By on January 22, 2019

Image: RU2 Systems

No, this isn’t a question about resurgent — and somewhat ironic — demand for the Geo Metro and its tepid ilk, but Timothy Cain probably has something to say about the chances of success of a latter-day model. Rather, this is a question about the way you drive, and the decisions of those who govern us.

We’re all cool with who we take orders from, right? Okay, good. Lest this writer stand accused of not getting to the point in a swift and efficient manner, here goes — are you willing to get to your destination in a less swift manner?

Maybe some explanation is in order. In my online journeys yesterday, a somewhat ranty piece published on the National Motorists Association blog caught my eye, and with good reason. The title read “I Can’t Drive 25.”

Apparently there’s a push in the Greater Boston Area town of Saugus to lower the municipality’s default speed limit from 30 mph to 25 mph, a law Boston itself passed a couple of years back. To our Canadian readers, that means a reduction on city streets (unless otherwise posted) from 48.3 km/h to 40 km/h. This would be in the interest of public safety, of course.

Few cities have escaped the movement to reduce speed limits in order to create safer, more “liveable” streets, often in the complete absence of other road infrastructure improvements. Lower the default limit and paradise blooms, apparently. Tulips burst forth from cracked sidewalks. Sometimes it works; other times it just leads to increased ticket revenue. In fairness, a 2018 Insurance Institute for Highway Safety study found that, in Boston, the speed limit reduction brought about a 29.3 percent decline in the number of speeding vehicles travelling 35 mph or higher. Whether that brought about a reduced accident/injury rate remains to be seen, though other studies say yes, it will.

In my neck of the woods, and indeed in Boston (and other cities too), there’s pressure to go even lower: 20 mph (32.2 km/k) in Boston and 30 km/h (18.6 mph) in my city. Which begs the question: how slow are you willing to drive before pushing back — if indeed you would?

Kaique Rocha cars street rain

In some instances, the backers of such speed limit changes are less concerned with public safety and more interested in disincentivizing/punishing driving as a whole, though they hold their true motivation close to the vest. Such proponents are the ones who can be heard lamenting the fact that roads exist, as they encourage car use (as well as make bus transit and the delivery of food to their local store possible). As if roads weren’t messy, dangerous places that existed long before the advent of the automobile. These people rarely leave the downtown portion of their respective cities, unless it’s to go to the airport for a flight to the downtown portion of another major city, from which they will return with grand stories about how people in Northern Europe and Asia do things (the proper way).

My father worked for years as a traffic engineer, mapping out intersection designs and traffic light signal timing for the city that employed him. One thing that annoys engineers more than anything else is when a city politico, eager to grease a squeaky cadre of constituents, propels a speed limit change through city council in the interests of career salvation. Engineers design roads with efficiency and safety in mind. Do pedestrians have ample time to cross the street, and places in which to do so? Will the road handle the anticipated traffic flow at peak times without exceeding capacity? On and on the considerations go.

If a public roadway is marked 30 mph or 45 mph or 65 mph, it’s because it was engineered and designed to carry vehicles at that speed. Stopping distances and buffer zones between vehicles and between vehicle and curb were considered. Thus, lowering the speed limit on certain roads means the city spent unnecessary money during its construction. It also means motorists are driving on overbuilt roads that, by design, encourage a higher speed. Driving a divided, four-lane non-freeway roadway with long gaps between intersections feels normal at 50-60 mph, but lower the speed to 40 and something feels off. You feel like you’re hardly moving. There’s a divided, four-lane stretch with a curve near my house that carries an 18.6 mph (30 km/h) limit, and absolutely no one abides by it. They do, however, drop their speed somewhat, fearing the Man. Maybe that’s what it’s all about.

A speed camera on that stretch would amount to a shakedown.

While streetscape improvements (speed bumps, bollards, lane reductions, curb bulb-outs) can make a reduced street speed feel more natural, not all cities and towns have the cash to make that happen. Changing a sign is far cheaper.

In the absence of a narrower, more obstacle filled street designed to slow you down in a more organic fashion, do you find a very low limit to be a distraction in itself? Maybe 25 mph is doable, but 18.6 mph? An exceedingly low speed would require this writer to drive along in second gear or the bottom of third, neither of which is ideal for smoothness and consistency of speed. As it doesn’t feel natural, it’s quite possible your eyes might spend more time on your gauge cluster and not on the road ahead.

What’s your take on this matter? How slow are you willing to go?

[Image: RU2 Systems]

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88 Comments on “QOTD: What’s Your Lower Limit?...”


  • avatar

    Please note those in the NMA saw and REALLY LIKED the IIHS study in Boston where limits were lowered from 30 to 25. Their study was another that proved the point about posted limits having no effect on actual speeds.

    The actual mean speeds were reduced from 24.8 to 24.8 for a massive reduction in travel speeds of 0.0 mph. The 85th percentile speeds were reduced from 31.0 to 31.0 for another massive reduction of 0.0 mph. The only thing that really changed was to stop using the correct limit with about 18% above (as close as you can get to the safest 85th percentile limit) and arbitrarily define 47% as above the limit.

