Monthly Archives: November 2015

Stop Kidding Yourself!


The debate over whether or not to lift the “national speed limit” of 55 mph, which resulted in a bill which allows states to decide maximum speed limits for themselves, was ludicrous. Let’s get real. When asked on national television what she thought about increased speed limits, one young lady summed it up nicely by saying, “That’s cool, now we can do legally what most of us have been doing illegally all along.” Habitual speeders will break the law regardless of posted speed limits and will continue to do so unless two dramatic but unlikely changes take place. I won’t hold my breath.

The first is a monumental overhaul of driver attitudes. We’re caught up in this notion that faster is cooler. It started with the self-gratifying “me generation” of the sixties and morphed into the do-it-now, have-it-now, and get-there-now can’t wait attitude of today. I call it the “NASCAR Wannabe” syndrome. Professional racing drivers will be the first to tell you that faster has its place, but the place is not on public roadways.

This attitude change has to go far deeper than just knowing the consequences of excessive speed. Any thinking driver knows that the small amount of time, if any, that one might gain by speeding is not worth the risk and that any reduction in speed will reduce the force of impact in a crash and thereby reduce the extent of injury and odds of a fatality. And, tragically, all too often it is not just the speeder who pays the price but innocent parties as well. For habitual speeders it is full speed ahead regardless of the consequences. In other word they just don’t care.

This cavalier attitude toward speed limits is not unique to highway and freeway driving. It’s an even greater problem in towns and cities where the number and frequency of conflicts are manifold and the driving task more complex. What is more we are coming to accept this kind of driving as normal. Some even laugh it off in cliché “boys will be boys” fashion. There is nothing normal about endangering lives and reckless driving is about as funny as Russian roulette!

When you tailgate another driver who is obeying the speed limit, you are the problem, not the other driver. When you get impatient and pass another driver at an unlawful speed, you are the problem, not the other driver. And when you get angry at another driver who is obeying traffic laws, you are not only a problem driver but it’s time to turn in your license, please! Stop kidding yourself. You are not a good driver by any rational definition.

So what is a good driver? A good driver is a driver who knows, understands and obeys traffic laws and rules of the road. A good driver understands why we have traffic laws and rules. The good driver understands the rules are there for our protection, and not part of some conspiracy to take away our personal freedoms. If you have an impatient or hostile attitude toward others who are playing by the rules – change it! Don’t let these dangerous emotions make your driving decisions for you.

The hostile driving environment will not go away until each of us is willing to examine our individual attitude toward driving and, if we drive this way, admit it and make a sincere effort to change. Only then will sanity and therefore safety kick in. As I said before, don’t hold your breath.

I said that two dramatic changes must take place. The second change is up to those we rely upon to enforce our traffic laws. Habitual speeders just don’t get it – never will. They are convinced that if they can get away with it, it’s okay. Unfortunately the only way some speeders will get the message is the hard way with tough and consistent enforcement of traffic laws.

Get rid of the stupid idea that a wreck will never happen to you. If you continue to drive this way the odds are that it will happen not once but three times in your driving career and when it does happen, you’re stuck with the consequences. There are no instant replays in this dangerous game. Your first wreck may be your last!

By the way: The state patrol in our state recently announced that their average traffic stop for speeders on the interstate is people driving at from 95 to 105 miles per hour. Any idea what you look like after you leave the road and roll or collide with another object at those speeds? You don’t want to know! Slow down.

To Get There Sooner . . .


Recently there was an inquiry in our letters to the editor column from a reader who wanted to know, “Why can’t people drive the speed limit?” One might at first conclude from her question that she was concerned about speeders. Not so. Her complaint was that some people drive too slow to suit her and that everybody should at least drive the speed limit. She has a point. We should drive the speed limit.

I often ask the same question but with a different spin. Not only is it rare to find someone who
drives slower than the posted speed limit, the vast majority of drivers drive much faster than the
lawful limit. The unfortunate reality is that most of us are concerned with our speed only when we see an officer. Why so many of us have this compulsion to break the law puzzles me, especially when we know there is very little to be gained by speeding and a great deal to lose. Excessive speed is in fact one of the two principal causes of collisions. The other is tailgating. Let me tell you the two simple reasons why we should obey speed limits.

First, posted speed limits are set according to conditions which include the amount and nature of the traffic, the characteristics and condition of the roadway, our reaction times and other factors which only traffic safety engineers fully understand. If the experts tell us that 35 mph is the maximum safe speed for a certain segment of roadway we should believe them. That’s what we pay them for.

The other reason is even more fundamental – because speed limits are the law. If we exceed the posted limit we are lawbreakers. One would think this alone would be incentive enough to keep otherwise law abiding citizens within speed limits, especially parents whose youngsters are watching and who will surely imitate their behavior. I would like a dime for every one of my students who said, “Dad always told me I can get away with ten or twelve over the limit.” That’s breaking the law! Get away with being the operative phrase here.

Here are some gentle reminders about speed limits:

Speed limits are set for ideal conditions. When traffic, roadway or weather conditions are not
ideal, we must obey the “basic speed law” which states that we may not drive faster than is safe for existing conditions regardless of the posted speed limit. In other words if 40 mph is the safe speed for existing conditions, and we are driving faster than that, we are driving in a dangerous manner. Even though the posted speed limit may be 65 mph we can still be cited.

There is also a “minimum speed limit” which applies to some roadways such as highways and
freeways. This tells us not to drive slower than the given speed (usually 45mph) unless conditions are bad in which case we must obey the basic speed law. If we are poking along at 35 mph on the interstate, for example, we will likely get an officer’s attention because by driving this slow we are creating a danger to ourselves and others. There are also “advisory speed limits” which are set for special conditions such as sharp curves, and there are “special speed limits” which may apply during certain times of day such as in school or construction zones.

Contrary to one popular notion speed limits were not created to limit our personal freedoms. Good drivers understand that they exist to help keep us alive and well, and to bring order into our chaotic modern world of driving.

As for the reader who wondered why people can’t drive the speed limit, here’s a challenge. I
promise to not drive slower than the speed limit if you promise to not drive faster than the speed limit. If you encounter a person driving too slow to suit you, especially an older driver (I prefer to call them “grown-ups”) who’s just trying to obey the law, be understanding and patient. After all, if you don’t get killed in the meantime, that person will someday be you!

If you want to get there sooner, leave sooner.

This is not about how to drive. This is about staying alive! See you next time . . . I hope!