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Unsafe at Any Speed?
September 1, 2011 11:00 AM   Subscribe

Today the maximum speed limit in Texas increases to 85mph (137km/h).

A study done earlier this year paved the way for a speed limit increase. In addition, truckers will no longer have nightime limits. 85mph is now the fastest you can legally travel on a road in North America.
posted by blue_beetle (347 comments total) 11 users marked this as a favorite

 
There are parts of my state where that would be useful.

Lots of empty country out there.
posted by madajb at 11:02 AM on September 1, 2011 [2 favorites]


If it's rational to drive a car at 85 mph to get from one place in your state to another, I propose that your state is too big.
posted by Faint of Butt at 11:03 AM on September 1, 2011 [23 favorites]


WOOHOO!!!!!
posted by Windopaene at 11:03 AM on September 1, 2011


I'd think that if a place is remote enough to drive safely at 85mph, you probably aren't going to see many cops anyway.
posted by jwhite1979 at 11:04 AM on September 1, 2011 [1 favorite]


Finally, the life's work of Representative Sam Roy Hagar (R-CA) has been accomplished.
posted by griphus at 11:05 AM on September 1, 2011 [48 favorites]


Time to go long on matchboxes.
posted by seanmpuckett at 11:05 AM on September 1, 2011 [2 favorites]


Huh, I could have sworn I remember seeing 85 mph signs on my cross country trip and Texas would have seemed the most likely culprit. Must have been 80.

Anyway, I propose that you do not really want to be going much faster than 85 mph in most cars I have driven. They get...shaky.
posted by maryr at 11:05 AM on September 1, 2011 [6 favorites]


they've just completed the exit off ramp to the DANGER ZONE
posted by The Whelk at 11:06 AM on September 1, 2011 [29 favorites]


Enjoy your increase in highway deaths, Texas!
posted by agregoli at 11:06 AM on September 1, 2011 [6 favorites]


Well, it's going to cause more deaths and burn more gas, but that pretty much sums up America since 9/11.
posted by Bunny Ultramod at 11:06 AM on September 1, 2011 [93 favorites]


I'm no geographer, but I don't think splitting the state in pieces will make it faster to drive from one city to another.

Why do Maritimers want Québec to separate?
They'd like to drive to Toronto in half the time!

posted by ODiV at 11:06 AM on September 1, 2011 [26 favorites]



Enjoy your increase in highway deaths, Texas!


What's the death rate on the Autobahn (fahn fahn fahn!!!)?
posted by spicynuts at 11:08 AM on September 1, 2011 [11 favorites]


Do newly-manufactured cars still lose fuel efficiency at higher speeds? I vaguely recall the 55mph implementation back in the day was because of gas rationing, but I haven't followed automobile technology that closely to know if that's still the case.

I do know that whenever I went past 60mph in a 2000 4-cylinder Corolla it felt like the engine was going to die.
posted by CancerMan at 11:08 AM on September 1, 2011


Finally! A law that makes sense! Having driven through Texas (and most other parts of the unpopulated south/southwestern/midwestern/western areas of America)...this is a good idea. No one's paying attention to the speed limit anyway; it's better to be 100% focused on your driving than 30% focused on driving and 70% focused on finding a hidden police car waiting to make a ticket quota.

I approve.
posted by phunniemee at 11:09 AM on September 1, 2011 [27 favorites]


Is the first link content-less for anybody else?
posted by penduluum at 11:09 AM on September 1, 2011


So much for concerns about fuel efficiency and public safety.

When 55 was introduced in the 70s - to save fuel - it also had the effect of reducing traffic facilities.

In the petri dish of conservative looniness that is Texas, road deaths will blossom like bacteria.

Now if they would only get rid of those oppressive drunk driving laws, we could really see some fun!
posted by three blind mice at 11:09 AM on September 1, 2011 [5 favorites]


So everyone is really going to be 90-95, fantastic. As a Texan I am very much opposed to this. Especially since half the drivers are too busy texting to pay attention to the road as it is.
posted by Talanvor at 11:09 AM on September 1, 2011 [1 favorite]


What's the death rate on the Autobahn (fahn fahn fahn!!!)?

2.7 per billion km travelled. Lower than the US Interstate's 4.5.

And Autobahns without speed limits have the same accident rate as Autobahns with speed limits.
posted by Talez at 11:10 AM on September 1, 2011 [14 favorites]


The Autobahn isn't America...I'm quite confident highway deaths will go up in good 'ole boy Texas.
posted by agregoli at 11:10 AM on September 1, 2011 [3 favorites]


None of the people who think this is a bad idea have ever driven up (or down) I-280 from San Jose to San Francisco. The speed limit is 65, but the fast lane moves at 80+ all the time. There are very few accidents on this road. There is no good reason that the limit shouldn't be raised to 85.

Many other roads have similar properties, presumably including many in Texas.
posted by tylerkaraszewski at 11:11 AM on September 1, 2011 [10 favorites]


I must admit, I would support this for Saskatchewan, Montana, and both Dakotas.
posted by blue_beetle at 11:11 AM on September 1, 2011 [2 favorites]


85mph is now the fastest you can legally travel on a road in North America.

Wrong. Montana, suckers. Did 95 through there one year. I thought my car was going to breakup on reentry.
posted by cashman at 11:11 AM on September 1, 2011 [13 favorites]


It's worth mentioning that it was already 80 MPH on 520 miles of highway, so this is not some huge deal.
posted by smackfu at 11:12 AM on September 1, 2011 [3 favorites]


Woo! I lived in Montana when the speed limit was still "reasonable and prudent." Unfortunately I had a shit car so 70 was all I could do anyway.
posted by desjardins at 11:12 AM on September 1, 2011


None of the people who think this is a bad idea have ever driven up (or down) I-280 from San Jose to San Francisco. The speed limit is 65, but the fast lane moves at 80+ all the time.

Really? 80+ ALL THE TIME?

I know that's not true. Especially once you're north of 92. Some dink always has to pull into the left lane going 70 when the rest of traffic is banking up behind them.

But then I suppose second from the left becomes the 80+ lane.
posted by Talez at 11:12 AM on September 1, 2011


damnit, cashman
posted by desjardins at 11:13 AM on September 1, 2011 [2 favorites]


What's the death rate on the Autobahn (fahn fahn fahn!!!)?

With all do respect, the Autobahn was designed with high speeds in mind was it not? (Was it not?) Not that I-10 isn't a straight damned line in most of the western half of the state, but it may not have been designed for those speeds.

(For the record, I have done 85+ on I-10 at night and honestly, we didn't go faster because it seems like a scary number. I think there are places that this will be fine.)
posted by maryr at 11:13 AM on September 1, 2011


Enjoy your increase in highway deaths, Texas!

Please check into your knee-jerking, this is not borne out by the evidence of history.
posted by rhizome at 11:13 AM on September 1, 2011 [20 favorites]


What's the death rate on the Autobahn (fahn fahn fahn!!!)?

It'd probably be good to look at what constitutes driving school and requirements to get a driver's license over there vs. over here, as well, though.
posted by yeloson at 11:13 AM on September 1, 2011 [13 favorites]


Oh shit, they changed it. Well I guess the fun's over.
posted by cashman at 11:13 AM on September 1, 2011


Um, I will hazard a guess that these new limits apply only to the west Texas Interstates that are already signed 80MPH. The ones where there is very little traffic and it's pretty safe to drive 85, presuming you have a well maintained vehicle and aren't falling asleep.

If you want to argue this on conservation grounds, be my guest (although nobody is forcing you to drive the speed limit; keep out of the left lane if you're not, though, or you're causing the safety problem), but arguing against it on safety grounds seems a little blind to the actual conditions in these godforsaken areas.
posted by wierdo at 11:13 AM on September 1, 2011 [2 favorites]


"They have high-speed roadways in Europe, and there could be some merit in having some of those highways in Texas," said Rep. Lois Kolkhorst, R-Brenham, who introduced the bill. "Given the right engineering, we should consider it.

This just in: Texas acknowledges the existence of Europe.
posted by obscurator at 11:13 AM on September 1, 2011 [67 favorites]


Due, respect, dammit.
posted by maryr at 11:13 AM on September 1, 2011


Wow, fast moving thread.
posted by maryr at 11:14 AM on September 1, 2011 [6 favorites]


I don't really see how increasing the legal speed limit will somehow make people drive at 100mph, tbh. Most midrange cars don't handle very well past about 85 anyway.

(Yesterday afternoon on the northern state pkwy I was doing about 80 just to keep up with the flow of traffic. The people going below the speed limit were the ones endangering everyone else.)
posted by elizardbits at 11:14 AM on September 1, 2011


Not that I-10 isn't a straight damned line in most of the western half of the state, but it may not have been designed for those speeds.

I'm not a civil engineer, but I am a fast driver and I don't think I've ever heard of straight roads being rated for speed. I'd be curious to hear of more information if you have any, though.
posted by rhizome at 11:14 AM on September 1, 2011


In the petri dish of conservative looniness that is Texas, road deaths will blossom like bacteria.

Oh do shut up.
posted by yerfatma at 11:15 AM on September 1, 2011 [42 favorites]


Having driven across most of the US, I can vouch that there are a fair number of people driving 80-85 already on roads similar to this. The reason you don't push to 90-95 is that there is a stiff drop in mileage, worse than that from 70 -> 80. I've never felt scared or worried about the traffic issues in MT, WY, ND, SD, ID, TX, NM, AZ, UT, etc.

The worst experience I've had with speed is I-94 from Kalamazoo to Ann Arbor where I ended up averaging 93mph, hit the governor 3 times and still had people passing me.

Also: West Texas is home to what is rumored to be the highest speeding ticket in history: 242mph in a 75 during the 2003 Gumball Rally in a Koenigsegg CCR.
posted by Mister Fabulous at 11:15 AM on September 1, 2011 [2 favorites]


The Autobahn isn't America...I'm quite confident highway deaths will go up in good 'ole boy Texas.

Your confidence is cute. Can we have some science here or is there a rule that says when we talk about Texas, suddenly gut feel trumps science?

Also, based on the hard on most of y'all get for Texas around here, I'm surprised you arent' cheering for more deaths in that state.
posted by spicynuts at 11:16 AM on September 1, 2011 [10 favorites]


Wow, fast moving thread.

IT'S GOING TOO FAST
posted by cashman at 11:16 AM on September 1, 2011 [18 favorites]


You'd think that Texas just increased the speed limit on every single road to 85mph. From what I've read, this will impact a very small minority of roads - it will still not be legal for me to drive 85mph on any road that I regularly travel.
posted by muddgirl at 11:16 AM on September 1, 2011


Speeding does not cause motor vehicle accidents!

Inconsistencies in speed is what causes accidents. When everyone around you is expecting the community of drivers to be traveling near 60 mph and one car comes through at 95 mph there is a lack of expectation from those traveling at 60 mph. Judging the difference in speed at such speeds becomes very difficult. They assume there is more time for changing lanes and get smeared by the speeder.

Another situation of speed not being the culprit is when the driver is not capable of handling their vehicle at such speeds, or the vehicle is not capable of handling such speeds. Both of which can be targeted on the operator or the mechanism, NOT the speed. Clearly vehicles can travel that fast. NASCar.

I've pondered a varied licensing scheme for speed allowances. On major roads with 3 or more lanes each lane is awarded a range of 20 mph acceptable speeds, with a 10mph overlap with the adjacent lane.

Right lane 40 - 60 (also used for merging on and off the interstate)
Center lane 50 - 70 (cruising short distances to a near exit)
Left lane 60 - 80 (long haul cruising)
Additional lanes increasing on this theme, 70 - 90, 80 - 100, so on.

Then license the vehicle AND the driver as to which lanes they're allowed to participate in. Annual vehicle and driver testing would be required. A different license plate or tag or additional marking could be used for quick identification by officers.

It would be similar to HOV / motorocycle / hybrid / bus lanes.

The next issue is enforcement and making damn sure people are getting tickets for not fitting into the allowed speeds.
posted by LoudMusic at 11:17 AM on September 1, 2011 [11 favorites]


It is motherfucking FUN to go over 100 mph in German car. So I've heard.
posted by desjardins at 11:17 AM on September 1, 2011


There's nothing kneejerk about my non-trust for American highway drivers to be safe at those speeds. Every single day on the highway, I see people texting, eating, driving all casual and loose at crazy speeds. 85 is ludicrous.
posted by agregoli at 11:18 AM on September 1, 2011 [4 favorites]


None of the people who think this is a bad idea have ever driven up (or down) I-280 from San Jose to San Francisco. The speed limit is 65, but the fast lane moves at 80+ all the time. There are very few accidents on this road. There is no good reason that the limit shouldn't be raised to 85.

Simply, it will be mostly because no one will only go 85, they will now go closer to 100. i promise it. Even from your example, people go 80 plus in 65 zones, so why presume they will now obey the limits? Get on any interstate, go five miles over the limit, you will be passed almost constantly. I've heard arguments that going even close to the speed limit is dangerous, so everyone should go even faster, even though that's a stupid argument, since all it would take is people slowing down in general. People will not even go as slow as 90, i'm calling it now.
posted by usagizero at 11:18 AM on September 1, 2011 [4 favorites]


So here's the theory as I understand it. A high minority of people are already breaking the speed limit laws as-is, so let's examine to see if those laws are reasonable or worth changing.

Now the fun would really begin if this reasoning could apply to drug use.
posted by Talanvor at 11:18 AM on September 1, 2011 [8 favorites]


"They have high-speed roadways railways in Europe, and there could be some merit in having some of those highways railways in Texas," said Rep. Lois Kolkhorst, R-Brenham, who introduced the bill. "Given the right engineering, we should consider it.

There, much more sensible.
posted by jedicus at 11:19 AM on September 1, 2011 [25 favorites]


This thread is def going over 85 mph .

I'm all about efficiency, but I don't trust people texting at 95 mph.
posted by rageagainsttherobots at 11:19 AM on September 1, 2011


Just means it'll be a that much quicker trip to the gun sale at the church.
posted by emhutchinson at 11:20 AM on September 1, 2011 [1 favorite]


Simply, it will be mostly because no one will only go 85, they will now go closer to 100.

This stinks of a slippery slope argument. Of course some people will go 100. In West Texas they probably were going 100 to begin with. I haven't dug up the studies, but there is a point where the vast majority of drivers won't continue going up in speed. It tends to be around 80-85.
posted by Mister Fabulous at 11:21 AM on September 1, 2011


Simply, it will be mostly because no one will only go 85, they will now go closer to 100. i promise it.

You really think most people's cars can go close to 100 for any length of time without a noticeable decline in fuel economy and ride quality? I really doubt that.