  • avatar
    Lie2me

    Like you said it depends on the road. I live in a small rural town with a default speed limit of 25mph, which is fine intown on narrow busy streets, but they’re building shopping centers and business parks just outside of town on broad 4-lane boulevards where the same 25mph feels ridiculous and is obeyed by absolutely no one. It should be 35mph, but no one seems motivated to actually change the limits

  • avatar
    Mike Beranek

    I’m a big speeder on the highway and I hardly speed at all on urban streets. The way I see it, I’m not on the city street long enough to make a significant time savings. When you increase a rate to get a job done faster, the biggest factor is the duration of the rate increase, not the size of the increase. So on a highway, 10 or 15 over for 30-90 minutes nets you some good time savings. Doing the same thing on a city street for 5 minutes only nets you a few dozen seconds. Speeding in a 35 or less zone is high risk and low reward, unless you do it for miles and miles on end.

    • 0 avatar
      Fordson

      A wise view of the situation. Makes sense.

    • 0 avatar
      carguy67

      Well said, Mike. Please talk to the asshats that routinely do 50-60 MPH on my street–limit is 25–because it saves them having to go through a couple stoplights (costing them, maybe, 30 seconds).

      Note: It’s best to mind those limit signs in the desert. Could be a serious dip, bump, patch of really bad road or even a washout.

    • 0 avatar
      JimC2

      Count me in too. Puttering in a neighborhood where little kids can ride bikes or play ball in the street, there’s no time savings in the short trip to the main road and it’s not legislation that makes me act and drive with courtesy.

      Get out on the main roads and highways with good pavement and sight lines, courtesy = go fast or keep right. There are thousands of people on that road who would like to get to their destination efficiently.

  • avatar
    JohnTaurus

    When I went to Pine Bluff, Arkansas to work (and I’ll be heading back there next week), there are stretches well before you get there that feel as though the speed limit is artificially low. A divided highway, not congested, no schools, no foot traffic to speak of, yet it periodically drops to like 35 MPH in spots. I get the feeling that it used to be 45 or 50, but at some point, it was dropped. I was told by other guys who have driven that route before that you’d better watch your speed due to numerous speed traps.

    The only answer to this question is that we must abide by the law or risk a ticket, even if that law is stupid, or the reason behind it is clearly not what was intended or prudent. We can’t “push back” unless we want tickets and higher insurance and the possibility of losing our license (or even jail time).

    So, I’m afraid I dont get this question. It’s like asking how hot will you let it get this summer before you start pushing back? There isnt a whole lot of good that will come from “pushing back”. You just gotta deal with it. Go inside and turn on the A/C, or drive the speed limit (or reasonably close to it).

    Maybe a better QOTD would be how much do you generally speed, if at all? 5 MPH? 10? Etc.

    • 0 avatar
      MiataReallyIsTheAnswer

      Agreed. And I run 75-80 on clear highway generally, regardless if posted 65 or 70. And have never felt unsafe doing so, remember cars are far more capable now than (a) when the highways were built and (b) when the limits were set.

    • 0 avatar
      Fordson

      He wants to know how willing you are to grab your pitchfork and take to the barricades. This is actually an interesting subject for serious discussion – but here it’s been made into conservative SJW fodder/clickbait.

    • 0 avatar
      TMA1

      I hused to have the same issue driving from Canton to Columbus on Rt. 30. Frequent drops of 20 or more on wide open highways, all to set up speed traps. I just started taking the longer route over the interstate after I received a ticket. Longer distance, same time given the higher speeds.

      Too bad for all those small businesses and gas stations along the old route, but at least the municipality got its share.

      • 0 avatar
        Vulpine

        As I recall, such speed traps are illegal in Arkansas, at least to the extent that they can post ridiculous fines. The law came down shortly after a lawyer and a judge were both caught by deceptively placed speed limit signs. The law basically prohibits town, county and I believe even state agencies to use ticket fines to boost their revenue more than 50% over state, county or town tax allocations. Of course, that was something like 20-30 years ago but I doubt it has been revoked.

      • 0 avatar
        jalop1991

        @TMA1: I have a story about a fresh-faced kid cop in Wooster and 25 minutes of my life I’ll never get back as he did everything he could to get me for drunk driving.

  • avatar
    Maymar

    I think an important question that first needs to be answered by most is “how quick do you want the speed limit to be at your front door?” Because, at what point do we have to start prioritizing the people who live in a certain place over the people just passing through?

    I live in one of the car-ortiented suburbs of my large city, near the intersection of three major roads, which currently flow into each other with a series of overpasses and cloverleafs. It’s great for traffic efficiency, but it’s awful to walk through (not that I have much choice, because it separates me from the nearest plaza, and it’s kind of stupid for an able-bodied person to drive a kilometre). They’re in the process of redeveloping it, getting rid of the overpass and reconfiguring the junction. It’s going to slow traffic, but it’ll be nicer to live near.

    All a long winded way of saying I’m fine with driving slower as long as it means I don’t have to drive exceptionally far, and they do more than just lower the speed limit.

  • avatar
    apl

    Possibly even worse, the improper use of stop signs to control speed or traffic calming instead of the proper devices. This practice will not attain the intended goal, but actually creates more hazards by motorists treating all stop signs as if they were posted to control speed or calm traffic. Motorists are not fully stopping or coasting through the intersection believing “it is just another one of those stop signs”. Most of these misused stop signs have led to the mostly needless ALL STOP intersections seen across many states at intersections that have no dangerous blind spot or history of numerous accidents. Stop signs have been placed in locations with no intersection or reason for its true purpose, or installed before a curve that only requires a warning sign not a stop sign. The MUTCD, issued by the U.S. DOT, explicitly warns against using stop signs for unintended purpose – Controlling speed and traffic calming are two of them.

