Speed Limits

Speed Limits

If someone had to guess what the most commonly broken law in America is, they would probably know right away because they do it every day. Speed limits- everyone has broken them from time to time, if not every time they get in the car. This makes America a country full of law- breaking citizens. For the average American to not break these laws every day, speed limits should be raised by five to ten miles per hour in most places.

Speed is deadly in accidents. Basic physics says that the force of the impact is directly proportional to the speed squared. That means that if the speed is doubled, then the force of impact is quadrupled. More impact leads to more devastating crashes when they occur, but what if we were able to reduce the amount of accidents to counteract this increased impact?

The common saying “speed kills” points out the above fact, but is it really speed that kills? Speed alone doesn't kill, and this is shown by our decreasing death rates on interstates even though speeds are increasing (“Speed Limits”). Speed doesn't kill, and it is commonly mixed up with reckless driving, which does kill (Peters). Tailgating, quick changing of lanes without a blinker, aggressive driving, and distracted driving are all examples of reckless driving. These are the things that can really lead to an accident. One way to cut down on the aggressive drivers on our road is to not aggravate them. They get angry at the cars that they are stuck behind because they are the few drivers that are solely following the law. Traffic can only go as fast as its slowest member when it is busy, and this angers drivers that want to get to where they are going faster. Angry drivers are more prone to making poor decisions as listed above. Raising the speed limit will unify the two types of drivers: the majority that speed anyway and those that just want to follow the law. The average speed will be more constant, which will make less passing, less lane-changing, and less angry drivers, all of which are leading causes of accidents (“Speed Limits”).

Some studies have come up with results pointing that raised speed limits will cause more crashes (Durbin). They say drivers will just raise their speeds to five to ten over the new limits again (Hampson). There are a few potential problems with these studies.

Many studies on this topic have ended up with inconclusive results of a connection between raised speed limits and raised crashes (“Speed Limits”). They point to the fact that deaths in accidents per million drivers is the lowest it has ever been, even though speed limits have been raising ever since the federal government released the 55 mph “double nickel” speed limit requirement (Worsnop). Now individual states set their own speed limits, many of which have raised it significant amounts already. Another example of this is speed limits in Europe. They are much higher yet they don't have any more traffic deaths than we do. The German Autobahn, most of which has no speed limit at all, is the prime case for raised speed limits (Landler). Cars constantly race along at speeds well over 100 mph in their sports cars, and the road isn't particularly dangerous. If they can be unrestricted on the roads, why can't we here in America, the supposed land of freedom?

Some argue that driving slower is better for our wallets. The maximum efficiency of gas for a car is around 60 mph. Gas mileage declines by as much as 10% for each 5 mph after that (“Tips to Improve…”). This could save the average worker more than $1000 per year. The question that remains- is that money worth it to the average American?

The answer to that question is no, and here is why. The average American makes about $25 per hour worked, and if you average that out through the whole day, the average worker earns $7 per hour that they live. Driving 5 mph over the speed limit will only cost an extra $4 for every hour that they saved for driving faster (“Tips to Improve…”). So if the average person's time is worth $7 per hour, why would they waste an hour and save only $4? Time is money to people, and time with people's families could be worth even more money than the $7 per hour. Telling people to slow down to save gas is the same as telling them to waste time that is worth much more, and this will never be able to make the average person slow down.

The most common theory against raised speed limits has been that people will still ignore speed limits and drive even faster over them (Hampson). Speed Limits would have to eliminate the “cushion” that the officers usually give drivers, and stick with the posted limit (Thomas). This has happened in the past, but some studies point that this could change as speed limits are raised higher.

A study has shown that the average driver drivers 73 mph on interstates, varying very little on the posted speed limit, whether it is 60 or 70 mph (“Speed Limits”). People will only drive as fast as they are comfortable going, which appears to be right around that 73 mph mark. Raised limits won't actually change the speed of the average driver, but it will make their driving habits legal. A theory about how speed limits should be set is that they should be posted at around the 85th percentile of drivers' speed (Peters). This would keep the limit well below the obnoxious speeders, but comply with the average American driver.

Speed limits should be raised by at least 5 mph because that is how the average driver drives. This keeps traffic at a more constant rate, reducing the amount of angry drivers that are stuck behind “law-abiding” citizens, and potentially can lower accident rates. Driving will be less stressful after a long day of work. It will save us time to lives to the fullest. The actual driving speed of most will not change, but there will be no more worrying about a cop waiting around a corner. After all, speed limits should be something that the majority supports, and as Rick Hampson said, we are voting with our right foot.

Works Cited

Durbin, Dee-Ann. "Study: Higher Speed Limits, More Deaths." The Seattle Times (Seattle, WA) Nov. 24 2003: n.p. SIRS Researcher. Web. 28 February 2010.

Hampson, Rick, and Paul Overberg. "Americans' Lead Feet Pushing Outer Limits of Speed." USA Today Feb. 22 2004: n.p. SIRS Researcher. Web. 28 February 2010.

Landler, Mark. "Call for Speed Limit Has German Blood at 178 m.p.h. Boil." New York Times (New York, NY) 16 Mar 2007: A4. SIRS Researcher. Web. 28 February 2010.

Peters, Eric. "Does Speed Really Kill?." American Spectator Vol. 39 No. 1 Researcher. Web. 28 February 2010. Feb. 2006: 52-53. SIRS

"Speed Limits." Issues & Controversies On File: n. pag. Issues & Controversies. Facts On File News Services, 4 Apr. 1997. Web. 28 Feb. 2010. <http://www.2facts.com/article/i0200820>.

Thomas, Ken. "Survey: Most States Allow Speed Cushion." Washington Times (Washington, DC) 13 Jun 2005: n.p. SIRS Researcher. Web. 28 February 2010.

"Tips to improve your Gas Mileage." Fuel Economy. Web. 28 Feb. 2010. <http://www.fueleconomy.gov/feg/drivehabits.shtml>.

Worsnop, Richard L. "Highway Safety." CQ Researcher 5.26 (1995): 609-632. CQ Researcher. Web. 28 Feb. 2010. <http://library.cqpress.com/cqresearcher/cqresrre1995071400>.

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