Every single day on the highway, I see people texting, eating, driving all casual and loose at crazy speeds. 85 is ludicrous.

The plural of anecdote is apparently stereotype.
posted by Bulgaroktonos at 11:21 AM on September 1, 2011 [5 favorites]


I've done a lot of traveling in Texas. It's about damn time. Everyone around you is already driving around 80 on the hwy, and it'll be nice to be able to keep up with traffic without worrying about cops. I doubt many will go 90+ because, from experience, the vehicle begins to shake.
posted by Malice at 11:21 AM on September 1, 2011


The fact that the first link is content-less literally doesn't matter, does it?
posted by penduluum at 11:21 AM on September 1, 2011


I live in Texas, and have done a lot of road trips here. I believe the only section of road in the state that will be at 85 is I-10 on the section starting about 100 miles west of Austin and west from there. There's a whole lot of nothing out there, and the interstate is designed to handle it. And, fwiw, I've gotten a warning on that stretch of road for doing 84 where it was signed 80.

I'm more concerned about the speed limit going up on country roads that are already signed 65 or 70, and really, that's probably faster than they were designed for already. The fact that I ride my bike on some of those country roads probably influences my opinions, though.
posted by adamrice at 11:22 AM on September 1, 2011 [4 favorites]


It'd probably be good to look at what constitutes driving school and requirements to get a driver's licenseover there vs. over here, as well, though.

This. In Germany, you have to do a pretty exhaustive (and expensive) driving course including night time sessions and if i'm not mistaken, at least one session in adverse weather conditions. It's not easy to get a license, and if you come from outside of the EU you have to do a conversion course after a few months. Plus of course everybody drives Audis and BMWs.
posted by omnikron at 11:23 AM on September 1, 2011 [2 favorites]


rhizome - I was thinking of the places where there are curves (there aren't many and they're slight, but might be significant at high speeds?), plus any rises and dips the road might have. There are also a couple places with very large rocks or blown out hills next to I-10 that might affect wind currents or make a nasty crash site. I really don't know what else would affect a straight road - I would hope they will study the sites, as proposed in the bill.

Above all, I just hope that Texans don't put the convenience and Comfort of some above Welfare of others.
posted by maryr at 11:23 AM on September 1, 2011


Please check into your knee-jerking, this is not borne out by the evidence of history.

From what I have read, sure it is.
posted by Bunny Ultramod at 11:23 AM on September 1, 2011 [1 favorite]


Inconsistencies in speed is what causes accidents. ... Another situation of speed not being the culprit is when the driver is not capable of handling their vehicle at such speeds, or the vehicle is not capable of handling such speeds.

The problem is that roads are often the only practical way to travel in the United States, so what do you do about the poor and people with physical limitations? Are you going to only allow high-performance cars driven by people with normal reflexes and senses?

I've pondered a varied licensing scheme for speed allowances. On major roads with 3 or more lanes each lane is awarded a range of 20 mph acceptable speeds, with a 10mph overlap with the adjacent lane.

So every lane change involves somewhere between a 10 and 20mph speed difference? That's a recipe for disaster, if the issue is inconsistency in speed.
posted by jedicus at 11:23 AM on September 1, 2011 [1 favorite]


If it's rational to drive a car at 85 mph to get from one place in your state to another, I propose that your state is too big.

In that case, New Jersey is too big.
posted by furiousxgeorge at 11:23 AM on September 1, 2011 [3 favorites]


Oh, it's fixed now. That was ... fast.


YEEEEAAAAAH
posted by penduluum at 11:24 AM on September 1, 2011 [1 favorite]


The point about expectations of a given speed is an important one to consider when increasing the speed limit (as LoudMusic said above). Having driven some clunkers in my time behind the wheel, it seems dicey to license those with the ability to go 85mph when people in junkers can only manage 70, tops. Granted the roads these limits are imposed on are likely fairly empty and with good visibility, but honestly, 85 is outside the limit of safe driving for most cars over 15 years old.
posted by Wyatt at 11:24 AM on September 1, 2011


Right lane 40 - 60 (also used for merging on and off the interstate)
Center lane 50 - 70 (cruising short distances to a near exit)
Left lane 60 - 80 (long haul cruising)


Um.. where the fuck did you pull this out off? Because when i last read traffic laws under a year ago, right lane is 'slower" left is to pass. That's it. No mph specified, and semis right lane unless marked, one of the reasons is their right side blind spot is HUGE. You should almost never pass a semi on the right.


I'd also like to point out this 85+ stupidity in texas, the last time (probably both meanings of the word) i drove there, it snowed, a dusting of less than an inch. I saw dozens of cars in the ditch, and people were taking stupid pills. I know it snows rarely there, but damn, clueless drivers all of them.
posted by usagizero at 11:25 AM on September 1, 2011


I'd be okay with this. I'm from the school of driving where I find a long gap between cars and stay there as much as possible. I kind of wish more people would do that, but it seems like some people just have to move their car up near another car to be happy on the road.

If you do this, please stop doing this.
posted by empyrean at 11:26 AM on September 1, 2011 [19 favorites]


The Texas Department of Transportation claimed that when the speed limit in West Texas areas went from 70 to 75 the number of traffic deaths decreased. I'd love to see the data from when things went from 75 to 80, and I'd also love to see much less uninformed speculation.
posted by grouse at 11:27 AM on September 1, 2011


I was thinking of the places where there are curves (there aren't many and they're slight, but might be significant at high speeds?), plus any rises and dips the road might have. There are also a couple places with very large rocks or blown out hills next to I-10 that might affect wind currents or make a nasty crash site.

Then you lower the speed limit in those places. I don't think anyone is suggesting that the limit be 85 everywhere.
posted by desjardins at 11:27 AM on September 1, 2011


It'd probably be good to look at what constitutes driving school and requirements to get a driver's license over there vs. over here, as well, though.

Strangely, Germany has full reciprocity with several states, including Texas, meaning a Texan could move to Germany and get a German license without any test at all. Do they not know how we test drivers here?
posted by dirigibleman at 11:28 AM on September 1, 2011 [1 favorite]


Anybody who is throwing shade on this idea clearly hasn't driven in Arizona, New Mexico, or West Texas.
posted by 200burritos at 11:29 AM on September 1, 2011 [7 favorites]


It'd probably be good to look at what constitutes driving school and requirements to get a driver's licenseover there vs. over here, as well, though.

SHIT, YOU GUYS, I KNOW A GERMAN JOKE ABOUT DRIVER'S LICENSES!

In the Netherlands, what do they give you if you fail your driver's license three times?

A yellow license plate

Zing! Haha, you crazy Dutch, you're such...bad drivers? I guess?
posted by Bulgaroktonos at 11:30 AM on September 1, 2011 [5 favorites]


The problem is that roads are often the only practical way to travel in the United States, so what do you do about the poor and people with physical limitations?

What does this have to do with speed limits?
posted by desjardins at 11:30 AM on September 1, 2011


Do newly-manufactured cars still lose fuel efficiency at higher speeds?

Sadly the auto manufacturers have not yet found a way around the laws of physics that dictate that drag increases as the square of your velocity.

Cars have, however, gotten more aerodynamic (less drag in absolute terms) over time, but for any particular profile, you're going to burn more gas as you go faster, and the relationship is still nonlinear: going from 40 to 45 will always be easier than 80 to 85.

Personally I think this change is more just making the laws fit the current behavior ... I suspect people were routinely driving 85+ today, and I've never been a fan of keeping laws that are routinely flouted on the books. It decreases respect for the law in general, in my experience. If we weren't enforcing it and weren't going to start enforcing it, might as well change it.
posted by Kadin2048 at 11:30 AM on September 1, 2011 [4 favorites]


I was thinking of the places where there are curves

Nobody goes 20kph over the speed limit on rural Quebec roads. When it's snowy, the speed limit is often more like a dare than a rule.
posted by justsomebodythatyouusedtoknow at 11:31 AM on September 1, 2011 [5 favorites]


They'd better not copy that law here in Tennessee unless they want half the state to die off in a matter of weeks.
posted by blucevalo at 11:31 AM on September 1, 2011 [3 favorites]


The worst experience I've had with speed is I-94 from Kalamazoo to Ann Arbor where I ended up averaging 93mph, hit the governor 3 times and still had people passing me.

Three times, you say? Don't elected officials have Secret Service protection or something to keep them out of high-speed traffic?
posted by ricochet biscuit at 11:33 AM on September 1, 2011 [7 favorites]


You really think most people's cars can go close to 100 for any length of time without a noticeable decline in fuel economy and ride quality? I really doubt that.

My car? Probably not. But i can promise there will be a good chunk that will try, and with the arguments that "you have to keep up with traffic to be safe", you will get more people trying. I can go 85 pretty steady in my beetle, and you know what happens when i pass almost anyone? They floor it, and try to keep up with me or pass me. It's like i am threatening their manhood and have to prove something. This happened to me last weekend, driving on the interstate through deer country. I passed a minivan with handicap plates, they floored it. Once i got in front of them, they proceeded to floor it past 90. Few minutes later, they were going under 70. Stepping on the brake in front of me, not using signals, speeding up, slowing down. I used signals, changed lanes only when safe distance, etc. They continued this for an hour or more. Only stopped when a cop merged on.

And with hummers and shit do you really think anyone really cares about "fuel economy"? Hell, people keep bringing up the autobahn, and gas there is what price, and people still say that fast is fine.

Also, since studies have shown traffic deaths went down with lowering the speed limit, then it's only logical to believe that they will go up with higher ones.
posted by usagizero at 11:33 AM on September 1, 2011 [2 favorites]


Well i've crashed a car at 40mph and walked away. I crashed one at 60 and limped away. If I crash at 85 I don't think an airbag is gonna save me. Kinetic energy is funny like that. But maybe physics is just all uninformed speculation!
posted by three blind mice at 11:33 AM on September 1, 2011 [6 favorites]


I am disappoint.

This post title is misleading, it looks as if this is only a preliminary step. I still can't drive . . . . 85!!!
posted by jeremias at 11:34 AM on September 1, 2011


I lived in Houston when they tried to lower highway speed limits with the intention of reducing air pollution. The whole city pretty much collectively decided to ignore the new signs -- speeds in the right lanes remained in the 70s, while folks in the left lanes continued along at 80-100mph.

For so many miles of Texas highway the road is 6 lanes wide and dead flat. Folks are going to drive over 80 on those roads regardless of the posted limit unless it's a known speed trap. Also, most of the time this is not dangerous. When the road turns curvy or gets narrower, people slow down.
posted by cubby at 11:34 AM on September 1, 2011


This post title is misleading

yes but Agent Orange remains awesome
posted by elizardbits at 11:35 AM on September 1, 2011 [1 favorite]


Can a state be nominated for a Darwin Award?
posted by orange swan at 11:36 AM on September 1, 2011 [1 favorite]


Also: Just like northern drivers being able to drive safely in the snow -- drivers in Texas get pretty good at driving fast on highways. The state is huge and to get anywhere you need to drive pretty far on a highway.
posted by cubby at 11:36 AM on September 1, 2011 [2 favorites]


The worst experience I've had with speed is I-94 from Kalamazoo to Ann Arbor where I ended up averaging 93mph, hit the governor 3 times and still had people passing me.

Three times, you say? Don't elected officials have Secret Service protection or something to keep them out of high-speed traffic?


Governor Rick Snyder believes in small government and union busting. Let's just say his union secret service detail isn't highly motivated.
posted by It's Raining Florence Henderson at 11:38 AM on September 1, 2011 [1 favorite]


It is motherfucking FUN to go over 100 mph in German car. So I've heard.

I was in Bavaria for business the other month and the folks at Avis kindly gave me an Audi (as opposed to the shitbox Opels I'm used to). I was just keeping up with traffic before I realized I was going 180 km/h. I had people tailgating me in the left lane while I was trying to pass semis at that speed, and it was... exhilarating, to say the least.

Plus of course everybody drives Audis and BMWs.

You know it's funny, that's really less true that you might think. There are plenty of people that own luxury vehicles there (maybe proportionally more than in the US, but I don't have any numbers to back that up) but there are lots of people that drive shitty Skodas and Ford Fiestas that have trouble keeping up with the trucks.

There are two reasons for this, I think. First, vehicle inspection standards are much higher in Germany, so even a small bit of rust is going to get your beater condemned. Second, my impression (again, no data) is that car ownership is simply not as prevalent in Germany because of gas prices and the difficulty involved getting licensed. So you might have one car per family (rather than 2 or 3 or 6 that you might have in the States) or no car at all if you're within public transit range (pretty much anywhere but the very rural hamlets).

One thing about high speed limits is that a good road surface is pretty much mandatory. The cracked and potholed roads around here certainly couldn't support traffic at 85-100 mph for any length of time - you're far too likely to lose control of your vehicle or damage something by hitting a hole at high speed. German roads are constructed differently from US roads, as they are a) twice as thick and b) rebuilt in huge sections rather than throwing patches over potholes.
posted by backseatpilot at 11:38 AM on September 1, 2011 [13 favorites]


spicynuts: “What's the death rate on the Autobahn (fahn fahn fahn!!!)?”

One really needs to take into account the fact that most people in Texas have guns in their cars.

Seriously, driving in Texas is frightening.
posted by koeselitz at 11:39 AM on September 1, 2011 [1 favorite]


For those who want stats, Texas is solidly middle-of-the-pack in traffic fatalities.

There's an unmistakable "red state roads are deadly as all hell" trend going on.

And I'm in Louisiana. #2....
posted by The Giant Squid at 11:40 AM on September 1, 2011 [4 favorites]


And with hummers and shit do you really think anyone really cares about "fuel economy"?

Because everyone drives a Hummer, right?

There's obviously a point where people will stop going faster, no matter what the speed limit says; if we put a sign out that said "speed limit 150 MPH" people would not drive 160, because most of them can't. I'd say that most people(in average cars) have a much lower point (around 80-85) where going faster just isn't worth it, mainly because the car shakes and it's loud, and it generally sucks if you drive more than a few minutes that way.

Also, because we're talking about a 5 MPH change on a small number of roads where people are already driving pretty fast, all the "everyone's going to die" nonsense in this thread seems more about people getting their Texas hate on than anything else.
posted by Bulgaroktonos at 11:41 AM on September 1, 2011 [2 favorites]


backseatpilot: “There are two reasons for this, I think. First, vehicle inspection standards are much higher in Germany, so even a small bit of rust is going to get your beater condemned.”

Do you have a cite for this? You actually have to have your car inspected more often in Texas than in Germany - in Texas, it's required annually, whereas Germany only requires it every two years. But the standards may be much higher. I'm not sure.
posted by koeselitz at 11:42 AM on September 1, 2011


If it's rational to drive a car at 85 mph to get from one place in your state to another

Agreed, they really should look at moving everything closer together.
posted by Ad hominem at 11:43 AM on September 1, 2011 [3 favorites]


And with hummers and shit do you really think anyone really cares about "fuel economy"?