    • 0 avatar
      JohnTaurus

      Yes, there is a road in a town near me that has unnecessary stop signs. The cross traffic is relatively light (~85% of the times I stop at them, there is no cross traffic), visibility is good, there are sidewalks that are several feet from the road, yet we have four 4-way stops in rapid succession. Speed bumps would have been a far better solution to speeding in the area.

      • 0 avatar
        JimC2

        Speed bumps, maybe, or alternating two-way stops.

        Too bad we can’t get the passionate segments of the green people onboard with the tons of pollution from extra CO2 and brake dust (oh, the brake dust… think of the children!!) from unnecessary stop signs.

    • 0 avatar
      Lie2me

      It could be worse, where I live they are now putting round abouts EVERYWHERE to “calm” traffic, but putting two or three in a row on a rural 55mph 2-lane hwy. is ridiculous. These aren’t busy intersections, but rural farm roads that maybe see a couple of tractors and a pick-up a day

      • 0 avatar
        jatz

        Exact same thing around here. Multiple lane roundabouts given to our senile oldsters and jalopy juveniles alike confirm to me the existence of The Devil.

        • 0 avatar
          Lie2me

          They scare me only because no one has any idea what to do when they approach one, so they end up being one big clusterfuk

          • 0 avatar
            Vulpine

            HEY!! I resemble that remark… That is, until I learned how to maneuver in them. Oh, they can still be confusing (I can’t even imagine trying to drive that 5-in-1 roundabout in Europe (I think in Italy.) The ones we have here in the States are simple and logical by comparison.

          • 0 avatar
            sgeffe

            Yes — I ended up in the inner lane of a two-lane roundabout in Toledo (which like the State of Ohio in general has a pathological obsession with the damned things), and I ended up doing my best Chevy Chase impression as I completed a full four laps of the damned thing before I could get over and exit!

            “There’s Big Ben, kids! Parliament!!”

        • 0 avatar
          nwfmike

          They have this strange half-arsed round-about (2 actually) on the main neighborhood road feeding out to a larger secondary town road. It’s more of a half-chicane (but still has a round center section.

          I end up treating it as a fun chicane that I try to get *just right*.

          • 0 avatar
            Vulpine

            Can you send me a photo of that? It kind of reminds me of one specific road I know that has two chicanes and an oddball intersection (chicane on main road entry and exit, open in the middle for cross-traffic crossing and turn-in.) That whole road is less than a half-mile long.

          • 0 avatar
            Lie2me

            Googles “chicanes”… WTF! Those are worse then round abouts

          • 0 avatar
            -Nate

            For some odd reason my ex wife always got upset whenever I’d enter a roundabout by accelerating to match traffic speed and simultaneously loudly saying ‘BLESSED MOTHER OF ACCELERATION DON’T FAIL ME NOW !’ .

            If you like to drive, roundabouts (“Traffic Circles” in North America”) are handy opportunities to sharpen your skills and maybe have some fun .

            -Nate

      • 0 avatar

        Agreed. In the area I commute through there are newer ones which seem to have no real reason for existing as traffic density at regular commuting times hardly justify their being there.

        • 0 avatar
          Vulpine

          Interesting. The county I’m in has chosen to put them at intersections where they see the most collisions, whether it was 2-way stop, 4-way or traffic light. It takes about a year for the people to get used to the new locations (weird crashes resulting) but after that first year, the crashes almost completely vanish.

  • avatar
    PrincipalDan

    In city/town limits on surface streets I drive the limit (with a small margin of error) – there are one or two places that I just keep up with traffic which is roughly 5 over (those areas are posted 45 and people drive 50.)

    On the interstate and on state highways or lonely country roads I go a bit under 10 over. (Weather and pavement permitting.)

    • 0 avatar
      JohnTaurus

      I’m about the same. There are times and areas where i will exceed 10 MPH over, but usually I keep it to about 5-9 MpH over on (divided) highways and interstate.

  • avatar
    arach

    Honestly? I don’t look at speed limit signs. I go the speed I believe the street is safe.

    that drives my neighbors nuts (I drive 25 in my neighborhood around kids), but it also means I go 50 in a 35 if its a 35 for no reason.

    The problem I have with a lot of these “reduced speed” for safety signs is the mental toll it has and those ramifications. When people think “Screw the gov’t this speed limit is stupid”, then they will speed dangerously and start disregarding the posted speedlimit altogether.

    There’s actually some supporting research that lowering the speed limit is dangerous. Here’s some interesting research:
    http://www.sehinc.com/news/truth-about-speed-limits-explained-engineer

    I think speed bumps are good, but the long ones you can drive over without feeling like your going to die, but the kind if you go slow its no big deal but if you go fast, you feel like you going to die.

    Our neighborhood has inverse speed bumps which are pretty cool. If you go right about 28 MPH, you don’t feel them at all, but the drawback is you feel them faster and slower.

  • avatar
    jatz

    I only drive as fast as the cars behind me force me to. In the absence of criminally dangerous scofflaws, I got no probs with speed limits.

  • avatar
    TDIandThen....

    First, the goal is fewer accidents and fewer hurt people, not a speed limit number per se. I’ll follow whatever the data say on speed limits.

    Second i live in a city and would gladly give up all cars in city centers if mass transit looked European and N American city centers were easy and more walkable.

