Friday, June 8, 2012

Slowing them down

In the news today I see that Texas has increased the speed limit on Highway 130 between Austin and San Antonio to 85 mph. Critics say it will cost lives, cynics like me doubt it will slow them down to 85.


  1. many country roads here have been reduced to 50 instead of 60, and there is talk of motorways being increased from 70 to 80. Makes no difference in fog, people slow down in country roads and don't slow down on motorways!

  2. I like how the night-time limit is on a black background, so it will be easier to see in the dark...
    A while ago, I had to attend a "Speed Awareness Course", as a result of passing a speed camera at a little above the posted limit, (the option cost more than paying the fine, but left me with a clean licence).
    Before I went, I was pretty negative about it, thought it was bullshit, but my opinion has changed. The course was very worthwhile, it made me think a lot more about road safety, how we drive, perception and reactions. And one thing it made me more aware of is the fact that our reaction times don't improve with age, that the time we have between seeing a hazard and responding can be that which determines if we, or someone else, live or die.
    In theory, and in my younger days, I'd love to see a world of no speed limits, but that, of course, pre-supposes that all of you are as good drivers as I am.
    Ha! Of course, we're none of us as good as we'd like to think we are. We're easily distracted, we drive too close, we mess with the radio, look at the scenery, think about other stuff.
    I know I do. I'm more aware of it now.
    I drive a not particularly fast car, but in my day I've driven a few seriously sporty toys, and some deceptively fast big cars. It's so easy, in a car like that, to drop a gear, floor the pedal, and overtake, race toward the horizon. Great. We see ourselves as invincible racing greats.
    But, many years back, I read racing driver Stirling Moss' autobiography, "All But My Life", in which he describe how people often chided him for not being as fast on the road as they'd expected from his racing prowess. To which complaint, he'd point out that on the road, he always imagined meeting himself coming the other way.

    Sorry. My comment is not at all clear so far, my mind's unfocused.

    Speed of itself does not kill. But collisions that occur at higher speeds are less survivable. Kinetic energy. Mass.

    And human reaction times. At low speeds, most of us will survive. The statistical curve for survivability vs speed is not linear. 85 mph is significantly less survivable than 70.
    When something happens ahead of you at 85, like a blowout of a truck tire, you have little reaction time and few possible strategies. Hit that tire at thirty, you might bend a suspension component, but you'll probably survive. Hit it at 85 and you might go airborne, anybody's guess what happens next.
    Do I drive at 85? Sometimes. but mostly, I'm happy to travel at truck speed, it takes a little (not a lot) longer, but I get to my destination a lot less tense, and a lot more safely.

    1. I did a disservice to Texas by running that old picture since they no longer have a different night speed limit or different truck speed limit on freeways. 85 is only allowed on certain "rural" freeways, but the old black signs should be all gone (on freeways) now, or soon. Texas was the only remaining state to have a special night speed limit, thought it was common in many states not too many years ago.

      The principle Texas and some other states use is that it is always safer when traffic is gong the same relative speed, fast or slow. Dunno. Like other states, Texas also uses the "85th percentile" as a standard for setting speed limits on rural controlled access roads: whatever speed 85% of the cars are traveling anywy becomes the standard for the official speed limit. On that stretch of road Texas is admitting the traffic was driving 85 mph anyway, or 85% were, at any rate. So.

      In my neck of the woods, New Mexico (as well as Arizona) The speed limit for both cars and trucks, day or night, has be 75 mph for many years now. Going 75 will get you passed by many cars and big trucks though, so it must time to bump up the speed limit here. My objection is not the danger but the terrible gas mileage one gets at 85, even with overdrive. And gas costs $3.65 a gallon here in NM right now.

      I lament the demise of the minimum speed limit in many states, including my own.

  3. Texans drive like a bat out of hell anyway... windows rolled down, radio blaring, and two or three dogs hanging out the windows.

  4. $3;65 a gallon!!!!! Iraq paid off!


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