Hardly anyone drives a Hummer. 303,000 H2's and H3's were sold in the US during their entire run. As of 2008 there were 255,000,000 vehicles registered in the US.
posted by Mister Fabulous at 11:43 AM on September 1, 2011 [3 favorites]


I was just keeping up with traffic before I realized I was going 180 km/h
posted by backseatpilot


Eponyscareical
posted by cashman at 11:43 AM on September 1, 2011 [5 favorites]


It's actually about my hate for fast, careless driving, than Texas hate, but thanks for your speculation.
posted by agregoli at 11:44 AM on September 1, 2011


People are thinking about this all wrong; the problem isn't the speed, it's the difference in speed between the fastest and slowest drivers. If you don't raise the minimum speed limit you could very well have some drivers going twice as fast as other (90 and 45, say). If you do raise it, people who should be able to use the road, suddenly won't be able to use it: old people, old cars, oversized loads, etc.
posted by 2bucksplus at 11:44 AM on September 1, 2011 [2 favorites]


it's better to be 100% focused on your driving than 30% focused on driving and 70% focused on finding a hidden police car waiting to make a ticket quota.

I find that keeping an eye out for hidden police cars helps focus my driving. It's complacency and the radio which distract me.
posted by caddis at 11:45 AM on September 1, 2011 [1 favorite]


85 is ludicrous.

Texas: LUDICROUS SPEED! GO!
Louisiana: What the hell was that?
Oklahoma: Interstate Ten.
Louisiana: They've gone to plaid!
posted by spitefulcrow at 11:46 AM on September 1, 2011 [13 favorites]


Yep, and now that Texas has passed this law, Louisiana lawmakers will have a law passed by the end of next year, something to the effect that: "all of the good jobs are going to Texas because of their higher speed limits".
posted by The Giant Squid at 11:48 AM on September 1, 2011 [2 favorites]


We should do this here in New Mexico. 85 is already the "unofficial" fast-lane speed limit on most highways marked 75, and we have a lot of nobody-coming-either-way-for-miles roads where "safe and prudent" is pretty much what people do, despite what the sign says (usually 65). I also agree that people don't drive much over 95 in any case, and most won't go over 90 -- it's simply not a comfortable speed in the vast majority of cars.

People slamming on their brakes because they saw a cop are much more of a hazard than a lane full of cars driving 85 rather than 75.
posted by vorfeed at 11:49 AM on September 1, 2011 [2 favorites]


If you don't raise the minimum speed limit you could very well have some drivers going twice as fast as other (90 and 45, say)

People going 45 in West Texas will starve to death before they reach their destination.

It's actually about my hate for fast, careless driving, than Texas hate, but thanks for your speculation.

So that's why you came into a thread about a 5 MPH change on a few highways to bandy about ignorant stereotypes about "good ole boys?" Good to know.
posted by Bulgaroktonos at 11:52 AM on September 1, 2011 [6 favorites]


The Texas hate in this thread is very misplaced.
posted by Lord Force Crater at 11:53 AM on September 1, 2011


The cops should just put up signs stating "SPEED CHECK ONE MILE, SLOW DOWN OR GET TICKET." And then not have a cop there.
posted by Mister Fabulous at 11:53 AM on September 1, 2011 [3 favorites]


As for the Autobahn, that is where I learned that a Dodge Minivan will go over 170 kph. That was perhaps a little more unnerving than a five series BMW at the same speed in the driving rain. Anyway, that driving course described above must work because it has been my experience that German drivers are excellent and safe (except for that passing on a blind hill thing) and respect the fast lane such that drivers in the fast lane at 190 kph can coexist with drivers in the center lane at 130 kph safely enough.
posted by caddis at 11:53 AM on September 1, 2011


You really think most people's cars can go close to 100 for any length of time without a noticeable decline in fuel economy and ride quality? I really doubt that.

Sure, but that doesn't mean that some people won't have cars that can handle it better, and some people just won't care. Heck, a Prius can do 100, but it will be phenomenally unhappy about it.
posted by zachlipton at 11:53 AM on September 1, 2011


I want to see if this has an appreciable impact on Texas automobile sales over the next 6 months.
posted by Theta States at 11:53 AM on September 1, 2011


desjardins: "It is motherfucking FUN to go over 100 mph in German car. So I've heard."

Once took my crappy 1970 Audi 100 up to 110 on Rt. 81 in PA, not sure why except that I was an idiot nineteen year old. I was going down a very steep and long hill which was the only way that 2.0 four was going to get up to that speed and made it doubly terrifying.

I bought my 21 year old son a first-gen Scion XB precisely to prevent events like that.
posted by octothorpe at 11:54 AM on September 1, 2011 [1 favorite]


Finally! One damn thing I can like about Texas (aside from barbecue of course ... and Austin)
posted by Poet_Lariat at 11:54 AM on September 1, 2011 [2 favorites]


three blind mice: "Well i've crashed a car at 40mph and walked away. I crashed one at 60 and limped away. If I crash at 85 I don't think an airbag is gonna save me. Kinetic energy is funny like that. But maybe physics is just all uninformed speculation!"

This, exactly. Let's crunch a few numbers here, assuming (for the sake of some easy calculations) a car of one metric tonne, 1000kg.

At 55mph (24.6 m/s), kinetic energy = 0.5 * 1000 * 24.6^2 = 302.6 kJ
At 70mph (31.3 m/s, 27% faster than 55mph), energy = 0.5 * 1000 * 31.3^2 = 489.8 kJ, 62% more energy than at 55mph

And now the (much smaller) increase these roads in Texas have seen:
80mph (35.8 m/s), energy = 0.5 * 1000 * 35.8^2 = 640.8 kJ
85mph (38.0 m/s, 6% faster), energy = 0.5 * 1000 * 38^2 = 722.0 kJ, 13% more energy

So even if you're no more likely to hit something at your higher speed, anything you do hit is going to have a lot more energy imparted to it than you might think. Incidentally, that has repercussions for braking distance, too, as you won't stop until your brakes have dissipated all your kinetic energy - making the slightly naive assumption that brakes dissipate energy at a constant rate over time, the car doing 70mph is going to stop in about 2/3 the distance of the car doing 85mph.
posted by ZsigE at 11:55 AM on September 1, 2011


I'm confused. People are talking about 85 MPH as scary fast or something. You can't stay in the left lane on a highway in Massachusetts without going at least 80.
posted by diogenes at 11:55 AM on September 1, 2011 [5 favorites]


If it's rational to drive a car at 85 mph to get from one place in your state to another, I propose that your state is too big.

I have a feeling you'd really hate my county. Even at 85mph, it would take over 2.5 hours to travel from one corner of the county to another. And some would argue even 85 is too slow in these parts.
posted by buggzzee23 at 11:56 AM on September 1, 2011


It's actually about my hate for fast, careless driving

Why does fast enter into it? Are those people texting and eating you mention that much safer at 80mph?

Heck, a Prius can do 100, but it will be phenomenally unhappy about it.

On those tires? I'd like to see it sustained for a while. If you are all are sure people re going to start exceeding 100mph, I am off to invest in every single tire company. Tires have ratings for a reason.
posted by yerfatma at 11:57 AM on September 1, 2011 [1 favorite]


I'm pretty sure the freeway speed limit in L.A. is "as fast as you can go." This speed is usually between 0 and 20 m.p.h.
posted by jabberjaw at 11:59 AM on September 1, 2011 [15 favorites]


No, they're not. I think 80 is pretty dumb as a speed limit too. Maybe I was hating on Texas a bit, and I apologize. But the arguing for these speeds surprises me and I guess this isn't the thread I should be in right now.
posted by agregoli at 12:01 PM on September 1, 2011


A lot of white stetsons are going to be blown off.
On the upside you don't have to be firing six shooters in the air while driving in Texas anymore.
Meanwhile, Hazzard County, Georgia still has to fix all those up tilted bridges.
Thanks to the uncanny structural integrity of early model Dodges this hasn't been a problem so far...
...but I cant go into it now, I have to go light a cigar with my tommygun and go back to work for my corrupt political boss making counterfeit Michael Jordan posters.
posted by Smedleyman at 12:01 PM on September 1, 2011 [5 favorites]


The Darwin principal at it's best.
posted by tomswift at 12:01 PM on September 1, 2011


People are thinking about this all wrong; the problem isn't the speed, it's the difference in speed between the fastest and slowest drivers.

This is a good point; I've seen extreme examples of that in the Middle East.

Beyond the fact that people pass on the left shoulder in bumper-to-bumper traffic flowing at upwards of 80 in the left lane, lane discipline is less than exemplary, etc., there are plenty of old, slow, largely trashed cars and trucks on the roads and they're about done at 45 mph, appreciably less on any kind of incline.

Life gets interesting when a slow vehicle in the right lane wants to go about 37, pulls right into the middle lane of cars going about twice that speed, all the more if it's done when someone in the left lane wants to go 85+ and tries to pass on the right, into the middle lane.
posted by ambient2 at 12:01 PM on September 1, 2011


The Texas hate in this thread is very misplaced.

Agreed. There is much to love about Texas, and an 85 mph speed limit is part of the love. (However, why only 85?)
posted by caddis at 12:02 PM on September 1, 2011


One really needs to take into account the fact that most people in Texas have guns in their cars.

Yep, raised speed limits will definitely affect guns in people's cars. Wait, what?

Every single day on the highway, I see people texting, eating, driving all casual and loose at crazy speeds.

Every single day you drive on rural Texas highways?

This is something that's only to affect very specific sections of a road in the middle of nowhere. They're not going to be increasing the speed limit 15-30 mph on all highways.
posted by kmz at 12:04 PM on September 1, 2011 [2 favorites]


You guys are all overlooking the seldom-mentioned provision in this law that says that if you slow down below 55 YOUR BUS WILL EXPLODE
posted by jbickers at 12:04 PM on September 1, 2011 [7 favorites]


> 70% focused on finding a hidden police car waiting to make a ticket quota.

The speed traps will still be there, and maybe this will even be a boon to those little towns. Say you're cruising along at 85 then suddenly hit a 50 MPH zone. There's no real discernible change in scenery or road conditions but you're in someone's municipality or annex now. But, the road is so smooth and there are no cars! Just ease up a little and keep going.

Suddenly, bam! Ticket for going 70 in a 50. $250, please.
posted by Horselover Phattie at 12:05 PM on September 1, 2011


Damn, the viciousness on this topic is unreal.
posted by agregoli at 12:06 PM on September 1, 2011


This is something that's only to affect very specific sections of a road in the middle of nowhere. They're not going to be increasing the speed limit 15-30 mph on all highways.

Seriously, they just raised the speed limit on parts of the major 6-lane highway that I commute on from 65 mph to 70. Large parts of it are still at 60mph.
posted by muddgirl at 12:07 PM on September 1, 2011


They're not going to be increasing the speed limit 15-30 mph on all highways.

I propose a state-wide increase of speed limits of 30mph inside and outside the cities. 55mph in residential neighborhoods. If you believe arguments above, people will begin driving 60-65mph through neighborhood streets.
posted by Mister Fabulous at 12:07 PM on September 1, 2011


I must admit, I would support this for Saskatchewan, Montana, and both Dakotas.

That wouldn't be safe because Saskatchewan doesn't have freeways. There are twinned highways like 1, 11 and 16, but they don't have many overpasses.

I did do 150 kph/93 MPH on two-lane highway 7 for about an hour straight, once. That road can be dead certain times of the day

Absolutely agree about Montana, though.
posted by Pruitt-Igoe at 12:08 PM on September 1, 2011


Here's the thing about I-10 from Texas to Arizona. It doesn't rain a lot. Sometimes, it doesn't rain for 3 or 4 months. All the oil from those cars slowly coats the road.

And then it rains. And of course, no one is really used to driving in the rain, especially on oil slicked roads. Going 85. Fun times.
posted by atomicmedia at 12:10 PM on September 1, 2011 [1 favorite]


Damn, the viciousness on this topic is unreal

Indeed:

Enjoy your increase in highway deaths, Texas!

In the petri dish of conservative looniness that is Texas, road deaths will blossom like bacteria.

I'm quite confident highway deaths will go up in good 'ole boy Texas.

Can a state be nominated for a Darwin Award?

The Darwin principal at it's best.
posted by kmz at 12:11 PM on September 1, 2011 [1 favorite]


Montana: No Speed Limit Safety Paradox
posted by Horselover Phattie at 12:11 PM on September 1, 2011 [1 favorite]


Note that link indicates that deaths increased after Montana instituted speed limits.

Also, if you hate Texas you suck and don't matter anyway.
posted by Horselover Phattie at 12:12 PM on September 1, 2011


My wife and I frequently travel between Dallas and San Antonio. We occasionally take I-35 (as opposed to the beautiful leisurely drive up / down 281) and I gotta say, people don't give two shits about the speed limit anyway around here.

Texas needs to pass the no cell phone while driving law like California. Every near miss I have seen has involved some dumb ass texting or watching their phone while navigating the suicide route that is I-35.

Now if they are only talking about sections of I-10 between Van Horn and El Paso...then hell yes! It's like driving in a straight flat line for 3.5 hours. It sucks. If they increase the limit on 35, I am never getting on that death trap ever again. Period.
posted by Benway at 12:13 PM on September 1, 2011


And then it rains. And of course, no one is really used to driving in the rain, especially on oil slicked roads. Going 85. Fun times.

I believe the cops can ticket you for going an unsafe speed, even if that speed is lower than the speed limit. So yes, if you are going 85 in the rain then you are an idiot. Of course, idiots drive 85mph in the rain even when the speed limit is 75.
posted by muddgirl at 12:14 PM on September 1, 2011 [1 favorite]


Everybody drives 85 on I-35 between Dallas and Austin, anyway. You just about have to in order to even keep up with traffic.
posted by kaseijin at 12:14 PM on September 1, 2011 [1 favorite]


Nobody goes 20kph over the speed limit on rural Quebec roads.

Not in the winter, no, but have you driven between Montreal and the US border? I suppose it's true in that everyone is going at least 30kph over the limit.
posted by jeather at 12:15 PM on September 1, 2011


All the oil from those cars slowly coats the road.

Wait, what? Is it normal for your car to leak oil in Texas? Because that's sure as hell not normal where I live.
posted by indubitable at 12:15 PM on September 1, 2011


Wait, what? Is it normal for your car to leak oil in Texas? Because that's sure as hell not normal where I live.