    Third, the point about needless stop signs going up everywhere is a meaningful one – each stop creates additional participate from fuel, brakes and tire ‘dust’, as well as lowering productivity for all. This has real health impacts.

    All of this would be a massive design change to build more densely, and in North America cheap land is a core development feature – profitability would go down and almost no average American will accept higher prices consciously.

  • avatar
    mikey

    I live in the heart of suburbia …90 percent of my driving is within 10-15 miles from my home. I watch for the posted signs, and go with the flow . 40 KLM’s is less than 25 miles an hour . Most of us here in the burbs keep it at around 50 KLM’s (35 mph). On a side street with kids playing, and moms pushing strollers I adjust down to 15 20 mph…max.

    If the powers to be want to lower the limit ??.. So be it. Good luck trying to enforce it

  • avatar
    dividebytube

    My suburb is 25 mph, even on the main stretches of road. I have no problem with it, and beware to any speeders since I’ve heard stories of the local police pulling people over for going 27mph. Which is silly considering the variance in speedometers.

    Anyways – 25 mph is perfectly fine for this area given the number of schools located right next to the street, the number of pedestrians, bicyclists, and joggers. It just “feels” safer. I do find myself often edging up to 30-32mph, but the car in third gear just “feels” better there, less boggy. The 2.73 gears out back are a real thrill killer.

    I’m certainly not the speeder I used to be – even on the highway I rarely go faster than 75 mph. No rush to get a ticket! And driving a Mustang, which is a bit of a cop magnet, makes me cautious unless I’m on a country road with some free space / low population density around me.

  • avatar
    labelnerd

    As others have alluded to or outright stated already, the principle reason for such artificially low speed limits – even 55 or 65 on a main, straight stretch of freeway or highway with no ingress or egress points – is to create speed traps, under the pretend guise of safety. There are indeed a few instances where very low limits are needed for safety but the VAST majority of these lower limit areas are arbitrary In My Opinion. Yes, I am very jaded when it comes to our driving systems here in the US of A.

    Drive it like you stole it (3 tickets in nearly 40 years and no at-fault accidents by the way).

  • avatar
    jatz

    Isn’t it a great time for horsepower wars? Every woman stylist at my Cost Cutters has a faster vehicle than mine and they all are constantly texting behind the wheel.

    HOW they manage to text with those nails is the Sixth Sorrowful Mystery.

  • avatar
    Vulpine

    Drivers, on average, have a tendency to push the posted speed limits because they know the police will typically ignore anyone going less than 9mph over that posted limit. Of course, in some relatively rare locations where a smaller sign attached says, “Strictly Enforced”, these drivers don’t pay attention and get dinged very quickly. I witnessed this not too long ago as I was in one such community and… Well, let’s say I paid attention at a traffic light and the guy behind me didn’t. I pulled out when the light changed and made my stately way down the highway while the person behind me missed seeing the light change and did a jack-rabbit to catch up to me…. only to be tailed by a county deputy who popped out of a parking lot and hit his lights. (Yes, I saw the police car in the parking lot while I was waiting on the light.)

    But the point is that most people habitually speed. 10mph or less over that limit is still relatively safe in most places (not school zones or hospital zones) but some feel like they can either overtly ignore the limits or are so blind that they don’t even realize when speed limits change and keep going at their old speed.

    Worse, and typically one of the biggest speed traps you’ll ever find is when one speed is posted at the crest of a hill and another, marked at half the speed at the crest, sits at the bottom of the grade. Even more insane is when there are three such signs in a row, for instance marking 60mph at the crest, 40mph at the foot and 25mph maybe 100-150 feet after the second. Now add the “Strictly Enforced” tags to those signs.

    Is it all a game to garner traffic fines? For some, yes. For others, they really are concerned about safety. Interestingly, you can usually tell by the way the signs are positioned as to whether it’s really safety or more likely a speed trap.

    • 0 avatar
      sgeffe

      20mph in Ohio in a school zone is bad enough, but some states have it at 15!!! At that point, the kids’ll walk down the sidewalk almost as fast as the cars!

      • 0 avatar
        Vulpine

        Yup. Which is exactly what those states want. Depending on how close the school building is to the road (and some are quite close,) it’s really a good idea. If you don’t want to slow down for ’em, take a different route.

        I get more upset at people doing 30-45 on a 55+ highway.

  • avatar
    -Nate

    My home state of TAXachussetts strikes again .

    Underneath the freeway overpasses the speed limit was reduced to _15_ MPH, meaning the statie cleverly parked there spent his entire day giving tickets to people in first and second gear….

    I don’t normally agree with the tin foil hat crown but this is lunacy ~ traffic engineers know their jobs, not so much those in City Hall who want to force us to give up our vehicles…..

    -Nate

  • avatar
    turbo_awd

    In our area (Silicon Valley), they keep adding more housing AND turning 2 lane roads into 1 lane roads with a huge bicycle lane. Plus adding stop signs and such. It’s pretty obvious the general attitude of “the man” is that cars are evil and should be discouraged wherever possible. And at the same time, nothing is done to make public transit better or safer or housing more affordable for those who would want to live closer to work..

    Thankfully, I don’t have to go to work every day..

  • avatar
    Arthur Dailey

    I went from 1979 to 2011 without being convicted of any traffic violations.

    However in the late 1980’s I did receive a ‘speeding ticket’ which I was acquitted of.

