a decent trade-off. We’ve come a long way since the dark days of the 1970s, when crossing a state at 55 miles per hour felt like taking the Oregon Trail.
However, have we come far enough?
No longer do any states fully hold to the 55 mph Nixon-era standard. A handful of Northeastern enclaves maintain a 65 mph Interstate limit, and some choose to enforce them rigorously (looking at you, New York). There’s no doubt that many find it too low. Still, east of the Great Plains, 70 mph sits in the majority, higher if you’re in Michigan or the wooded expanses of Maine. Then there’s the free-wheeling west, where cars — like buffalo — were meant to roam free, and do, for the most part.
Residents of Ontario, of course, can only gaze southward and dream. The province maintains a 100 kilometer per hour rule on its major highways, which translates into a poky 62 mph. Ever seen a line of tractor trailers (each governed to 105 km/h) passing a Nissan Micra going the speed limit in the right lane? It’s a painfully slow process, and an effective rolling roadblock. Impassioned pleas to raise the limit by even a tiny, wee amount have fallen on deaf ears.
So, what’s your take on all of this, Best and Brightest? Is your state’s highway speed limit a rational response to concerns about safety, timeliness and automotive endurance, or could it stand a nudge in the upward direction? Given the power, what would you change?
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Speed limits, particularly on highways, are fairly arbitrary. Rather than worrying about what the limit should allegedly be, we should address the process of how we choose them. Limits on open roads should usually be based upon the flow of traffic, i.e. the 85th or 90th percentile. Instead, we have legislators who know nothing about traffic safety debating some number that ends with a "0" or a "5" based upon, well, nothing. Allow traffic engineers to do their jobs. Unlike legislators, they actually know something about this gig. They will know when the flow of traffic should be used to determine the speed limit, and more importantly, those times when it shouldn't. The exception to this should be with large vehicles such as semis. They should be confined to lower speeds (i.e. 65 or less) and the right-hand lane.
Nope, Limit is $55-60 on a lot of my commute, but at that speed you are at risk of getting run over - Left lane still moves at 70-90.