The instructions about being extra careful when rain is just starting is taught everywhere. Not everyone keeps their cars in perfect maintenance.
posted by Mister Fabulous at 12:17 PM on September 1, 2011


> Wait, what? Is it normal for your car to leak oil in Texas? Because that's sure as hell not normal where I live

It's normal everywhere there are cars and trucks on the road. The first minutes of a rain storm are particularly dangerous because the small deposit of oily film from thousands of cars acts as a kind of skidding surface for the rainwater.
posted by Horselover Phattie at 12:18 PM on September 1, 2011


Hundreds of thousands of cars over 3 months. I have Pirellis and I slip even on residential streets.
posted by atomicmedia at 12:20 PM on September 1, 2011


Harder
Better
Faster
Stronger
posted by Devils Rancher at 12:21 PM on September 1, 2011


Montana: #1 in traffic fatalities per capita!

A truly astonishing statistic, considering that it is one of the least densely populated states.
posted by goethean at 12:21 PM on September 1, 2011 [1 favorite]


This is exactly why y'all need to switch to metric.

85mph = 137km/h

A hundred and thirty-seven.
posted by Sys Rq at 12:23 PM on September 1, 2011


There is no good reason that the limit shouldn't be raised to 85.

Well, if we still gave it shit, one good reason would be that lower speeds reduce C02 emissions.
posted by KokuRyu at 12:25 PM on September 1, 2011


Higher speeds means more transplantable organs. Hooray!
posted by Renoroc at 12:25 PM on September 1, 2011 [2 favorites]


This is exactly why y'all need to switch to metric.

Does Tucson get a cookie?
posted by atomicmedia at 12:26 PM on September 1, 2011


A hundred and thirty-seven.

That's not so bad on a road (and driving a car) that is designed for that speed.
posted by KokuRyu at 12:26 PM on September 1, 2011


Montana: #1 in traffic fatalities per capita!

A truly astonishing statistic, considering that it is one of the least densely populated states.


The level of fatalities could be influenced by access to emergency medical care, which is partly dependent on population density.
posted by Jehan at 12:26 PM on September 1, 2011 [2 favorites]


Montana: #1 in traffic fatalities per capita!

Montana: Home to zero Level I Trauma Centers. Also: No states that border Montana have a Level I Trauma Center.
posted by Mister Fabulous at 12:26 PM on September 1, 2011 [3 favorites]


Too low. I say minimum speeds should be in the triple digits. A lot harder to fiddle with the radio or put on makeup at those speeds. When you're going that fast, you're focused ON THE DAMN ROAD.

Also, I want to track down the study, but I'm pretty sure that the stats show you're more likely to be involved in an accident if you're traveling at/below the prevailing speed of traffic. Usual disclaimers apply, correlation not causation, etc.

I don't give a fuck about speed limits as much as I do filtering/lane splitting. C'mon, America. Get with the rest of the civilized world. I am tired of waiting to be rear-ended in traffic. You people in the cages can dick around all you want, taking up huge amounts of space and burning whatever fossil fuels in a traffic jam. Me? I'm sitting on an internal combustion engine and trying not to catch heatstroke.
posted by Eideteker at 12:27 PM on September 1, 2011 [3 favorites]


Montana: #1 in traffic fatalities per capita!
Two possibilities: Drivers fell asleep in long stretches of nowhere, or cars were blown off Highway Two.
posted by Cranberry at 12:27 PM on September 1, 2011


80MPH is nothing. Driving from DC to Hampton Roads the traffic hardly ever drops below 80 except once you get down to two lanes between Richmond and Williamsburg. Of course my Bimmer handles high speeds a lot better than my Escort used to and feels like it's riding on a cloud...

What they should do is make it an offense to force faster drivers to pass you on the right. I've tried flashing my high beams but some people just don't get it. STAY ON THE RIGHT PEOPLE!!

And while I'm on the subject of driving peeves, let me say that the worst is when there's a driver passes a car on the left slowly enough that several cars line up behind the passing car. Then comes the asshole who decides that he's going pass everyone else by on the right and then cut off whoever happens to be in the way when he gets to the car blocking him in the right lane. I know it's not safe but whenever I'm driving in the passing lane and see someone gaining behind me in the travel lane I intentionally close the gap so that they wind up having to brake and fall behind. It's not safe but if you leave them any gap they will cut into it and I will not stand for it.

/endrant
posted by daHIFI at 12:27 PM on September 1, 2011


In motorcycle training class they cited a study that said that the centre of the lanes of highway 401 in Ontario gathers 60 litres of fluid (oil, gas, antifreeze, grease, goop) per meter during the course of a year. Which then washes across the entire highway when in rains or thaws. (I don't have the cite handy, but it was a remarkable statistic.)

Considering that someone in the class dropped his bike (an automatic fail) during the final exam when he touched the front tire to a painted white line after a brief rainstorm -- yeah, wet is bad for traction.
posted by seanmpuckett at 12:28 PM on September 1, 2011


You'd think that Texas just increased the speed limit on every single road to 85mph. From what I've read, this will impact a very small minority of roads - it will still not be legal for me to drive 85mph on any road that I regularly travel.

I was just thinking about it -- there's only one stretch of I-10 I've ever been on that's got the 80 mph limit on it now -- the 1/4 mile jog that it takes to get from RR 479 onto 41 west to Rocksprings. I'm usually still accelerating towards 80 when it's time to slow back down. I'd be hard-pressed to hit 85 on that stretch.
posted by Devils Rancher at 12:29 PM on September 1, 2011


Mister Fabulous: "The cops should just put up signs stating "SPEED CHECK ONE MILE, SLOW DOWN OR GET TICKET." And then not have a cop there.
"

They have something a bit more clever around here whenever I drive down to KC. They put in these signs warning of drug check stops with dogs, but there's never any stop. As best I can tell, they station hidden cruisers at the next nearest offramp and wait for idiots to self-select into custody.
posted by pwnguin at 12:29 PM on September 1, 2011 [2 favorites]


Nthing that people are already doing 85 on I-35 and I-10 and that the best thing we could do would be stop people from talking and texting while driving. We were actually going to ban texting statewide this legislative session but somebody vetoed the ban back in June because it was micromanaging the behavior of adults.
posted by immlass at 12:31 PM on September 1, 2011


Seriously? People are afraid to drive 85 mph? Are roads in the US that bad? 130 km/h is a completely un-noteworthy speed to hit on the highways here in the Toronto area, and I've often caught myself cruising at 140 without noticing (nor was I blasting past other traffic). And people feeling like their cars were going to die going above 85 mph? My 2001 Neon (R/T!) easily hit 180 km/h (111ish mph) and the only reason I thought I might die was 1) holy shit I'm driving 180 km/h; and 2) the speed limiter kicked in, and that is scary when you're not expecting it and you're driving 180 km/h. I don't drive that fast any more, but hey, we all do silly scary things when we're 23.


Don't we?
posted by antifuse at 12:31 PM on September 1, 2011 [1 favorite]


Apparently Texas doesn't need the revenue.
posted by Brocktoon at 12:32 PM on September 1, 2011


Another point in favor of raising the limit: if I'm driving through Texas I want to get to the other side AS QUICKLY AS POSSIBLE.
posted by octobersurprise at 12:33 PM on September 1, 2011


if I'm driving through Texas I want to get to the other side AS QUICKLY AS POSSIBLE.

Welcome to Texas! Don't forget to leave.
posted by Devils Rancher at 12:34 PM on September 1, 2011 [9 favorites]


if I'm driving through Texas I want to get to the other side AS QUICKLY AS POSSIBLE

Which would be about 9 hours assuming you could maintain the new speed limit. Or was this just another Hate on Texas comment? Oh, sorry.
posted by yerfatma at 12:36 PM on September 1, 2011 [1 favorite]


if I'm driving through Texas I want to get to the other side AS QUICKLY AS POSSIBLE.

Believe me when I say we don't want you here.
posted by item at 12:37 PM on September 1, 2011 [3 favorites]


Montana did have DON'T TEXT AND DRIVE signs while I was there last, sometimes in places that were well outside any sort of cell coverage I could pick up.
posted by gimonca at 12:38 PM on September 1, 2011


"We should do this here in New Mexico. 85 is already the "unofficial" fast-lane speed limit on most highways marked 75, and we have a lot of nobody-coming-either-way-for-miles roads where "safe and prudent" is pretty much what people do, despite what the sign says (usually 65). I also agree that people don't drive much over 95 in any case, and most won't go over 90 -- it's simply not a comfortable speed in the vast majority of cars."

New Mexico is, as far as I know, the only state that's ever had a warrant out for my arrest.

I pulled off one highway, where I'd been doing a legal 70, and got onto a rural route where the first sign I saw was 65. I got pulled over 20 feet in front of the sign and told that as this section was actually 55, I was doing ten over and was ticketed for some insane amount. I pointed to the sign and was told that the speed limit only changed at the actual sign.

"Of course," the cop says, "you can always come back in three months to contest it in court." I told him I was on a road trip, and obviously (Michigan plates) wouldn't be back in three months.

"You should just mail the fine in then," he said.

Back in those benighted days, Michigan and New Mexico didn't have a reciprocal agreement on traffic violations, so while trying my best to appear contrite over my out-of-state-plates violation, I decided to say "Fuck it" and not pay. This led to increasingly scarier letters from New Mexico, and finally a notice that there was a warrant out for my arrest there. I assume that since it's been over seven years, I can go back if I want (I wonder if there's a way to check online), but seriously, fuck New Mexico. They were more dickish there than the cops in New York who pulled me over for doing five over right before a rest stop while I was trying to get to a bathroom and threatened to cite me for pissing on the side of the road (never paid that one either).

(Over the course of the road trip, I managed to get pulled over in every single state we went through, but New Mexico was the only place that gave us a ticket.)
posted by klangklangston at 12:40 PM on September 1, 2011 [1 favorite]


I don't drive that fast any more, but hey, we all do silly scary things when we're 23.

I thankfully worked through that phase when I was 17. I had just gotten an internship at IBM in Clear Lake (near Houston) but my parents still wanted to see me every month or so. Every time I think I averaged 90+ mph for most of the way between Houston and Austin. I don't know how I managed to never get a ticket. And I'm way grateful I never got into a wreck either.

I did, however, essentially destroy my Chevy Cavalier. It was really not designed for that kind of sustained speed and I had to sell it fairly soon after my internship ended.

These days I rarely even go five miles above the limit. (Yes, I stay in the right lane for the most part.) I'm too old for that shit.
posted by kmz at 12:42 PM on September 1, 2011 [1 favorite]


I did the I-10 drive from Louisiana at 6 am on a hurricane evacuation, and almost fell asleep. I'd been up for more than 30 hours, but still - it's worse than warm milk and soft music. That highway is so monotonous.
posted by mitzyjalapeno at 12:44 PM on September 1, 2011 [1 favorite]


http://www.nmcourts.gov/caselookup/app
posted by atomicmedia at 12:44 PM on September 1, 2011


This is great. I like to drive fast and I live in Texas. Now if they'd only bring back the anyone-who-isn't-the-driver-can-have-an-open-container-of-alcohol-in-a-moving-car law that they did away with about a decade go, we'd be all set.
posted by item at 12:44 PM on September 1, 2011 [1 favorite]


Cars have, however, gotten more aerodynamic (less drag in absolute terms) over time, but for any particular profile, you're going to burn more gas as you go faster, and the relationship is still nonlinear: going from 40 to 45 will always be easier than 80 to 85.

Due to the wonders of gearing and power/torque bands this is not true. More speed = more fuel is not true by any means. Admittedly 80-85 = more fuel is probably true for the majority of mid range and smaller cars, though.
posted by Brockles at 12:46 PM on September 1, 2011


Please check into your knee-jerking, this is not borne out by the evidence of history.

From what I have read, sure it is.
posted by Bunny Ultramod at 11:23 AM on September 1 [1 favorite +] [!]


Those links don't refute my point.
posted by rhizome at 12:46 PM on September 1, 2011


you probably aren't going to see many cops anyway.

In my younger, wilder days, I cracked 100 many times on some stretches of road in West Texas. Seriously, you can see for five miles ahead and behind in places. No cars, cows, or cops, and it feels like 55 in town.
posted by spitbull at 12:46 PM on September 1, 2011


> I assume that since it's been over seven years, I can go back if I want (I wonder if there's a way to check online)

I don't think there's a statute of limitations on bench warrants so it's a fairly safe bet that that one is still active in at least that particular jurisdiction, if not a larger area. You could verify if there's still an arrest warrant by contacting an attorney who does traffic cases in that court.
posted by Horselover Phattie at 12:46 PM on September 1, 2011


Come to think of it, that law's okay with me.
posted by item at 12:46 PM on September 1, 2011


Are roads in the US that bad?

Many are. Even interstates, at least here in the Northeast. I don't know about Texas.

But on a straight, flat, well-maintained stretch, I don't see why, fuel-economy concerns aside, 85mph is remarkable. Hell, like everybody's saying, on the Autobahn, 130mph isn't particularly remarkable (mrs ozzy didn't seem to enjoy that, though).
posted by uncleozzy at 12:47 PM on September 1, 2011


klang, I'd actually look into that if you get the chance, because warrants don't typically go away in any state that I've ever practiced law in. Also, unpaid tickets can (some places) get your license suspended. I figure you'd know about that, if this happened a while back and you've been stopped/renewed your license since then, but it's worth checking.
posted by Bulgaroktonos at 12:47 PM on September 1, 2011


I was pulled over in 1995 in Utah on I15. 84 in a 65 (it's a stretch that's now 80). Cop leans in and remarks what great shape my 1970 Impala was in, and asks why I was going so fast, might hurt the car. I told him, well, what with all the scenery, I wasn't paying attention to my speed. He told me "good point" and let me go.

I've been up to 120 in every vehicle I've owned. The Impala was the most well-behaved (caught up to soem guys doing 135. I figure I was doing 150. Brand new motor). The 4x4 truck was...less well behaved. The Hondas didn't really care one way or another. The Pontiac...well, I blew out two coil packs.

I got pulled over for doing the speed limit (70, and I had just timed my car for 70 miles of mile-markers taking one hour and two seconds) in Kansas.

Fuck Kansas.
posted by notsnot at 12:50 PM on September 1, 2011


I must admit, I would support this for Saskatchewan, Montana, and both Dakotas.