    Toronto has a large area known as Exhibition Place. Used for the annual fair known as the CNE which takes place during the last few weeks of the summer. For much of the rest of the year, it is, and in the 1980’s was more often than not, unused. Empty streets and buildings.

    I was ticketed for speeding on one of its streets during the ‘off season’, meaning nothing take place on the grounds.

    The posted speed limit was 25 kmh (about 15 mph). There was literally someone on a bicycle who was travelling faster on the same road as me.

  • avatar
    87 Morgan

    I loath artificially low speed limits. No reason for it.

    25 MPH belongs in congested neighborhoods or downtown areas, this makes sense.

    I drive on a rural road to the airport that is outside of town and about 3 miles long and is 35 mph. The county sheriff loves this road and hangs out in one of two places daily. How is this ‘protecting & serving’?

    • 0 avatar
      NeilM

      If you want to talk about artificial speed limits, look no further than the photo at the top of this article. The upcoming righthand turn has an advisory limit (yellow sign in background) of 10 mph. However the speed display trailer in the foreground has an actual 10 mph limit sign mounted right on the trailer. So anyplace they park that trailer suddenly has a new 10 mph legal limit?

      Gee, that sounds like good traffic engineering.

    • 0 avatar
      slavuta

      How hard it to get rid of him?

  • avatar
    Fordson

    Steph Willems – really? The people who are pushing for lower speed limits in cities are really lamenting the existence of the streets that mass transit would run on? Reply – tell me, “yes – that’s what I am claiming.” Go ahead.

  • avatar
    SwiftLegend

    I have seen it that low and lower in school zones in Midwest.
    In Chicagoland I saw freeways with artificially low speeds of like 55mph where you should be doing 75. No change from day/night. Why?

    Would love to know what your father engineer thinks of putting round-abouts where there shouldn’t be any due to only cost considerations and then where a round-about should go in small city it does not; even though traffic changed considerably due to local council approving business in area without a single thought to traffic at all.

    • 0 avatar
      jack4x

      The 55 mph speed limits on Chicago express/tollways are laughed at. It is typical to see 80 mph traffic not even hit the brakes for a cop in the median, and for the cop not to budge for anyone doing under 100.

      • 0 avatar
        sgeffe

        A couple years ago, on a Sunday evening in September, with the ACC in my Accord set to 77, my Dad was getting passed right and left on the inbound 80, and that’s before the rice rockets and a GTI went flying by at a buck-twenty!

  • avatar
    EGSE

    Is this trend about public safety? Maybe in a few instances…..maybe.

    But more and more it appears to be an effort to “monetize” our necessity to get around, i.e., regarding the motorist as a revenue stream to be harvested instead of citizens who should be served by the local governments. It’s an insidious way to tax a portion of the populace and, when questioned on the issue, elected officials sneeringly act as if the complainers are the new criminal class.

    Painting those who push back as a default guilty group is an attempt to set them up as antisocial, and the real intent of said local officials is to insulate themselves from scrutiny, all the while engaging in pious holier-than thou virtue-signaling while lying about their true motives.

  • avatar
    slavuta

    As far as I am concern, slower you drive – more fuel is burned. Keep limits high but… Fine heavy:

    1 – pedestrians that appear on the road outside legal crosswalk
    2 – cyclists who rides through red lights with no shame
    3 – cyclists who rides over crosswalks instead of walking their bikes
    4 – cars that don’t stop for crosswalks (in Boston this is already heavy fine)

    • 0 avatar
      EGSE

      Issue (4) needs to be revisited. Even the police in Washington D.C. assume you’re going to grant them the right-of-way when crossing the street and I’ve seen walkers yelled at when they don’t.

      The laws of physics makes clear it is easier for a 200 lb pedestrian traveling at 3 mph to avoid vehicular conflict than a 4000 lb motor vehicle doing 25 or more. The present laws have emboldened pedestrians to step out into moving traffic without looking or considering how they would fare if they were hit. I was an EMT for several years and saw how fragile the human body is in a high-energy collision (which is virtually any collision with a motor vehicle). Looking both ways and appreciating their mortality would be a good habit for the pedestrian to re-adopt.

      • 0 avatar
        Middle-Aged (Ex-Miata) Man

        Much of what EGSE said can also be applied to bicyclists, as it’s beyond foolish for someone riding a spindly contraption – with nothing but a helmet for protection, and largely incapable of maintaining posted speed limits – to expose themselves to such tremendous potential for grievous injury by mixing it up with cars and trucks.

        The laws of man offer precious little protection against the immutable laws of physics.

  • avatar
    DEVILLE88

    Speed limits should be 25mph around schools only, 35 everywhere else and 75mph on highways!

    • 0 avatar
      Middle-Aged (Ex-Miata) Man

      Twenty-five (or even lower) around elementary schools, absolutely. However, my inner Darwinist feels it’s ridiculous to have such artificially low speed limits around high schools. If they haven’t learned not to play in the street by then…

      • 0 avatar
        JimC2

        I agree about no speed zones around high schools! The seniors are old enough to vote, they’re old enough to take personal responsibility for the consequences of jaywalking.

        One problem with speed zones around schools is when a nincompoop was in charge of the planning and the school opens up to a 45-55mph road instead of a back street. But that’s a planning problem, not a problem inherent with school speed zones.

