Traffic

July 21, 2009

Last week the extension of Heatherwilde from Wells Branch Parkway to Howard Lane was opened. This means that I can now get to the Capitol Metro park & ride where I catch the bus to work without going on the Interstate, or going down 685 which is quite a way out of the way. It’s about 0.8 miles shorter distance.

But the speed limit is 35 mph. This is a road with two lanes in each direction and a wide, built-up median between them, through an undeveloped area, so it would clearly be safe to go much faster, at least 50 mph. I can’t conceive of any reason for setting the limit so low.

In fact, for a while now I’ve had the suspicion that speed limits in general are not a good idea. When a law is regularly broken by otherwise law-abiding citizens, there’s probably something wrong with the law. Traffic laws in general are justified by an appeal to safety, but I don’t know of any scientific studies that show they actually make driving safer.

Even if it turns out that they do add slightly to safety, we still might be better off without them. There’s nothing inherently immoral about driving fast, and laws against things that aren’t really wrong tend to breed disrespect for law in general. The fact that many jurisdictions use traffic fines as a major source of income further erodes the moral stature of the law.

Coincidentally, Instapundit had a link today to an article about traffic roundabouts. This strikes me as a better way to achieve safety: instead of making a bunch of rules, design roads and intersections so the easiest and most natural thing to do is the safe thing.

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5 Responses to “Traffic”

  1. Jad Says:

    Apropos article: http://www.cracked.com/article_17216_5-most-popular-safety-laws-that-dont-work.html

    These sorts of opinion-based or pseudo-scientific “safety” mechanisms run rampant in government controlled monopolies (roads, law enforcement, schools).

  2. Annette Says:

    I totally agree! Most people tend to drive at a safe speed. Those who don’t, do it in spite of the laws. So, why have the laws in the first place (other than to generate revenues, as you pointed out…)?

  3. Rachelle Says:

    We are surrounded by roundabouts. Too bad most people don’t know how to use them!:)

  4. ross Says:

    Reminds me of this book:

    http://www.nudges.org/

    (which I haven’t read yet).

    One issue with things like speedbumps and roundabouts is that they work equally well on ambulances and police cars responding to emergencies. But I agree it is a problem when you have a law that MOST people break.

    If I were a more paranoid person, I might think that “they” like it that way, so they have an excuse for pulling over anybody they want to, in order to have a look inside your car.

  5. mom Says:

    So is that why they put in so many roundabouts?


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