Wouldn't a trans-Canada autobahn be awesome? There are thousands of miles of autobahn highways in Germany, but the country is only about 400 miles across so you have to keep turning your Ferrari around every couple of hours to drive back. With an approximate cross country road distance of 3500 miles, you could open it up to 135mph on the transCanadabahn and still have over a full day of driving ahead.
Passing everything except for gas stations
posted by ceribus peribus at 12:52 PM on September 1, 2011 [1 favorite]


Anything that will help me get out of Texas faster. (I'm from New Mexico)
posted by dances_with_sneetches at 12:54 PM on September 1, 2011


As a California driver, I'm surprised to hear so many people say 85 mph is a crazy unsafe speed. 80-85 is the default if there's no traffic and you're driving in the fast lane, and most people I know who have been pulled over for speeding only got pulled over for going 90+. Going 80-85 is just keeping up with the flow of traffic.
posted by yasaman at 12:54 PM on September 1, 2011 [2 favorites]


Paul Gilding outlines a "war plan" to combat climate change and other aspects of the overuse of natural resources. He (among many others) sees something like his plan becoming inevitable as society begins to confront the real, immediate, economic effects of climate change.

One of the points in the plan is a national 35mph speed limit; possibly different speed limits for different types of cars, based on CO2e emissions.

But, hey, way to go, Texas. Wooo!
posted by gurple at 12:57 PM on September 1, 2011


LEAVE BRITNEY TEXAS ALONE!!!!!


now y'all know how I feel every time a Florida thread comes up... :P
posted by Debaser626 at 1:01 PM on September 1, 2011 [2 favorites]


One of the points in the plan is a national 35mph speed limit; possibly different speed limits for different types of cars, based on CO2e emissions.

The 35mph speed limit is the most ridiculous idea I have ever heard in terms of emissions control It's ludicrous and stupid and shows absolutely zero understanding of modern cars and how they are designed. Gearing cars to suit a speed limit and/or likely speed they will be driven at is the biggest factor in determining how much fuel they use. The rpm the engine is turning at and the power available to it at that speed is the biggest factor and 35mph is not a peak speed for ANY car.

This is why your urban mpg figures suck hairy monkey balls compared to your highway mpg figures. They guy is an idiot unless there is a caveat that "as soon as the motor manufacturers have completed 10 year design process for their completely new redesign for drastically different requirements, this speed limit will make sense (but please ignore it as idiotic until then)".

The best way to reduce emissions in the States in short order is to get rid of all those millions of stupid Stop signs and introduce driver training and roundabouts to improve traffic flow. Stop start driving is a major cause of increased emissions.
posted by Brockles at 1:03 PM on September 1, 2011 [2 favorites]


German Vehicle Inspection

Of course I can't find any first-hand sources, - TUV is pretty vague on their website about what they check for - but here is an interesting article from Rammstein Air Base about importing your vehicle to Germany and common reasons for failing inspection.

Something they don't mention that some other sites do is rust. I do remember hearing about people we knew when we lived there who failed inspection because there was rust on the car, especially around the gas tank filler.
posted by backseatpilot at 1:04 PM on September 1, 2011


If only Ontario could wake the hell up about this. We're limited to 100 km/h (60 mph) on highways that are designed for traffic to safely drive over 130 km/h (over 80mph). Our highway speed limits are so ridiculously low that you'll never get pulled over if you're driving within 20% of the limit. That tells you how unrealistic it is. Our idiot premier thinks that driving 150 km/h - even on a clear day, even with no traffic ahead - is "street racing" and will summarily impound your car and suspend your license for it, thank you very much.

These speed limits might have made sense in cars built in the 1950s or 60s, but even the cheapest new car today can safely drive 140 km/h or more. In a good car - like a BMW - 140 feels like nothing - you're in control, and as long as you leave enough following room, there's nothing unsafe about it. Try telling that to the cop writing the ticket.

I particularly like that global warming is now being used an excuse for government to tell us how fast we can drive - remember, David Suzuki knows better than you how much your time is worth, and if you have to spend an extra hour on the highway to make him happy, that's just the price you're going to have to pay. You're not a free person, you're a dirty little carbon-emitter, don't forget.

I never thought I'd say this, but, Texas, thank you for introduction some rationality to this continent.

Why wasn't I born in West Germany grumble grumble grumble
posted by Dasein at 1:04 PM on September 1, 2011 [1 favorite]


One of the points in the plan is a national 35mph speed limit

OK, I was about to get pissed, but no one actually advocated this. Using the metaphor of "going to war" against climate change, the authors mentioned that
In WWII, fuel in the US was rationed at 4 gallons (per vehicle per week) then reduced to 3 gallons, and finally in 1944 to 2 gallons. Alongside this a national 35 mph speed limit was imposed and anyone breaking the limit risked losing their fuel and tire rations. The government ran marketing campaigns to support these measures such as advertisements asking “Is this trip necessary” and educations campaigns on “How to spend a weekend without a car”.12
I think the authors recognize that adopting this literal plan would be impossible - rather they are arguing that we need to develop a similar rationing system for modern day gas-guzzlers.
posted by muddgirl at 1:06 PM on September 1, 2011 [1 favorite]


The fuel economy is an issue, for sure. While most cars are geared to do just fine at over 55mph these days, efficiency does drop off at some point and, on some cars, sooner than you might think.

I drive a VW GTI, which will do 30+mpg all day at 60, but once you hit 70, it's like you're dragging an anchor. If I could swap the 6th gear out for one that's a little bit taller, I'd do it in a heartbeat. I'll downshift if I need to pass, thanks.
posted by uncleozzy at 1:06 PM on September 1, 2011


"I don't think there's a statute of limitations on bench warrants so it's a fairly safe bet that that one is still active in at least that particular jurisdiction, if not a larger area. You could verify if there's still an arrest warrant by contacting an attorney who does traffic cases in that court."

Hmm. That's good to know, though by this point, I'm not even sure where it happened, since it was some rural highway between two interstates. I wonder if there's any way to check that online without, you know, alerting the authorities.

But yeah, I've renewed my license a couple of times in a couple states since then.
posted by klangklangston at 1:07 PM on September 1, 2011


Do newly-manufactured cars still lose fuel efficiency at higher speeds?

Most definitely. I drive a Prius, and at the 45-55mph range I can get well north of 60mpg on some roads. Heck, in certain places, I'll get about 90mpg for a while, i.e. until the battery runs down and the engine has to kick in to recharge it. But kick that up to even 70mph and we're down to 45mph, tops. 40mpg, when it's cold. I haven't tested it, but I'd bet that if I hung out in the 85mph range I'd be closer to 35mpg.

Which is still a damn sight better than I might be doing otherwise, but if anything, the fact that there's a 50+mpg swing in there serves to emphasize just how dramatically fuel efficiency tanks once you get much past 50mph.
posted by valkyryn at 1:07 PM on September 1, 2011


Stop with the dire predictions for increased traffic deaths. I hate to spoil your gleeful masturbation, but the speed limit in Texas has been 80 in a number of places for years.

And if you want to prove what a fantastic humanity loving liberal you are, then you drive from San Antonio to El Paso at fifty-five miles an hour. Put your money where where your milksop mealy mouth is.
posted by Xoebe at 1:10 PM on September 1, 2011 [6 favorites]


Efficiency decreases for everything as speed increases, because the drag equation increases with the square of the velocity.

I'd also like to thank so many of the people in this thread for embracing the "go ahead and break traffic laws, it's basically expected and probably safer for everyone" and hope to see you all in the next bicycling vs. stop signs thread.
posted by lantius at 1:11 PM on September 1, 2011 [3 favorites]


hope to see you all in the next bicycling vs. stop signs thread.

If your bike ever catches up to me, one of us has a hell of a problem.
posted by yerfatma at 1:18 PM on September 1, 2011


OK, I was about to get pissed, but no one actually advocated [a 35mph speed limit].

Whoops, you're absolutely right. I was confused, clearly. But he does advocate lower speed limits, and different speed limits for gas-powered vehicles vs. electric cars. He outlines this in The Great Disruption.
posted by gurple at 1:18 PM on September 1, 2011


I'd also like to thank so many of the people in this thread for embracing the "go ahead and break traffic laws, it's basically expected and probably safer for everyone" and hope to see you all in the next bicycling vs. stop signs thread.

Er, you do see the difference between those two things, don't you? And for what it's worth, I'm totally happy to see a cyclist blow through a stop sign where there's no other traffic, just like I'm happy to see a driver roll a stop sign where there's no other traffic, just like I'm happy to see motorists exceed the speed limit where it's safe to do so. Because traffic laws are not some independent font of wisdom, and the people who write them quite often don't want to give up the revenue that they get from imposing unreasonably low limits and then fining people who break them.
posted by Dasein at 1:19 PM on September 1, 2011 [3 favorites]


The best way to reduce emissions in the States in short order is to get rid of all those millions of stupid Stop signs and introduce driver training and roundabouts to improve traffic flow. Stop start driving is a major cause of increased emissions.

I do agree with this, 100% - my tiny sedan is getting less than 25mpg since I switched from an all-highway to all-city commute.
posted by muddgirl at 1:20 PM on September 1, 2011


Double nickles on the dime.
posted by brevator at 1:20 PM on September 1, 2011 [1 favorite]


The rpm the engine is turning at and the power available to it at that speed is the biggest factor and 35mph is not a peak speed for ANY car. This is why your urban mpg figures suck hairy monkey balls compared to your highway mpg figures.

No, it's because stopping and accelerating uses more gas than traveling at a constant speed.


Road design is the elephant in the room. It seems to be the rule in the US that if a road is supposed to have a speed limit of 30, it should be designed to be easily driven at 50. Then people pretend to be shocked when drivers actually drive 50. Stop overengineering, and people will stop taking advantage of it.
posted by alexei at 1:21 PM on September 1, 2011


Stop overengineering

It's not the engineering that's the problem, it's the over-legislating. If the road's made for 50, let us drive 50.
posted by Dasein at 1:24 PM on September 1, 2011 [1 favorite]


I was recently in Kenya, where there is no speed limit. There are, however, speed bumps about three feet tall and (on most roads) potholes capable of swallowing cars whole. 'Traffic Calming,' by another name.

Also, all hail West Texas!
posted by kaibutsu at 1:25 PM on September 1, 2011 [1 favorite]


YEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEHAAAAAAAAAAAAWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWW
posted by Halloween Jack at 1:30 PM on September 1, 2011 [1 favorite]


Efficiency decreases for everything as speed increases, because the drag equation increases with the square of the velocity.

I have no idea why people keep saying this and trotting it out as 'proof' every time this comes up when it is patently and demonstrably false as a blanket statement. Aerodynamic efficency is not the only factor involved in dictating fuel efficiency. It is balanced (along with friction/rolling resistance) against engine efficiency to produce an economy figure. Engine performance and efficiency has at least as much of a role as aerodynamic efficiency.

No, it's because stopping and accelerating uses more gas than traveling at a constant speed.

Changing speed is crappy, yes, but hardly any modern car is geared to be optimally efficient at 35mph. Not even close.
posted by Brockles at 1:31 PM on September 1, 2011


Have driven all over Texas. It's about damned time. There are huge stretches of road with nothing but cattle or flat, open terrain for miles and miles.

They'll notch the speed limit up on those roads and keep it at reasonable levels in towns (since tickets are already a huge revenue generator for small towns) and in areas where those speeds would be dangrous.

People with an ounce of sense in their heads will not push their cars or reflexes beyond their limits. Or they will buck for a Darwin Award.

My father-in-law does 70 in his Toyota Camry on Dallas highways with a speed limit of 75. I don't drive too far above 70 myself no matter what the limit is. I've done 110+ in a Toyota Corolla, during a "Fly Her Apart, Then!" moment the night my kids were born. I wouldn't dare do that again in a ten year old car.
posted by zarq at 1:32 PM on September 1, 2011 [1 favorite]


Efficiency decreases for everything as speed increases, because the drag equation increases with the square of the velocity.

Better tell the feds.

(Hint: drag is not the only thing that affects fuel efficiency.)

See also.

Of course the real elephant in the room is that even if everybody drove hybrids at 50mph, that wouldn't solve the emissions problem. The real solution is re-engineering cities and changing lifestyles. If you have to drive 30+ miles to get to work every day, you're spewing lots of CO2 no matter what. If everybody lived close to where they worked or could take fast and easy public transportation to work, it wouldn't really matter if you're getting 35mpg or 40mpg.

Better efficiency certainly doesn't hurt though.
posted by kmz at 1:32 PM on September 1, 2011 [2 favorites]


It seems to be the rule in the US that if a road is supposed to have a speed limit of 30, it should be designed to be easily driven at 50.

Maybe this is more evident for the roads in Northern Ontario, but you're missing a "...easily driven at 50 under ideal conditions" there. They try to overdesign the road so that it can still be driven even when it's rainy, windy, snowy, or it's 5am and all of the drivers are hungover. Don't confuse a healthy safety margin for overdesign.
posted by ceribus peribus at 1:33 PM on September 1, 2011 [1 favorite]


kaibutsu: " Also, all hail West Texas!"

El Paso, represent. :)
posted by zarq at 1:33 PM on September 1, 2011


> Changing speed is crappy, yes, but hardly any modern car is geared to be optimally efficient at 35mph. Not even close.

Going by the ODBII data that I can read on my phone thanks to the Bluetooth adapter, I get phenomenal MPG at 35 if I'm in 4th or 5th gear. That's probably not totally accurate, but not far off. If your RPM is low and there's not much load, then you're going to get good mileage. 35 better than 55 provided you're in direct or overdrive ratio.
posted by Horselover Phattie at 1:34 PM on September 1, 2011


I think a lot of the OMG factor here might be coming from people who don't drive all that regularly; I have to spend about an hour in my car every day, on roads ranging from stop and go to really, really fast, and to my mind 85 really isn't that big a deal. I'm hitting that regularly to keep up with traffic in a 65mph zone here in Wisconsin. If it were raised to that being the speed limit, I suspect that you'd get a few people hitting 90 or 100, but most people would probably find themselves sticking with the 85mpg range.

It's just a comfortable point for people who spend a lot of time behind the wheel.
posted by quin at 1:35 PM on September 1, 2011


I have to point out that, "Wir fahren fahren fahren auf der Autobahn"
posted by found missing at 1:35 PM on September 1, 2011


If only Ontario could wake the hell up about this. We're limited to 100 km/h (60 mph) on highways that are designed for traffic to safely drive over 130 km/h (over 80mph). Our highway speed limits are so ridiculously low that you'll never get pulled over if you're driving within 20% of the limit. That tells you how unrealistic it is. Our idiot premier thinks that driving 150 km/h - even on a clear day, even with no traffic ahead - is "street racing" and will summarily impound your car and suspend your license for it, thank you very much.

I strongly disagree with this. The 401 between Ottawa and Toronto has some ridiculously bad driving. I agree that a speed limit isn't the reason for bad driving, but it makes the effects of bad driving so much worse. There are portions of the highway that are notoriously bad for crashes and pileups, due to fatigue and any number of other factors that driving 20 km/h faster would have no positive effect on.