        I have been behind a driver who suddenly slowed to 25mph in a school zone… at 10 o’clock on a Sunday night. The “Monday-Friday 7am-9am and 2pm-4pm” part of the sign was too much for his pea brain to comprehend, I think. This was in a hick town with a very shallow gene pool, but I suspect the mornings & afternoons on weekdays thing was in effect when that driver dropped out of fourth grade to marry his cousin, so I don’t know why he arbitrarily slammed on his brakes for it on a Sunday night… sigh. Yes, I have issues with slow drivers.

        • 0 avatar
          sgeffe

          Thank you, thank you!

          The feeder road outside my subdivision is posted 25, with 20 as the school zone limit (middle school on the street).

          The street is one lane each way, with a center turn lane. Wide lanes, good sight lines. Enforcement is erratic — there’s only a couple places they like to sit, and they can be seen relatively easily.

          Unlike when going down a street in a typical subdivision, on the aforementioned feeder road, at 25, I can barely feel anything happening with the car. Thirty is reasonable, and I will set my ACC to 33mph. At that pace, I can actually feel SOMETHING happening under the wheels. It’s the visual cues that make it feel like I could push the car faster than some people will drive!

          The trouble is that my town seems to be home to a larger-than-usual percentage of one of two types of drivers, both types of which I abhor:
          1. “Sheep,” who would probably pull their car over on the side of a bridge, and leap over the side to their deaths, if the sign said “Jump Off This Bridge.”
          2. The “busybodies,” who feel it is their mission in life to be the “morality police” for others. Unless you have a gun and a badge, or some connection to an Almighty, it’s not your job to enforce traffic rules.

          Again, perfect sight lines with wide lanes. (I’ve nailed the brakes and ABSed to a stop for a ball rolling across the street from 32mph so quickly it startled a couple walking on the adjacent sidewalk, and which would have probably thrown an unbelted passenger in my car into the dash (and with a good amount of space left were one of the kids playing had darted out)! I’ve also been passed by kids on bicycles on the other sidewalk while trundling along behind someone at the numbers and going that direction.) And it’s not enough; there’s been talk from time to time of LOWERING the limit further on that street, which, thankfully hasn’t gained traction, but if it did, I’d just get out and push! And during school, even when there aren’t kids around, I’m always behind the one person fitting one or both of the two descriptions above, doing 20! At that point, I literally have to downshift my slushbox, although I think if I go long enough at that glacial pace, it ends up in second, if not first! (I will never own another car without adaptive cruise, and with as often as I get caught behind someone doing 20 in the school zone, I am looking forward to getting my next Accord which will have full-stop capability! My current car deactivates ACC if the car preceding me drops below 22mph, so again, school zones are frustrating!)

          The thing that really strips my gears is that a half-mile away from this street is a similar street with bike lanes and two very wide lanes — and it’s posted 35!

          I don’t do 90 in a school zone, or anything like that — 33 in a 25, five over in 35-55, seven over on the freeway, and 80mph if I’m on a road trip between cities, and it’s posted 70 or higher. Unlike Ohio, Michigan, by law, sets all speed limits to the 85th percentile speed, so driving up there is a pleasure! (I was up on a stretch of highway posted at what I thought was 65, and set the ACC to my usual 73. Imagine my shock when I saw it was 70! And I wasn’t pacing anybody, my doors weren’t being blown off, and I wasn’t doing likewise!) Set the limits at what most reasonable people will drive, and they’ll drive it! Set them too low, and road angst ensues!

    • 0 avatar
      carguy67

      OK, but no one has asked the most vexing question of all: when are ‘Children Present’

      – when they are crossing or near the street?
      – when they are on the (fenced in) playground?
      – when they’re not near the street and not on the playground, but you can see one child somewhere?
      – when there are children in the world?

      I honestly don’t know, and I’m not sure cops and judges do either (but you’ll get the short end of the stick). It seems like a stroke of genius when there is a light and a sign that reads: ‘Speed limit 25MPH when LIGHT IS FLASHING.’

  • avatar
    Middle-Aged (Ex-Miata) Man

    I regularly drive through an ‘urban village’ with posted speed limits of 30-35 mph, which generally make sense and I have no issue abiding by. What irks me are those who insist on doing between 5-10 mph under those limits, presumably in a show of defiance against “outsiders” from the surrounding cities using “their” roads.

  • avatar
    7402

    As a frequent pedestrian as well as long-time driving enthusiast, I see both sides of this issue. 25mph is a good limit in urban areas and most suburban neighborhoods. In DC, where I live, walk, and drive, it is literally unsafe to go over 25 (the default limit unless otherwise posted) on most streets given all the pedestrians, cyclists, scooters, etc. — never mind the clueless tourists who are texting and taking photos while riding shared bikes. I don’t defend any of these people when they ignore laws, but their presence is real and drivers have to deal with it–to me it’s not even a question of legality or “rights” or anything other than logistical reality. My rule in urban/suburban environments is to never to exceed the posted limit by more than 10%.

    On open, divided highways like Interstates I try not to exceed 19 over the limit out in the wide open spaces during daylight in good weather on routes I know (this assumes an alert spotter, which is how we take road trips). I keep it to 9 over in other places, and drive exactly the speed limit in “safety corridors” and other posted zones where authorities have signaled their intent.

  • avatar
    Fred

    As a Lotus driver I view these signs as a challenge.

