get rid of speed limits arbitrary laws
|December 31, 2001||Posted by Fred Foldvary under Archive, Progress Report, The Progress Report|
Get Rid of Speed Limits
by Fred E. Foldvary, Senior Editor
Speed limits are arbitrary. The law should not be arbitrary. Therefore speed limits are bad law, no?
I was living in Virginia in the late 1980s when the national speed limit went up from 55 to 65 miles per hour outside metropolitan city areas. Occasionally I drove to my landlord’s house, and when the speed limit was 55, it felt so confining and unnaturally slow. So often government law seems remote and indirect, but here was the direct, visible fist of the state dictating that I go slow. It was also an unconstitutional grab of power by the safety fascists in the federal government, since the national speed limit of 55 was enforced by extortion: if the states did not enact the limit, the federal government would not distribute highway money that it had taken from the citizens of the states in gasoline and other taxes.
It felt liberating when the speed limit was raised to 65 miles per hour, but that limit applied only outside metropolitan areas. So halfway home from my landlord’s house, I had to slow down 10 miles per hour for no safety reason but only because the state said so. Later, the national speed mandate was dropped, and states may now set their speed limit as they wish.
But even the 65 miles per hour limit in California is too slow in some traffic; indeed, often much of the traffic moves faster. The law then criminalizes most drivers, and they drive with the ever- present threat of a traffic ticket, or worse, the confiscation of your car if the police officer is in a greedy mood and “finds” a bit of cocaine residue in your cash, as most cash has.
The police cars are like spiders among flies, lions among antelope, coyotes among sheep: predators surrounded by plentiful prey. We human beings seem to yearn for a predator/prey relationship. We have killed off the bear and lion, so they don’t threaten us in most human environments. So we then set up human predators: criminals and the police. The police take on a dual role, protectors on the one hand, but thieves and predators on the other. That makes them excellent predators, since we don’t want to get rid of the protective role, so we put up with the predation.
Some folks want slow speed limits for extra safety. But there are other, better, ways of getting safer highways. In Germany, there are no speed limits on the autobahn, and in France, drivers can zip along at 80 miles per hour. The reason they don’t all end up dead is that the Europeans are much stricter about whom they let in the highways. Intoxicated drivers are not tolerated. In the US, there are often light penalties for being intoxicated while driving, and even worse, state governments allow incompetent drivers on the roads. Some elderly drivers can’t drive safely anymore, yet they routinely get their license extended. Faced with bad drivers, government sets speed limits low so that any crashes are less destructive.
What should the driving policy be in a free society? Driving is a conditional right. It should be conditional on being a competent and considerate driver. The way the law works now is that driving is an arbitrary privilege granted by government. If someone has an infraction or minor violation unrelated to driving, and he does not pay it, the state can refuse to renew one’s driving license. Government uses the driving privilege to enforce unrelated laws. Since driving is a privilege, government can set arbitrary rules of the road, and this is a good source of revenue, since most folks violate unreasonable road rules. I heard that some small Southern towns make a good living with hidden speed limit sights.
By making driving a conditional right instead, the law can set rational conditions: stiff laws against intoxicated driving, and periodic competency tests for elderly drivers. Reckless driving or driving without a license should be stiffly punished. Then the speed limit can be as it is in Montana: whatever speed is safe. In the city, speed limits should be set for reasonable safety. They now seem to be about 10 miles per hour too slow everywhere.
Yes, a few more persons may be injured and killed with higher speed limits. But unreasonably slow limits also kill life. Suppose 100 million Americans are forced to waste 10 minutes each per day due to slow speed limits. That would amount to 1900 lost years, and with a lifespan of 80 years, that’s 24 lost lives every day. And rather than act as predators catching speed-limit breakers, with a rule governed by safety rather than some arbitrary speed limit, the police could concentrate on nabbing reckless drivers. And if we eliminated seizure and forfeiture laws that let the police confiscate cars at will, then the police would be welcomed protectors rather than schizophrenic predators.
Eliminate speed limits, but require every driver to be competent and considerate. That would reduce road stress and rage, and just maybe even make our highways safer.
What’s your opinion on speed limits in your country? Tell The Progress Report what you think!
Copyright 1998 by Fred E. Foldvary. All rights reserved. No part of this material may be reproduced or transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic or mechanical, which includes but is not limited to facsimile transmission, photocopying, recording, rekeying, or using any information storage or retrieveal system, without giving full credit to Fred Foldvary and The Progress Report.