Beyond that, do you know who gets sued when someone driving a ridiculously high speed into a highway on-ramp or passing lane crashes, even when a speed limit is posted? You are arguing an increase of 20-30 km/h is rational and realistic for our existing highways, but plaintiffs are currently arguing in court that our highways are designed in such a way that is unreasonable at current limits. And this is before we get into issues of snow and ice, lighting, etc.
posted by Hoopo at 1:36 PM on September 1, 2011


If everybody lived close to where they worked or could take fast and easy public transportation to work

Even though I live 9 miles from work, taking the bus requires a transfer; during "rush hour", the total one-way trip time is 1 hour 15 minutes (mostly waiting for the transfer). If I want to get into the office at 6:45 or 9:30, of course, the trip would only take 45 minutes (20 minutes of that waiting for the transfer).
posted by muddgirl at 1:38 PM on September 1, 2011


ceribus peribus: " Maybe this is more evident for the roads in Northern Ontario, but you're missing a "...easily driven at 50 under ideal conditions" there. They try to overdesign the road so that it can still be driven even when it's rainy, windy, snowy, or it's 5am and all of the drivers are hungover. Don't confuse a healthy safety margin for overdesign."

It doesn't rain all that much in Amarillo, TX. They measure precip by hundredths of an inch. But every once in a while, they have a flooding storm and I-40 doesn't have an adequate drainage system. So you have these big dip underpasses, which act as water collectors. And flood. People who live in desert climates (or at least in Amarillo) do not know what the hell to do when flooding rains come. Or worse, ice storms. They often drive through flood waters at top speed and drown their cars.
posted by zarq at 1:39 PM on September 1, 2011


It's not the average traffic speed that'll kill you, it's the damn standard deviation.
posted by klarck at 1:39 PM on September 1, 2011 [1 favorite]


I drive a VW GTI, which will do 30+mpg all day at 60, but once you hit 70, it's like you're dragging an anchor.

I have driven my Celica between Houston and Jacksonville on I-10 four times in the last 2 years, and I kept track of my milage on all trips. I consistently averaged 35 mpg at 70-75 mph (cruise control) with the AC running, and the car is rated at 30-32 highway. I think a lot of it has to do with gear ratios and aerodynamics, but I have seen absolutely no downside to driving my car at that speed.

On the other hand, my old Chevy K-10, full-time 4X4 with the 350 V8 -- hit an absolute wall at 65 mph, where the extra gas and the extra wind resistance exactly equalled in force. It would not go over 65, period.
posted by Devils Rancher at 1:40 PM on September 1, 2011


I think Texas has a refreshing attitude about this. People are assuredly already driving this fast on these roads, and the government has two options: Either dig in their heels and continue to cite people for normal behavior, or reassess the necessity of the law and, if prudent, change it to reflect what everyone does anyway.

Not sure what is so grar-worthy about that. It's actually a nice show of flexibility.
posted by dixiecupdrinking at 1:42 PM on September 1, 2011 [3 favorites]


Point being, speed limits should not be catering to some lowest common denominator that will always drive 15 MPH faster than what's posted. They should reflect realistic upper limits. Setting speed limits at laughably low levels just serves to make the government look either out of touch or opportunistic (so they can swoop in and write some tickets whenever they feel).
posted by dixiecupdrinking at 1:44 PM on September 1, 2011 [2 favorites]


And then it rains. And of course, no one is really used to driving in the rain, especially on oil slicked roads.

From what I've seen in the news it seems like it doesn't rain in Texas anymore.
posted by MattMangels at 1:51 PM on September 1, 2011 [1 favorite]


Even though I live 9 miles from work, taking the bus requires a transfer; during "rush hour", the total one-way trip time is 1 hour 15 minutes (mostly waiting for the transfer). If I want to get into the office at 6:45 or 9:30, of course, the trip would only take 45 minutes (20 minutes of that waiting for the transfer).

*nods* That's why fast and easy is an important qualifier. When I lived in Chicago I could take the L and get to my office 8 miles away in about 20-25 minutes . It was awesome.
posted by kmz at 1:51 PM on September 1, 2011


my old Chevy K-10, full-time 4X4 with the 350 V8 -- hit an absolute wall at 65 mph, where the extra gas and the extra wind resistance exactly equalled in force. It would not go over 65, period.

I drove a geo metro convertible in college that was similarly limited to 65 with the top down, maybe up to 70ish with the top up.

Except the one trip home from skiing in Colorado, coming down across the kansas plains, I managed to get the speedo pegged somewhere north of 80. The police officer I flew past didn't even blink, probably thought he was seeing a mirage.
posted by nomisxid at 1:52 PM on September 1, 2011 [2 favorites]


Even though I live 9 miles from work, taking the bus requires a transfer; during "rush hour", the total one-way trip time is 1 hour 15 minutes (mostly waiting for the transfer). If I want to get into the office at 6:45 or 9:30, of course, the trip would only take 45 minutes (20 minutes of that waiting for the transfer)."

I live about 12 miles from my office. That's an hour and fifteen minutes by express bus. An hour and a half by commuter rail and subway. Two hours by bus and subway. And anywhere from 25 minutes (on weekend mornings at 6am) to an hour and a half during rush hour -- and then of course you have to find parking. All one way.

And that's after you catch the bus, train or subway.

I am impatiently waiting for Scotty to invent transporters.
posted by zarq at 1:54 PM on September 1, 2011


*nods* That's why fast and easy is an important qualifier.

Yep, I was agreeing with you. Initially I started that comment with "Word." but then I got self-conscious about the usage of 90s slang.

I am impatiently waiting for Scotty to invent transporters.

I have this daydream of great moving roadways, where suburban Americans who don't want to give up the independence of cars would drive to the nearest major artery, be automatically slotted in to the next available free space, and "chug" along at 70mph with engines off, giving them time to shave, do their hair, or play Words with Friends.

Getting back off the artery might be a problem.
posted by muddgirl at 1:58 PM on September 1, 2011 [1 favorite]


People in the US seem to always look at the Autobahn as just a highway with no speed limits. No first-hand knowledge here, but my impression is that everyone there takes the whole thing a lot more seriously. In the US, we just want to be able to do whatever the hell we want. In Germany, I hear you actually have to obey the rules. You don't just hang out in the left lane. I don't think the German highway police have much tolerance for Texas(or anywhere else in the US) -style driving.
posted by MtDewd at 2:01 PM on September 1, 2011


kind of wish more people would do that, but it seems like some people just have to move their car up near another car to be happy on the road.

My husband is this guy. It's like he thinks our car will be lonely if it's more than a car length from another car. I love him, but his driving not so much.
posted by emjaybee at 2:01 PM on September 1, 2011


In Germany, I hear you actually have to obey the rules.

I hear that too! Crazy Germans.
posted by emjaybee at 2:02 PM on September 1, 2011


I've taken my old 94 Cavelier (at least I think it was that one) up to 105 once. Definitely shaky! But I did it for about 10 minutes, then backed off to 90 which felt much smoother.

85 is about my sweet spot.
posted by symbioid at 2:02 PM on September 1, 2011


If your RPM is low and there's not much load, then you're going to get good mileage.

Well, my car turns right around 2000 at 85mpg. But it doesn't get good mileage. Sigh.
posted by yerfatma at 2:07 PM on September 1, 2011


Initially I started that comment with "Word." but then I got self-conscious about the usage of 90s slang.

90's slang is totally rad, yo! (No, I don't know if that's even period appropriate slang.)

I am impatiently waiting for Scotty to invent transporters.

Transporters are the made-up future tech thing I want more than anything else. No more long boring road-trips, no more auto emissions, getting to visit friends all over the world whenever you want. It'd be so fucking awesome. Of course with our luck Exxon-Mobil will get the patent on it and charge $10k a use.
posted by kmz at 2:09 PM on September 1, 2011


Release the carnage!
posted by incandissonance at 2:17 PM on September 1, 2011


Seriously? People are afraid to drive 85 mph? Are roads in the US that bad? 130 km/h is a completely un-noteworthy speed to hit on the highways here in the Toronto area, and I've often caught myself cruising at 140 without noticing (nor was I blasting past other traffic).

It used to be that way, but in the last few years, since they implemented the hefty speed fines (not to mention the speed limiters on transport trucks), the usual top speed on the 401 is about 120km/h. I'm perfectly fine with that.

Another thing is that there are even heftier fines for speeding in construction zones. I'm seeing a lot of "construction zones" these days with orange signs and pilons, but no workers or machinery in sight. Hmm.
posted by Sys Rq at 2:18 PM on September 1, 2011


As a California driver, I'm surprised to hear so many people say 85 mph is a crazy unsafe speed.

Yeah, same. When I lived in the Bay Area this was pretty standard speed on the 280 (posted speed limit of 65, real speed more like 80-90). The 280 is unusual among Bay Area freeways in that its a big freeway with a long stretch down the peninsula thats basically empty (few on/off ramps, no businesses near the freeway, etc). So it has a much higher speed than the 101 or the 880.

In LA I can get up to those speeds late at night. During the day it's pretty rare, but I live in the central city so there's always people.

(I did get a ticket once going 88 in a 65 on the 280, during Memorial Day weekend when they were doing revenue speeding stops. Wasn't a reckless driving ticket or anything though, just a big fine. Too bad I wasn't driving a DeLorean....)
posted by wildcrdj at 2:20 PM on September 1, 2011


Transporters are the made-up future tech thing I want more than anything else. No more long boring road-trips, no more auto emissions, getting to visit friends all over the world whenever you want. It'd be so fucking awesome.

I guarantee you that if they ever get invented they will only run on newborn kitten eyeballs or little baby duckling hearts or something equally soul destroying to balance against. Such is the way of things.
posted by Brockles at 2:20 PM on September 1, 2011 [2 favorites]


Meh. Newborn kittens are blind anyway.
posted by Sys Rq at 2:22 PM on September 1, 2011 [2 favorites]


Are they still going to be allowed to shoot sixguns in the air while driving their white convertibles with the steer horns on the front? Cuz that shit is dangerous. They should also stop having horns that play Dixie when you honk them.
posted by Ad hominem at 2:27 PM on September 1, 2011 [2 favorites]


The level of fatalities could be influenced by access to emergency medical care, which is partly dependent on population density.

I remember reading somewhere that there are three reasons Montana had the highest fatality rate, and two of them had to do with population density. Indeed, less-dense states nearly always have higher fatality rates. This was one of the reasons - here are the other two:

1) While you're not any more likely to get into an accident a high speed, if you do get into an accident, it's more likely to be fatal.

2) Less density = less public transit and few walkable areas. So, higher drunk driving rates. I think this was actually the biggest reason.

In any case, they've got the right idea in Europe. Take public transport when practical. When driving, drive a small car, quickly. That's the way to get from point A to point B, people.
posted by breakin' the law at 2:27 PM on September 1, 2011


I guarantee you that if they ever get invented they will only run on newborn kitten eyeballs or little baby duckling hearts or something equally soul destroying to balance against.

Of course, Star Trek transporters are already soul destroying, given that they tear you down and reconstruct you elsewhere. Leaving your poor, massless soul behind.
posted by pwnguin at 2:27 PM on September 1, 2011 [3 favorites]


Psh! I can't believe your American Transporters only transport you at 140 Percent Universal Instantaneous on half a KG of Kitten Eyeballs! German Transporters are so superior! They transport you at 280 Percent Universal Instantaneous with only half a gram of Nerd Tears!
posted by It's Raining Florence Henderson at 2:31 PM on September 1, 2011 [4 favorites]


Yeah, same. When I lived in the Bay Area this was pretty standard speed on the 280 (posted speed limit of 65, real speed more like 80-90). The 280 is unusual among Bay Area freeways in that its a big freeway with a long stretch down the peninsula thats basically empty (few on/off ramps, no businesses near the freeway, etc). So it has a much higher speed than the 101 or the 880.

I assume you mean that long stretch between 380 and Page Mill Road. Or do you mean the shorter stretch between 84 and 92 that sweeps along the reservoir for a bit? God that's a beautiful piece of road.

I'm so glad I live south of El Camino.
posted by Talez at 2:41 PM on September 1, 2011


Yeah, gotta say, that federal suggestions page on gas mileage does seem to say that aerodynamics takes over at about 60mph for the average car. So velocity does matter. Especially if you're not doing stupid shit like fast acceleration, as pointed out by the fueleconomy.gov site.

I used to bike quite a lot, and in that context we consider rolling resistance and relative wind velocity. Rolling resistance scales roughly linearly with speed; eventually the aerodynamic resistance wins out big. The question is just where that 'eventually' lies; for bikes it's at about 15 mph. And for the average car, it seems to be about 60mph, which would mean that raising the speed limit from 80 to 85 would absolutely have a large effect on gas consumption on affected roads.
posted by kaibutsu at 2:44 PM on September 1, 2011


I assume you mean that long stretch between 380 and Page Mill Road. Or do you mean the shorter stretch between 84 and 92 that sweeps along the reservoir for a bit?

Pretty much I mean 380 to 84. I mean there's some stuff, but it's mostly empty that whole stretch and traffic goes really fast. I drove from Pacifica to the South Bay often so that route is pretty familiar.
posted by wildcrdj at 2:45 PM on September 1, 2011


I live about 12 miles from my office. That's an hour and fifteen minutes by express bus. An hour and a half by commuter rail and subway. Two hours by bus and subway. And anywhere from 25 minutes (on weekend mornings at 6am) to an hour and a half during rush hour -- and then of course you have to find parking. All one way.

Decide how much you would charge for two hours of your time (a very conservative measure). Multiply by 20, and compare this number to the average cost per month of living closer to your workplace...

For me, blowing two hours a day on sitting in traffic would be an inexcusable waste of my time (and hence, life).
posted by kaibutsu at 2:51 PM on September 1, 2011


For me, blowing two hours a day on sitting in traffic would be an inexcusable waste of my time (and hence, life).

What if my workplace and my partner's workplace are 30 miles apart? How do I factor my love life into this equation?

(Of course, my car commute is about 19 minutes, not two hours)
posted by muddgirl at 2:56 PM on September 1, 2011


What makes me frustrated is that I moved to a state where 80mph is the norm on the highway, 70 is the posted limit -- and I hate that I'm in the slow lane/honked at when I'm driving 70. My car doesn't like 70 or above - burns fuel like nothing else, feels terrible to drive, shakes (even right after a new alignment, admittedly roads here are bad). I can't afford to run my car too hard (can't afford a new one!). I think that driving that fast is nuts, mostly for the mileage/wear issues. My mileage isn't awesome, and I notice a very steep drop once I hit 70 or above.