    • 0 avatar
      ToddAtlasF1

      Which Lotus do you drive? About forty years ago, back when Car and Driver was relevant, they tested the ranges at which various cars and trucks could have their speeds determined by X-band radar. IIRC, the Europa and the C3 Corvette were practically invisible to radar.

    • 0 avatar
      NeilM

      @Fred

      I’ve always figured that if you can’t go double a yellow sign’s recommended speed then you’re just not trying.

  • avatar
    volvo

    My take is that many speed limits are too high in urban areas and residential neighborhoods while they are too low on the non urban interstates.

    I read somewhere (long ago) that the US interstate system was engineered in the 50s for a safe speed of 90 mph and that was with the cars built then.

    Large sections of I5 and I80 could easily be posted at 90-100 mph on the flat and 70 mph on the curvy mountain segments but this is probably not wise given the limited experience our driving population has in dealing with rapidly overtaking vehicles. On the autobahn driving 140 KPH it is amazing how fast a BMW or Porsche going all out can come up on you.

    A real feeling for cash generation occurs when one is driving I80 through Nevada with a posted limit of 65-70 mph. Dust colored NSP vehicles with radar and laser are just waiting for you beyond the next rise although it seems you need to be 10+ over to get their attention.

    Oh and by the way. I think the speed limit in front of my suburban house should be 10 mph at most.

    • 0 avatar
      Roader

      Driving east from I-70’s western terminus, the speed limit it 80mph in Utah, 75 in Colorado and Kansas, dropping to 70mph in Missouri. Yes, it drops going through metro areas and twisty mountain passes but it’s otherwise flat and wide open and boring and could easily support 80mph the whole way.

    • 0 avatar
      carguy67

      Beware: the Nevada Highway Patrol will sit just over the border from California on I80 and I15. Seen several of my fellow Californians get trapped.

  • avatar
    APaGttH

    No easy answers.

    On my commute route, I drive one section of road that is posted 25 MPH and really could/should be 40 MPH. It is a total revenue enhancement zone.

    On the other hand, I drive through two congested downtowns on the surface streets. One posted 25 MPH and another posted 30 MPH speed limit. The first one at 25 MPH is quite frankly too fast. The roads are only two lane and littered with marked crosswalks away from intersections, mediocre lighting, and militant idiot pedestrians. 20 MPH in most situations is about as fast as you can safely go.

    The other downtown is 4 to 6 lanes, marked intersections are only at cross streets and all signal controlled. 30 MPH feels just right.

    The Peoples Republic of Seattle dropped the city speed limit to 20 MPH but for the few times I venture into that traffic Hellhole I have found that most streets maintained their 25 MPH limit. Whether that is because the idiots in the city passed a law with no budget to update the signs, or if the 20 MPH limit was really met for the downtown core and trouble spots I don’t know.

    I generally hate the idea of daytime versus nighttime speed limits as it just adds complexity, but in some urban canyons where dark, glare, and rain makes it a true nightmare to see everything, it may not be a bad idea.

    Last thought. Back to Seattle, 20 MPH at 4:30 PM downtown not only makes some sense, it’s damn hard to go faster than 20 MPH. 20 MPH on the same street at 3 AM is ridiculously slow. So many variables.

  • avatar
    JimC2

    A lot of politics comes down to “follow the money” but a lot of bad traffic engineering, or roads that defy good traffic engineering, come down to a local politician’s spouse being afraid of- you name it: afraid of traffic that goes too fast for their liking, afraid of roundabouts (because they freak out behind the wheel during any merging situation), afraid of whatever.

  • avatar
    George B

    I generally drive 8 or 9 mph over the posted speed limit at all times. That results in 49 mph on most suburban streets and 78 to 83 mph on the highway if weather conditions permit. Fast enough that I don’t bother to put a radar detector in the car anymore. However, I’ll slow down on the highway if 20 mph headwinds are killing fuel economy at normal speeds.

    While driving through rural Mississippi on vacation I saw 70 mph normal speed limit, 55 mph school zone speed limit when the light is flashing. They must train the kids to run fast.

  • avatar
    sportyaccordy

    Enforcement is so lax in my corner of the country it has no impact. I’d be way more impacted if they actually enforced the limits already in place.

    I’d much rather push for safety measures that actually work, like roundabouts wherever possible and the like.

    • 0 avatar
      ToddAtlasF1

      Roundabouts are awful, and probably the reason Europeans felt the need to legislate pedestrian friendly front ends on cars. I gave up riding my bicycle after roundabouts made the area I lived in too dangerous. Roundabouts are for people who don’t understand that time is a subset of life. You can’t save life by wasting time, or by having people staring at the curbs their trying to miss while ignoring pedestrians and cyclists.

  • avatar
    thegamper

    I generally go as fast as I can to the point I think a police officer pointing a radar at me would shrug and look past me. Pretty much always less than 10 over the posted limit. On highways, particularly highways with dividing barriers, I will driver faster. In residential areas I never mess around, 25 or slower. The incentive not to hit playing children far outweighs any extra time I might save by speeding.

    • 0 avatar
      APaGttH

      Basically the same.

      I follow X + 10%. Figure once you’re over 10% of the posted speed limit you have put a target on yourself.

      In residential areas, urban corridors, school zones, construction zones, I just follow the limit give or take a MPH or 2 – especially on a two-lane road. As you said the handful of seconds saved doesn’t weigh against hitting someone backing out of a driveway, a child, or someone’s pet.

