70 mph? Not the safest speed

By Andrew Justus | 3/19/12 12:03am

Unlimited speeds on sections of the German Autobahn may seem like a form of population control to some, but to me high-speed highways really do make sense.

Today, most states have a limit of 70 miles per hour on freeways and turnpikes. A limit that is too slow for today’s cars, which are much safer and more efficient than cars from back in the day. Slow speed limits on major freeways, like I-96 between Detroit and Grand Rapids, encourage motorists to distract themselves with things like texting eating while driving because the act of driving doesn’t demand enough attention from them.

Illinois and Ohio, two states that are run by communists, have strictly enforced 65 mph limits. On the other hand, Texas, a state some say is run by several dozen cowboys who legislate on horseback, has some stretches of highway marked for 80 mph driving and has ongoing studies to determine which areas could permit thundering across the desert at 85 mph.

Common wisdom says driving fast is unsafe and will lead to certain death on freeways everywhere. At the same time, Germany’s Autobahn network has a traffic fatality rate that is 15 percent lower than in the U.S. when measured by vehicle miles traveled, according to the World Health Organization. If one were really concerned with safety, one wouldn’t be driving at all. Driving in a car, no matter the speed limit, is the most dangerous way to move around, more deadly than buses, trains or airlines.

Proponents of strict speed limits point to fuel economy and emissions reductions when cars drive slower. The oil crisis in 1974 led to a national 55 mph speed limit on all highways purely as a way to save gas at a time when most cars got 15 miles per gallon on the highway. Even though driving fast uses more gas than driving slowly, modern cars get better gas mileage than anyone thought possible back in the 70’s.

The argument comes down to how much faith do we put in the hands of the motoring public. Do we respect the judgment of motorists not to endanger themselves while at the wheel? Do we trust people to be reasonable and prudent when road conditions are adverse? I say yes, why punish a driver who is in complete control of his or her vehicle simply because their car is being driven faster than “the man” thinks it should. assistantnews@lanthorn.com

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