So the minimum speed issue is the issue I see; I would cheerfully drive 65mph to my destinations. I think speed limits are absurd-- when I treat the speed limit as an actual limit, damn other drivers get mad. Shit, this little highway I drive on sometimes has a posted speed limit of 45 -- everyone drives it at 70.

The interstate is the only road I can take for most of my destinations. I don't like being honked at me, people coming up right behind my bumper for miles flashing their brights at me (JUST FUCKING PASS ME) when I'm going 70. What exactly am I supposed to do here? I can't buy a new car. I don't want to spend more money on gas because I'm driving faster in traffic, my school involves crazy commuting. Although I sort of want an old pickup truck to commute in, so that when I'm not driving 80mph people understand.
posted by circle_b at 3:04 PM on September 1, 2011


If you're in the slow lane (going any speed) and people are being dicks, there's nothing you can do. Lots of drivers are just dicks.

Honestly, if I were you I'd go 65 in the slow lane. The speed limit is not a minimum.
posted by muddgirl at 3:11 PM on September 1, 2011 [1 favorite]


It's not the engineering that's the problem, it's the over-legislating. If the road's made for 50, let us drive 50.

Now finish that thought: who made the road for 50?
posted by alexei at 3:13 PM on September 1, 2011


muddgirl: " I have this daydream of great moving roadways, where suburban Americans who don't want to give up the independence of cars would drive to the nearest major artery, be automatically slotted in to the next available free space, and "chug" along at 70mph with engines off, giving them time to shave, do their hair, or play Words with Friends."

I love this idea. It's reminiscent of Heinlein's The Roads Must Roll and Asimov's conveyor belt roads in Caves of Steel. :)
In each of these cases there is a massive network of parallel moving belts, the inner ones faster. Passengers are screened from wind, and there are chairs and even shops on the belt. In the Heinlein work the fast lane runs at 100 mph (160 km/h), and the first "mechanical road" was built in 1960 between Cincinnati and Cleveland. The relative speed of two adjacent belts is 5 mph (8 km/h) (in the book the fast lane stops, and the second lane keeps running at 95 mph (152 km/h)). In the Wells and Asimov works there are more steps in the speed scale and the speeds are less extreme.

posted by zarq at 3:13 PM on September 1, 2011


Do newly-manufactured cars still lose fuel efficiency at higher speeds? I vaguely recall the 55mph implementation back in the day was because of gas rationing, but I haven't followed automobile technology that closely to know if that's still the case.

From my own unscientific measurements, my '97 Toyota 4Runner gets about 25% better gas mileage driving at 60 than 75. I have to drive 2.5 hours on a regular basis to see my family, and a good stretch of it is with the 75 MPH limit. I try to stick around 65 if the traffic isn't too crazy. Sometimes driving slow in fast traffic is more dangerous. At 85 my car begins to get a bit shaky, won't push too far above that without wobbling. 85 MPH is the max recommended speed by Toyota for my model, FWIW. It's in the owner's manual.
posted by krinklyfig at 3:14 PM on September 1, 2011


It's not the engineering that's the problem, it's the over-legislating. If the road's made for 50, let us drive 50.

It's not over-legislating, it's under-taxing. Low speed limits are lucrative.
posted by Sys Rq at 3:16 PM on September 1, 2011 [1 favorite]


Honestly, if I were you I'd go 65 in the slow lane. The speed limit is not a minimum.

No, but a stream of cars passing into the fast lane to get around you can be pretty dangerous, especially if traffic is heavy.
posted by krinklyfig at 3:17 PM on September 1, 2011


BTW, it's clear from my odometer and torque that my engine performs best at 60-65 in 5th gear. Anything above that is getting into 3K and above, which is not ideal for the engine and taxes its ability to push faster when necessary, such as passing. It doesn't redline until far above that, but it's not meant to be pushed like a race car.
posted by krinklyfig at 3:22 PM on September 1, 2011


"From what I've seen in the news it seems like it doesn't rain in Texas anymore."

From what I've seen in the Northeast, Texas needs gay marriage now more than ever.
posted by Eideteker at 3:25 PM on September 1, 2011 [4 favorites]


No, but a stream of cars passing into the fast lane to get around you can be pretty dangerous, especially if traffic is heavy.

It's pretty rare to have both heavy traffic AND an average speed over 70mph - I think I've seen it a couple times in Los Angeles, but those are some pretty hardcore and IMO uniform drivers (in that the majority of drivers have the same driving style). circle_b seems to live in TN.

Generally what happens is that cars will form clumps, with faster cars travelling between and through each clump. Someone has to be the slowest driver in the clump, even if they are only going 1mph slower than everyone else, so someone is going to get passed, and due to clumping and packing, they are going to get passed in a stream.
posted by muddgirl at 3:25 PM on September 1, 2011


Also, if there is a lower speed limit for heavy trucks (I think this is the case for some parts of Tenessee - generally it's 55mph in 65 zones, or 65mph in 75 zones), then I think it's perfectly acceptable to follow the truck speed in the slow lane - you will be going with the flow of the trucks.
posted by muddgirl at 3:29 PM on September 1, 2011


I don't think circle_b is asking whether it's "acceptable" for him to drive 65 on a 65 mph highway; I think he's saying, that's how fast his car can go and what is he supposed to do about the jerks who tailgate him? And like you said, the answer is nothing.

What I worry about with an 85 mph speed limit is that the prevailing speed of traffic becomes 95 and you get honked at / tailgated if you drive 85, left lane or no. There are lots of people and lots of cars -- maybe most -- who can't drive safely at 95; and tailgating at 85 is never safe; so basically anybody who didn't want to drive 95 would be barred from the highway.

I've driven across West Texas and I don't really forsee this presenting any problems there, but it's easy to see a drag effect where urban/suburban highways start creeping up to 75/80, and here I get worried.
posted by escabeche at 3:45 PM on September 1, 2011


It is absolutely charming to me that so many people seem to consider 85mph on a flat, West Texas highway to be some sort of astronomical speed. 85? Really?

I drive faster than is reasonable a lot of the time, if I am on a relatively open and straight freeway that I know well enough to push it. Hell, the day I bought my first true muscle car I got clocked at 114mph in a 55 zone in Missouri (the cop complimented my car, told me to be safe, advised me to repair my speedometer, and sent me on my way, no ticket!). I know I drive fast, and I don't really think I am somehow a better driver than everyone else or anything, I just like to drive really fast. My personal road-code says that I never pass anyone at a speed higher than 10 over the posted speed limit (passing a 65mph driver at 95 is terrifying and unsafe for everyone).

My response to this? Minimal. Fast drivers have already been driving their chosen speed on this road and not giving a shit about posted limits. The only thing this will do is decrease tickets, and possibly increase revenues for the tickets they do write.

I strongly suspect that those of us who are so vocally against this are either speed stunned by anything going over 50, knee-jerk anti Texas, or the sort who assume themselves to be exceptional drivers who have a more complete understanding of road physics and human psychology than all the other average Joes on the road. That, or you've just never driven anywhere near West Texas.
posted by broadway bill at 3:46 PM on September 1, 2011 [3 favorites]


We should do this here in New Mexico.

No, we should not. I'd prefer to drive around 65 and save gas and lives.
posted by krinklyfig at 3:53 PM on September 1, 2011


It is absolutely charming to me that so many people seem to consider 85mph on a flat, West Texas highway to be some sort of astronomical speed. 85? Really?

Have you ever been involved in an accident?
posted by krinklyfig at 3:54 PM on September 1, 2011


Large patches of the highway from Salt Lake City down to Southern Utah either 75 or 80 mph. I usually maintain a speed of 85-90. It's not a problem, you just adjust all your other habits to compensate for the increased speed. For example, it is not wise to travel at 85 mph if the car in front of you is only 20 feet away. That shit is bananas.

But! As long as you've got some distance between you and the next vehicle, go hog wild, man! Open 'er up, it'll be fine. I've done it countless times (as has all my family) and we have never, ever been in any kind of accident on the highway. But we have all been in in accidents in the city, where the average speed is closer to 45.

I only have anecdata to prove this but I'm pretty sure the amount of vehicles on the road is a greater factor than the speed of travel in determining the frequency of car accidents. YMMV (pun intended).
posted by Doleful Creature at 3:56 PM on September 1, 2011


It's pretty rare to have both heavy traffic AND an average speed over 70mph

Clearly you have never driven I-25 or I-40. Try I-25 between Albuquerque and Santa Fe sometime, or I-40 coming into Albuquerque from the Sandia mountains. I lived in Cedar Crest in the 1990s, and rush hour traffic into Albuqerque averaged 80-90 MPH.
posted by krinklyfig at 3:57 PM on September 1, 2011


I've done it countless times (as has all my family) and we have never, ever been in any kind of accident on the highway.

If it happens, you'll be toast.
posted by krinklyfig at 3:58 PM on September 1, 2011


Doleful Creature, I see you're 29 years old from your profile. Look at this thread in 10 years and think about how you feel about what you've written here. I used to think I was immortal when I was 29. At the age of 41 I see things very differently.
posted by krinklyfig at 4:05 PM on September 1, 2011


Look at this thread in 10 years and think about how you feel about what you've written here.

I'm 35 and I think there a lot of milquetoasts around here. Now I finally know why some people are driving so damn slow.
posted by yerfatma at 4:12 PM on September 1, 2011


Also, if you hate Texas you suck and don't matter anyway.

I don't hate Texans. They are a proud, thin-skinned people.

I'm 35 and I think there a lot of milquetoasts around here. Now I finally know why some people are driving so damn slow.

To be fair, I have a tendency to be an impatient driver and try to always do at least 5 MPH above the limit - the freeway is not a road in a retirement village - but I would rather walk away from a wreck than risk my life and those of other people due to my shortcomings. Plus, I'm a cheap bastard and would rather not pay 25% more for every round trip to see the family. I don't sit in the fast lane, so don't tailgate me and put us both at risk. I'm guessing you're also impatient and not simply selfish, so not a difficult request.
posted by krinklyfig at 4:22 PM on September 1, 2011


I live about 12 miles from my office. That's an hour and fifteen minutes by express bus. An hour and a half by commuter rail and subway. Two hours by bus and subway. And anywhere from 25 minutes (on weekend mornings at 6am) to an hour and a half during rush hour -- and then of course you have to find parking. All one way.

This seems like a no brainer to me, I would take the bus or rail even if it takes longer. When you are driving you can't do anything else, are putting expensive wear on your car, and are burning gas like crazy. What exactly is the benefit of driving? I don't understand why so many Americans refuse to even consider other options, as if sitting by yourself in a glass box with your hands and mind occupied is the epitome of freedom or something.

The time I spend commuting on the subway is time I get to read, return emails, write in a journal, etc. Time you spend driving is completely wasted. I read more books than anyone I know and get to do other things that are otherwise hard to find time for during a busy week. What I spend on transit in a month - for commuting and personal trips - costs about the same as a tank of gas.

The obsession with cars-as-the-only-solution-at-whatever-cost just seems so ridiculous to me. An hour and half in traffic to go 12 miles? I used to commute 15 miles by bike and it took 45 minutes.
posted by bradbane at 4:22 PM on September 1, 2011


When you are driving you can't do anything else

Well, first off you are driving. Driving is fun, at least if it's not heavy traffic. I have a convertible, so I get sun and fresh(ish, I do live in LA) air and wind and so on. Plus I can listen to music and/or audiobooks, so it's not really true that I'm not doing "anything" else. I can also talk using handsfree systems (although I can't do that with the top open, because of wind noise).

Driving is a largely pleasant activity to me, so I don't see it as some huge negative. My commute is 12 miles and takes about 30-45 min of driving (because most of it is not freeway). I don't drive during rush hour so I get moderate but not heavy traffic.
posted by wildcrdj at 4:31 PM on September 1, 2011


Krinklyfig: Yep. Been involved in 3 accidents: none of them at all my fault, 2 of them were hit and runs. Had my neck, arm, and 6 ribs broken in the most major of those, and it was getting t-boned by a car running a red at 40mph, while I was driving about 30mph.

I am a cautious driver, and I understand and accept that plenty of folks on the road drive slower than I would like to. That's why, like I said, in the presence of other cars or unsafe/unknown road conditions, I drive conservatively. Like much of West Texas, the highway in question rarely possesses a lot of vehicles, and is shockingly straight and flat.

I could understand some of the more outraged concern if it was something more than a 5mph increase. As it stands, though, I don't think a 5 mph increase is likely to make it any less safe. The difference between flying along at 80 and 85 is minimal, especially considering that--in my experience at least--if you crash at anything over 65-70 you're screwed anyway.

Kentucky has posted limits of 70mph on most highways, and it is a rare thing to see a driver going anything under 80. Average is probably 85-90, depending on traffic and road conditions of course.
posted by broadway bill at 4:33 PM on September 1, 2011 [1 favorite]


I am a cautious driver, and I understand and accept that plenty of folks on the road drive slower than I would like to. That's why, like I said, in the presence of other cars or unsafe/unknown road conditions, I drive conservatively. Like much of West Texas, the highway in question rarely possesses a lot of vehicles, and is shockingly straight and flat.

It's very wasteful, for one. For another, if you rolled your car for any reason, like swerving to avoid some debris on the road, end of story. It's fine if you want to do this I guess, but it just seems so unnecessary, especially when you consider how much more fuel is used. Multiply that by millions of drivers and we are burning up far more gas than we need, just because people are impatient and find the fast speeds more fun. Not sure those are good reasons, honestly. We really should be encouraging less fuel consumption, not more. If we are going in this direction, we should probably start enacting much more stringent driving tests for licenses like Germany does and maintain our freeways much better. The highways and drivers really are not designed for these speeds the way things are currently.

I rolled my car at 50 MPH a few years back, walked away from it, but that was the last time I found high speeds thrilling or even worthwhile. I was under the speed limit and thought I was in control, but I wanted to get around the driver in front of me on a two-lane highway and caught a bad edge. Went right into the ditch before I had time to react. Maybe it's me. I'd rather not go out that way or end up permanently disabled, or worse, end up hurting someone else. You may be able to control yourself, but you have no idea what other people are thinking or how much control they may have. I don't prefer to drive under the limit, but I'd be happy if we instituted limits which didn't encourage people in the wrong direction.
posted by krinklyfig at 4:46 PM on September 1, 2011


I have been in 6 car crashes. 3 of them fatal.
posted by clavdivs at 4:48 PM on September 1, 2011 [3 favorites]


The difference between flying along at 80 and 85 is minimal

Not physics-wise. Check up thread for a comment about velocity.
posted by krinklyfig at 4:53 PM on September 1, 2011


Driving is dangerous, whether you're going 80 or 85 (or, more realistically, whether you're legally or illegally going 85). At that point, it's all about what amount of risk is acceptable. I am amazed at how many of you can do the cost-benefit analysis of this 5 MPH increase in your heads and know so firmly that this is a Bad Idea.