  • avatar
    Joe K

    It depends. NYC (Manhattan) lowered it to 20mph ad I have no problem with it. They adjusted the timing of the traffic lights to work with the new speed limit.

    We have a town here with a straight 4 lane smooth road that is 30 mph reduced from 40, as a speed trap.

    Another town here has a very wide road that dead ends into a beach community that is 15mph that no one has a problem with.

    Now on some cars can you actually read 10mph with any accuracy on the spedo? Also I had an older car with a cvt that just hated the 30mph limit (at 35 they would ticket you). I had to keep the car in low gear to deal with the low speed.

    • 0 avatar
      Vulpine

      Second gear with a manual would have the vehicle surging back and forth and the engine effectively idling. The only way around it was to go first gear with a few revs.

      • 0 avatar
        sgeffe

        To add to my jeremiad above, the feeder street near my grandmother’s old house is just a little narrower than the street outside my subdivision, which would be posted for 25 in my town, but is posted for 30, which always struck me as “natural.” When following someone at 20 with the transmission in second, touching the gas makes the car buck like a bronco, and letting off the gas goes to max engine braking, while keeping the transmission in Drive has the thing hunting between gears all over!

        As I stated above, I’m not gonna be public enemy #1, but my foot does have an above-average lead content!

      • 0 avatar
        White Shadow

        Depends on the car. Mine had great flexibility and it’s perfectly happy at just about any rpm without having any surging our rubber band effect in the lower gears.

        • 0 avatar
          Vulpine

          Aye. That’s true. My Jeep Wrangler didn’t surge like that, after all. My previous car, while great in so many ways, hated trying to idle down subdivision roads at 15 or so (house hunting and school zones) in second gear. Annoying to me but my wife absolutely hated it. So it was either first gear with a bit of gas, or speed.

  • avatar
    HuskyHawk

    Most speed limits are artificially low, to account for the fact that people will ignore them, but only to a point and that some vehicles are less capable than others.

    That 30 mph marked curve, yes, that’s for 1997 Explorers with underinflated tires or an old Isuzu Trooper. Is it relevant for a modern Camry, let alone a 3 series? No. We can all feel this when we drive.

    I live outside Boston, and while we all ignore the 65MPH on the highway, true urban speed limits are pointless as they are all a function of traffic. Where the limits break-down is the semi-rural roads that are the mainstay of towns like mine. People are going to go 40-45, no matter what the limit is, because that’s what the limit should be. Of course, that doesn’t stop towns like Cumberland RI from slapping 25MPH limits on downhill sections of those roads for the sole purpose of gaining revenue from tickets.

  • avatar
    sgeffe

    In addition to my other thoughts in this section, I’ve opined before that the penchant for “left-lane dawdling” is rampant among the Ohio populace! The “guilty until proven innocent” Ohio Highway Patrol seems to have had a “nine, you’re fine — ten, you’re mine” policy for years.

  • avatar
    mcs

    What this article misses is the fact that the residential streets of Saugus are used to bypass heavy traffic on Route 1 between Boston’s Logan Airport, the Blue Line, Boston’s Downtown, and Boston’s North Shore suburbs. Drivers late for a flight that want to get past the backups whip down narrow twisty roads through residential neighborhoods with the help of Waze. Everyone on the North Shore has their favorite route through Saugus. You can’t blame them for trying to slow things down.

    Route 1 itself is pretty scary when it’s not rush hour. It’s a divided 6 lane road through a business district that has a 50 MPH speed limit. Traffic is doing 65. It gets interesting getting on from a side street or out from a shopping center parking lot.

  • avatar
    -Nate

    Oh, crap ;

    I’m a speeder, I do stop for pedestrians but I like to go fast .

    To – day I was in the commuter lane of the i105 freeway heading West when a black & white Ford Explorer dove into the lane behind me and clamped on my rear bumper so I slowed to maybe 70MPH (limit is 65) and crossed several miles at this speed as all the cars in font of me vanished and the cars in the freeway’s fast lane began to overtake me slowly…..

    Eventually the cop pulled right and slowed down to 65 or so, I was coming up on my exit and so wicked it up to 85 + and as soon as I left the commuter lane he pulled in behind me again and followed me to my exit before peeling off at the last moment ~ I wonder what the hell he was trying to do ? .

    I dislike hindering traffic at any time but cops on my bumper make me drive as close to the limit as I feel is prudent .

    I don’t have any beef when I get a ticket because I know I’ve skated so much for so long .

    It’s been years since I got tagged .

    I too with they’d concentrate more on the left lane bandits .

    -Nate

  • avatar
    schmitt trigger

    The only place I have dutifully obeyed the speed limit, even though it some instances drops to 5 MPH, is county route 340 in far northwestern Maui.

  • avatar
    pwrwrench

    As others have mentioned it is clear that many do not understand the physics of time and distance. In the area that I live the limit is 25 because there are children playing, bicyclists, horses, dogs, lots of driveways and things that restrict vision like trees, fences, and curves. The houses that are farthest away, from where the speed limit changes from 45 to 25, are about 1/2 mile. Yet there are many who drive at 40-45 so they can get home what? 30 secs quicker.
    Every other year the Sheriff or Highway Patrol put one of those speed trailers, in the photo at the top of the page, on the road about 1/8 mile past the 25 sign. I would frequently see someone driving in front of me get the “Your Speed” 40 (+).
    Even on a trip of 30 miles going 70-75 vs 65 will be only a few minutes faster.

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