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The Hypocrisy of the Speed Limit
The following was a paper I wrote for English Class.
I got a 91/100. Since this paper, the national speed limit was repealed.
January, 17, 1994.
The Speed limit involves a gruesomely cynical quest for bucks from the motoring public. Sadly, all members of the claque of anti-speeders wrap themselves in the flag, claiming to serve as protectors of the public who root out sociopathic speeders in their midst. The lot of them-the cops, the safety gang, the lawyers, the insurance moguls, the gadget-builders-are in the game for one thing: pure old hard-dollar profit.” (Car & Driver, Jully, 1992. P.16)
The national speed limit is a tool based on unjust reasons used by the Government to benefit themselves and others.The Government originally invented the national speed limit to save fuel, but it was never proven to save fuel nationally. The speed limit has not been proven to save lives but we are led to believe it does. The speed limit has not been determined to be the safest speed. The Government wants us to speed and bring them and others money.
In 1974, under the Emergency Conservation Act of 1974, the Department of Transportation set the national speed limit during the energy crisis to save fuel. “Quick studies were done to figure energy saving potential of speeds of 40, 50, 55, and 50 mile an hour. Going for the middle of the range, the original proposal called for 50 mph” (Pisarski 15), but the speed of 55 mph was eventually decided on.
But 55 mph was never proven to cause a decrease in the use of fuel nationally, but even if it did, fuel does not need to be conserved.
The Department of Transportation originally estimated the potential fuel savings from this law at about 200,000 barrels of oil per day. Subsequent studies on the energy-saving effects of 55 have been inconclusive, largely because it is difficult to seperate out other causes of reduced gasoline usage, such as reduced travel and a shift to smaller, better-milage cars.” (Pisarski 15)
But this does not matter since the gas shortage is over and gas is abundant and gas prices seem to be dropping.
Regardless of the fact that the speed limit has not been proved to saved fuel nationally, the Government and others still claim that it does. The National Safety Council said in a 1984 study “that a higher limit would burn up 167,000 more barrels of oil daily.” (U.S News & World Report, October 6, 1986, p.18) Even some 55 mph road signs say “Conserve fuel.”
When the gas shortage was over, the Government changed from saying the speed limit saves fuel and kept the 55 mph speed limit by claiming it saved lives. That speed limit was never proven to be the specific cause of the reduction of fatalities. “In the early days of the law, highway fatalities did decline, though it’s hard to tell just how much of the reduction can be attributed to the new speed limit.” (Pisarski 15) This is because the death rate has steadily declined for over 50 yeras. The rate of deaths on the highway has dropped from “4.1 per 100 million miles traveled in 1973, to 1.8 this year” (Car & Driuver, April, 1993. p.21), a record low. Yet the average speed people travel continues to rise.
Even though the speed limit has not been proven to save lives, there is a belief that the national speed limit does save lives. When a person is pulled over for exceeding the speed limit, it is said they are being a hazardous driver by the Government and some citizens. There are those people that probably everyone has seen who drive exactly the speedn limit. They insist on driving exactly the speed limit even when everyone around them is traveling 15 to 20 mile faster than them. They probably believe they are doing their part by being a safe driver and that they are saving lives.
People believe this because they are led to. In the United States, it is thought by many, that the speed limits are associated with safety. Why do people believe the speed limit is there for their safety? Because it is the law. The speed limit is a law, so it must exist because it helps people. The speed limit must be there for safety reasons.
The Government and safety organizations “(and their primary sponsors, the trial lawyers and insurance industry)” (Car & Driver, Jully, 1992. P.16) help spread this belief. One thing supporters of the 55 mph speed limit claim is that the highway slowdown to 55mph “has saved as many as 4,00 lives a year since it took effect in 1974.” (Maclean’s 66) The Government and safety organizations use unproven statistics like these and other methods like safety programs to help persuade the public to believe the national speed limit exists for safety reasons.
The speed limit does not exist for safety reasons. Today, on some roads, the speed limit is 65. If a car hit another car there would be more damage at 65 mph than at 35 mph. If everyone drove 10 mph there would be much less fatalities. So clearly 65 or 55 is not the safest speed. But everyone would not enjoy traveling so slow and large amounts of time would be wasted driving. So there must be an ideal speed that reduces the amount of deaths while providing smooth efficient travel (Pisarski 15) The national speed limit was never determined to be that ideal speed.
