A coworker got a warning this morning for doing 16 MPH over a 60 MPH speed limit. He was driving on the Dallas North Tollway at around 6:50 AM when this happened.
If the North Texas Tollway Authority bothered to follow commonly accepted speed zoning procedures, or even follow state law, then the speed limit would undoubtedly be the state legal maximum, 10 MPH higher than currently posted.
However, the state cannot create laws of science. Had the state not enacted an arbitrary speed limit cap, informal observations strongly suggest that the correct speed limit could easily be 75 MPH, perhaps higher. In that case my hapless coworker would have been going a screaming 1 MPH over the limit.
I finally found a picture of the Kansas Turnpike’s 80 MPH speed limit signs:
(This image is on http://www.route56.com/highways/photobrowse.cgi?photo=KTA1. The image is from page 31 of the Kansas Turnpike Authority’s Fifth Annual Report (1957), so any copyright is probably owned by the state.)
The Kansas Turnpike’s former 80 MPH speed limit is the highest numeric speed limit ever been posted on a U.S. road. The second highest numeric speed limit is the 75 MPH limit currently used in many midwest and western states.
Before the federal government’s 1973 arbitrary 55 MPH speed limit cap, Nevada and Montana had no numeric speed limit. After the 1995 repeal of arbitrary federal speed limit caps, Montana reverted to its non-numeric daytime limit until May 1999 when a legislated 75 MPH went into effect.
Kansas currently allows speed limits up to 70 MPH, but its legislature is trying to allow 75 to be posted on certain highways.
Until 1973, speed limits gradually rose to keep pace with roadway and vehicular technology improvements. Even though vehicles and roads are now profoundly more safe than 1973, most current speed limits are lower than 1973 limits due to arbitrary and capricious speed policies. The sad truth is that insurance corporations, the hysterical buffoons they fund (e.g., Joan Claybrook, IIHS, Ralph Nader), and inane politics have far more influence on speed limit policy than sound traffic engineering principles.
In 2002, US motorists drove 2,856,000,000 miles. There were 42,815 traffic-related fatalities. 87% of these fatalities were drivers or passengers.
Based on these numbers, you will die in a traffic fatality after you travel 150,000,000 miles.
Suppose you drive 20,000 miles a year. That is probably a lot more than the average driver. At that rate you would have to live 7,500 years before you will die in a crash. Factor in the above 87% statistic, and your life span expands to 8,620 years of above average travel before you will die in a traffic crash.
Pete Donohue doesn’t get it. He compares the fatality rate per hundred thousand residents to find that NYC has the fewest traffic deaths of big cities. But consider the last sentence: “New York is the only place in the U.S. where more than half the households do not own a car.” What does low car ownership rates mean? Maybe fewer traffic fatalities? Wow, amazing leap of logic here!
A better comparison would be fatalities per hundred million miles traveled, a more widely recognized standard.
An even better stat would be fatal crashes per hundred million miles traveled. That statistic gets around the skew effect of when large capacity vehicles crash. For example, suppose on the same day road x has a passenger car fatal wreck where one person dies, and road y has a 15 passenger van wreck, causing 10 deaths. Is road x less safe than road y? Probably not. Road y was unlucky enough to have a 15 passenger van crash. Agenda pushers abuse this kind of skew to support needlessly harsh traffic laws.