The Finch Formerly Known As Gold

8 December 2005

Double-nickel: still dead

Better transportation is faster, safer and cheaper.

Ten years ago today, we took a step toward the first two of those goals by repealing the national 55-mph speed limit inflicted upon us in the 1970s. For more than two decades this example of government meddling at its most fatuous stifled traffic, ostensibly in the name of saving fuel as a result of OPEC's oil embargo; when the embargo was lifted, the speed limit remained, justified this time as a safety measure. And the government was serious: they even mandated that speedometers in motor vehicles give special prominence to 55, and that no readings over 85 mph be permitted. (Which, of course, in yet another example of the inexorable Law of Unintended Consequences, led to a lot of people speeding over 85 just to see what would happen.)

Ten years after repeal, traffic is moving faster, to the extent that higher traffic levels permit it to move faster, and the death rate continues to decline. It's arguable whether we're saving any money with the higher limits — time is worth something, I contend — but as Loaf's Law says, two out of three ain't bad.

Posted at 1:36 PM to Driver's Seat

TrackBack: 8:06 PM, 8 December 2005
» Zoom zoom. from The Gleeson Bloglomerate
Yesterday we had to note a grim and infamous anniversary. Today, we are glad to note a happy one. Because it was on this day ten years ago that the amazingly stupid nationwide 55 mph speed limit was repealed. ......[read more]

It may be counterintuitive to some folks but one of the main factors involved in the higher speed limit-lower accident death rate phenomenon is the closing of the "speed variance" gap because passing cars and merging back into the traffic flow has a more uniform speed constant than the low/high range extremes. Mind you this speed variance is more at play on the interstates where the majority of accidents are derived from speed variance assymetry but removing artificially low threshhold limits dramatically narrows this "variance" into a more predicatable and safer range.

... Adding to the mix is more sophisticated and better safety equipment and NHTSA (National Highway Traffic Safety Administration)mandated standards for highway and vehicle safety designs ... and it's no wonder the death rate continues to decline.

Posted by: Ron at 2:27 PM on 8 December 2005

What bugged me about it, apart from the fact that it was so freaking slow, was its blithe assumption that one shouldn't go any faster on, say, I-90 through Montana than on the Cross-Bronx Expressway. And there's always the Federal Blackmail component — you will comply, or you will get no funding — which usually accompanies measures for which there is scant or no Constitutional justification.

Posted by: CGHill at 2:58 PM on 8 December 2005

I have old folks so I liked it when it was 55 mph. I thought when we raised the speed limit here to 65 mph that it would still be 55 mph at night. Maybe Frank Keating never got around to putting up the signs.

Posted by: ceres at 5:49 PM on 8 December 2005

Once the New York Times ran a story on Meatloaf, referring to him repeatedly as "Mr. Loaf". So robust was the tittering that their stuffed-shirt Style Book was immediately amended.

Posted by: Mr. Snitch! at 7:24 PM on 8 December 2005

Even if I knew him well, I don't think I could address him as "Meat"; it just doesn't sound right. "How ya doing, Meat?"

So Mr Loaf it is.

Posted by: CGHill at 7:50 PM on 8 December 2005

With your affinity for snatching post titles from 60's song lyrics, I am surprise you didn't title this post "The cars keep a-goin' faster all the time." Did you already use that one?

Posted by: Sean Gleeson at 8:09 PM on 8 December 2005

Well, no, but I was saving "Teenybopper is our newborn king" for something else, and I hate to use more than one from a song unless it's a really good song, which "The Beat Goes On" isn't.

Posted by: CGHill at 9:33 PM on 8 December 2005