If 55 mph pulled out of a hat in 1974, is the correct speed, it would be a miracle. Perhaps the optimal speed is 63.5 or 47 or even 75. But the transportation bureaucrats don’t know and never have tried to find out what that point is. Such a calcuation would be exceedingly difficult, as well as very expensive. (Pisarski 15,16)
If the speed limit is not the optimal speed, doesn’t exist to save lives or fuel nationally it must exist because the majority of Americians accept it and obey it. But this is not true. The majority of Americans violate the speed limit. Prevention Magazine conducted a survey in 1992 and just 48 percent of responders said they obey the speed limits. (Car & Driver, Sept, 1993, p.25) Newsweek said in 1986:
In California, 47 percent of the drivers favor keeping the (55) limit. But support drops dramtically if it is stipulated that tickets would be given for speeds below 62 mph, and 74 percent admit to speeding occasionally. By actual measurement, 75 percent of vehicles on monitored stretches of rural interstate highways were exceeding the speed limit last year.” (1985)(Newsweek 15)
“In June, 1996, A gallup Poll found 66 percent of Americans support the 55 limit while other surveys indicate as many as 85 percent of motorists regularly violate the law.” (U.S. News & World Report 8) Senator Steven Symms (R-Idaho) once said in the 80’s “no law in this country causes more cynicism.” (U.S. News & World Report 8)
Since the speed limit is kept even though the majority of people violate the law and it does not do the things the government and others claim, then the speed limit must benefit someone. The speed limit benefits the Government and business. Because the speed limit benefits them, they do not want it to be raised. The Government and businesses would probably lower the speed limit back to 55 or lower if they could because they know the lower the speed limit, the more people speed.
If the Federal State and Local Governments really wanted everyone to obey the speed limit, vehicles sold in this country would be legally required to have a governor that would limit speed to 65 mph and tampering with one would be a federal offense.” (Eagan 5)
The real reason the Government and businesses support the national speed limit is because it generates revenue. James Eagan was a New York Cop for 20 years. Through his experience and being on the inside, he has printed the Government’s view of the speed limit and why it exists in these words:
The only logicial conclusion that can be drawn is that the members of the hierarchy do not want you to slow down but, despite their public service announcements to the contrary, they want you to speed so you can get a ticket. Lastly, the reason for this preference is obvious. Speeding tickets are big business. They permit and justify the employment of an army of civil servants including police, their supervisors, court clerks, accountants, judges,.. and more. At the same time, tickets provide the necessary revenue to pay all those gainfully employed voters. If the volume of issued tickets begins to drop, the whole system begins to crumble like a city in an earthquake.. If everyone stopped speeding tomorrow, our taxes would skyrocket and massive unemployment would begin. If our elected officials were honest they would tell you that you owe it to your country to speed.” (Eagan 5,6).
So the speed limit does not save fuel nationally, it has not been proven to save lives, and does not exist for our safety. The speed limit does exist just to provide revenue to the Government and business.
“Arkansas Savior.” Car & Driver Apr, 1993: 21.
Eagan, James M. A speeder’s Guide to Avoiding Tickets. New York: Avon Books, 1990: 5-6.
“For your infomation.” Car & Driver. Sept, 1992: 25.
“Is the AAA on our side again?” Car & Driver. May, 1993: 25.
“Passing up the ‘double nickel’.” U.S. News & World Report. 6 Oct, 1986: 8.
Pisarski, Alan E. “Deep-six 55.” Consumer Reasearch Magazine Dec 1986: 15-18.
“Pusing the Speed limit.” Maclean’s Oct, 1986: 66.
“Senate Bill aims to put brakes on high-risk drivers.” Congressional Quarterly Weekly Report 5 June, 1993: 1417.
If speeding were wrong then why do they keep changing speed limits on the same road? On one road the speed limit was 50, then 45, then 35, then finally 25. What are they smoking? Could you now say it was wrong to go over 25 when it was 50 before? I don’t think so.
What about states like Montana? They had no speed limit for a while. What’s different there than say here in California? They have governments there that aren’t out to steal all our money by speeding tickets.
What about the fact that speed limits used to be upwards of 85 mph but today we’re driving around in safer cars with crash bodies, air bags, seat belts, and more at speeds of only 65 mph. Doesn’t make sense? You’re right.
The speed limit people have nothing to stand on. They are just after our money. So break the law and get away with whatever you can as long as it’s safe in your opinion to do so.