This is particularly true because as you raise speed limits, you approach the speed at which people will drive when left to their own devices; the legal limit ceases to be a deterrent to regular folks who are going to drive prudently, and starts becoming a tool of enforcement against only those who are acting recklessly. This is the way it should be. When the speed limit is 55 and people are going 70, you are turning ordinary people into violators, which makes the term meaningless, and the cost of an occasional speeding ticket just becomes built into the cost of driving. This sounds quite a bit like extortion rather than reasonable law enforcement.

If Texas has reason to believe people are generally already going 85, and has reason to believe that it is, relatively speaking, safe to do so, then for chrissake raise the speed limit.
posted by dixiecupdrinking at 5:03 PM on September 1, 2011


Put your money where where your milksop mealy mouth is.

WTF? Somebody needs a nap!
posted by Brocktoon at 5:16 PM on September 1, 2011


I submit that it's the individuals that have never had to pull Dallas to LA that are up in arms over this. Drive a mile in my shoes, as the (mangled) saying goes.
posted by Purposeful Grimace at 5:26 PM on September 1, 2011


When the speed limit is 55 and people are going 70, you are turning ordinary people into violators, which makes the term meaningless

In most locations you won't get a ticket for going the prevailing speed, even if you're going 20 MPH above the limit. OTOH, the general attitude about speed limits has to do with the way we test and license drivers, plus enforcement. Also, our reliance on cars and lack of public transportation doesn't help. I'd gladly do without car travel whenever possible, except it's in no way practical for what I need to do. I have managed to find work within walking distance and no longer need to drive as part of my job duties, which is far less stressful. Even so, I can't do without it, as there would be no way for me to leave this small town without it.

I don't really get the hostility to lower speed limits or people who prefer not to drive fast. It's as if people don't feel free unless they feel a sense of entitlement on the road, and everyone joined them in it.

I submit that it's the individuals that have never had to pull Dallas to LA that are up in arms over this.

I used to work for a touring band which drove more in a year than most people do in ten years, much of it through the southwest and often the stretch from LA through to NM (the circuit was typically NM to CO and up to Montana, then the Pacific NW, No Cal to SF, then down through that hellish stretch of So Cal from LA to Bakersfield and through AZ to NM). I used to drive for my job and do at least one round trip 250 miles each month to see my family, about three times the average mileage per year. I know driving better than you might think and used to depend on it a great deal to make a living, which is why I am not cavalier about it. Nobody I know who drives for a living is.
posted by krinklyfig at 5:36 PM on September 1, 2011


That five hour drive from Chicago to St. Louis? The unrelenting corn fields? 85 mph doesn't begin to cover it.
posted by Short Attention Sp at 5:42 PM on September 1, 2011 [1 favorite]


Now if they would only get rid of those oppressive drunk driving laws, we could really see some fun!

iirc, I was fourteen (and living in Texas) when the state of Texas passed the law making it illegal to drink while driving. It had been illegal to drive drunk for some time, but not to drink while you were driving.

And yeah, there are places in central and west texas where 85 is a perfectly reasonable speed. There's just nothing there. You're taking your own life into your hands, of course, but the roads are flat, straight, and empty. Drop a Street View onto I-10 between Ozona and Ft. Stockton to see what I mean.
posted by KathrynT at 5:44 PM on September 1, 2011


Over 250 comments and no one has mentioned the 85th percentile speed? That is the speed (or speed range) at which 85% of traffic is traveling. Traveling higher or lower than the 85th percentile speed increases the chances of a collision. Going 10 mph over the 85th percentile and going 10mph lower are both equally dangerous.

Furthermore, most speed limits are set at the lower end of that range. Changes in the speed limit have a very low correlation with changes in actual travelling speeds on a given stretch of interstate. By setting the speed limit at the low end of the range, they ensure that they can generate revenue from speeding tickets.

Higher velocity can certainly increase the severity of a collision but if slowing down increases the likelihood of a collision you aren't gaining anything and, from a macro standpoint, can increase overall fatalities.

Poor driving habits are the real problem. People texting, tailgating, poor lane discipline,or driving significantly faster or slower than everyone else; these are the things that cause accidents.

President Eisenhower was inspired by the autobahn system he saw in Germany during WWII to create our interstate highway system so the point about the autobahn being safer because they were designed for that kind of speed is somewhat moot. They poor a ton of money into maintaining those roads but roads in the Southwest U.S. don't need much maintenance like they do in Minnesota (where I live).

I think that the main reason why Germany's autobahns are so much safer is because they enable and trust the police who patrol them to enforce driving habits instead of just speed.

We need to get driving education to focus on good driving habits instead of speed. Empower law enforcement to enforce safe driving and stop focusing on speed alone and we need to quit funneling revenue from speeding tickets straight back into the departments that write the tickets. In incentivizes writing speeding tickets over enforcing safe driving.

The point about fuel consumption and emissions is valid one but I don't think lowering speed limits is the way to go about it. It won't change the prevailing speed for most people and would make our roads less safe.
posted by VTX at 5:45 PM on September 1, 2011 [5 favorites]


On non-preview:

That five hour drive from Chicago to St. Louis? The unrelenting corn fields? 85 mph doesn't begin to cover it.

A friend of mine wrote a poem about that drive. It goes:

Corn corn corn corn Stuckey's
Corn corn corn corn Stuckey's.

{fin}
posted by KathrynT at 5:45 PM on September 1, 2011 [4 favorites]


Not physics-wise. Check up thread for a comment about velocity.

Oh, without a doubt, the energy increase between 80 and 85 is large (although it is cool to see that fancy equation showing just how large!). My point was more that an 85mph crash is very very likely to kill or maim a driver, and so is an 80mph crash.

Consider this, though: in 2006, Kentucky raised the speed limit on a large and long stretch of highway from 55mph to 70mph. That's a substantial increase, by any measure. It's a stretch of highway I have driven for a looong time. I cover a lot of miles on that road, and I observed with curiosity the effect that the change in posted limits had on drivers. Sure, it's totally anecdotal, but I did not notice any increase in the average speed around me; you still had the 100mph+ outliers, the 55mph- outliers, and the rest of us doing 65-75mph.

So that's my anecdotal input. But, just for fun, here's what Kentucky had to say about it (I find all of this particularly interesting, as it happens, because at the time I was employed as an assistant to the Kentucky Traffic Safety Resource Prosecutor, so this was a big topic during my work week):

Traffic deaths for 2005 on Kentucky highways: 885
Traffic deaths for 2008: 752


Not making attempt to show any causality there, just noting that the hysterically voiced idea upthread that a 5mph increase will instantly cause death and chaos may not be very reasonable.
posted by broadway bill at 5:54 PM on September 1, 2011


You're friends with Mark Leyner?
posted by jonmc at 5:55 PM on September 1, 2011 [1 favorite]


higher speeds = fewer idiots on the road (eventually) - natural selection will have it's way.
posted by bettepage at 5:58 PM on September 1, 2011


Wouldn't it make more sense to post weather-sensitive speed limits?

Snowing: 45
Raining: 55
Normal Texas Weather: the sky's the limit
posted by simms2k at 6:02 PM on September 1, 2011 [1 favorite]


They poor a ton of money into maintaining those roads but roads in the Southwest U.S. don't need much maintenance like they do in Minnesota (where I live).

This is not true. The heat baking the asphalt throughout summer coupled with freezing cold in the winter causes significant cracking over time. Some areas are not maintained well at all. The fact that they make the freeways much thinner in the US than they do with the Autobahn in Germany contributes to the tendency to wear quickly, btw.
posted by krinklyfig at 6:06 PM on September 1, 2011


About the fuel consumption argument:

I agree that lowering consumption is a must. I don't really think speed limits are an effective way to do that, though. At least not until we reach the point that a vehicle's status as 'street-legal' is somewhat determined by its fuel economy.

I also rationalize my way out of the fuel issue like so: I drive a very very fuel efficient Honda, and I drive it rarely. I cover hundreds of miles a month on my bicycle, and a fair number on a motorbike. I also almost always have a pre-1976 American made muscle car, usually race built and tuned (recently sold my precious Duster and it breaks my damn heart damn it). I drive the big nasty American car maybe twice a month, and only in the warmer months. When I'm driving a car like that, I do it to drive fast. Fuel economy is not anywhere near my mind. To quote the unimpeachable Mike Cooley, "I get ten miles to the gallon, I ain't got no good intentions." But that's only for like 2 hours a month. The rest of the time I am the picture of conservation, with my 2 wheeled gizmos.

I absolutely love driving, be it motorbike, muscle car, or conservative Honda. I love it. I go as fast as I feel like going, and always keep it within my personal comfort zone and never drive aggressively or even especially fast around other cars. So, I like what Texas is doing, because I can imagine that if it happened here, I would see people driving exactly like they do now, and I would be able to go tear ass around an empty highway at night without worrying about a ticket.
posted by broadway bill at 6:16 PM on September 1, 2011 [1 favorite]


I mean to say that Germany maintains their roads really well (also, poor ≠ pour, word use fail).

As for your other point, I can promise you that the interstates in Minnesota require far more maintenance than the interstates in West Texas and they are probably still in better shape.
posted by VTX at 6:17 PM on September 1, 2011


LoudMusic: "Inconsistencies in speed is what causes accidents."

You're right. Like going from 85mph to 0mph in 0.5 seconds.
posted by Joakim Ziegler at 6:32 PM on September 1, 2011


So let's say your going to use 500 miles for this, because it's 500 miles from a bit east of Kerrville to El Paso on I10, and from Kerrville on we can assume 85mph limits, as there are some bends but they are sweeping, long, easy. Anyways, 500 miles, with no stops. (Though you are going to stop unless you've a cast iron bladder and/or are a person who just doesn't need to stretch every now and again and/or your vehicle holds enough gas for 500 miles.)

** 500 miles @ 85mph = 5.9 hours
** 500 miles @ 70mph = 7.1 hours

It's a one hour difference, just a shade over one hour difference, maybe one hour thirteen minute difference. No time at all, not really, seven hours barely more painful than six. In fact, less painful, overall, for your vehicle and for your peace of mind, knowing that you'll be so much easier able to stop or steer around if a deer jumps, knowing that you'll hit with so much less force should something happen.

Every time I've made that drive I've gone it @ 80 but since I figured this out after my last run west and back, I probably will go 70, maybe 75, get that pickup in the right lane and ease on down the road.
posted by dancestoblue at 6:37 PM on September 1, 2011 [2 favorites]


less painful, overall, for your vehicle and for your peace of mind, knowing that you'll be so much easier able to stop or steer around if a deer jumps

Unless, of course, that deer jumps out when you're over-tired from driving 7 hours :)

To quote the unimpeachable Mike Cooley

So you're saying the answer is 350 heads on a 302 engine?
posted by yerfatma at 6:43 PM on September 1, 2011 [1 favorite]


I'm certain that the line is "350 heads on a 305 engine."

So, yes, basically. That is the answer, no matter the question.
posted by broadway bill at 6:48 PM on September 1, 2011 [1 favorite]


I consider myself pretty careful person in regards safety on roads. I yell at my children if they even try to touch their seat belts, I don't like them eating anything that might choke them in the car, etc.

Yet I have no problems at driving 85 (actually 84 as set on cruise control to avoid being stop by cops) on I-70 heading from Colorado to Utah. There's nothing inherently dangerous about that.
posted by zeikka at 6:50 PM on September 1, 2011


It's a one hour difference, just a shade over one hour difference, maybe one hour thirteen minute difference. No time at all, not really, seven hours barely more painful than six.

20% is not meaningful. I think it's very much so, especially at the 7th hour.
posted by zeikka at 6:52 PM on September 1, 2011


Having just driven across Texas (I'm now safely ensconced in Oklahoma, thanks very much), I wholeheartedly support this law. I feel like most of the people in this thread haven't driven anywhere out west. 65 MPH? Seriously? This ain't I-95 through Connecticut. Going 65 is a hazard...

I'm driving a crummy little Altima across the country and I can get 40 MPG on the Utah back roads going 60-65 -- but on a flat highway with the cruise control set to 82, it dips down to about 28. Still, not bad. I can't imagine having to go that slow on, say, I-40 in New Mexico however.
posted by zvs at 7:20 PM on September 1, 2011


130 km/h is a completely un-noteworthy speed to hit on the highways here in the Toronto area

110, when traffic is flowing smoothly, maybe. 130 is still significantly faster than 99% of the traffic out there, and there's no way in hell you can go that fast on the 401 during rush hour (which is roughly from 5:00 in the morning until 11:00 at night).

And if you try to go that fast on anything that's not a 400-series highway you stand a really good chance of hitting a pothole and flying into orbit.
posted by one more dead town's last parade at 8:28 PM on September 1, 2011 [1 favorite]


As for your other point, I can promise you that the interstates in Minnesota require far more maintenance than the interstates in West Texas and they are probably still in better shape.

I honestly don't know about west Texas road maintenance nor how one makes a guarantee like that without stats of some sort to back it up, but I don't think a lack of maintenance suggests faster driving speeds are a good idea. I do know NM road maintenance is pretty much a permanent ongoing project due to the way the climate and traffic tears up the roads, and we're right next door.

Nearly all the fatal car crashes involving people I know personally happened on narrow, infrequently traveled highways similar to the ones which will be affected by this change in Texas. The first one I recall in my life involved a single car rolling due to the wind pushing the car off the road, killing three of the six passengers - it was a large, heavy touring-style SUV with extra passenger room. It's very easy to lose control at those speeds when wind is gusting. The driver had almost no time to react to the situation once the car started drifting.

I'm driving a crummy little Altima across the country and I can get 40 MPG on the Utah back roads going 60-65 -- but on a flat highway with the cruise control set to 82, it dips down to about 28. Still, not bad

A 30% decrease in fuel efficiency. Not very good. Maybe it's not bad when we're talking about a single car. Multiply that by the number of cars on the road, and you begin to see the problem. The US continues to use a disproportionate amount of energy compared to the rest of the world, yet when faced with the idea that changing their driving habits and going a bit slower might make a significant difference, it's too much of a burden for people to bear. We all want to make a difference ... until it comes to driving slower, and people react like you're suggesting they kill off the old people to supply us with delicious soylent green to eat.

I can't imagine having to go that slow on, say, I-40 in New Mexico however.

Welcome to my world. I've tried. It's not easy. Late at night is the only time it makes sense, when there's not much traffic. Even so, I won't go over 75 for extended periods and try to stay around 70, and I stick to the slow lane. Too much wear on my old car to drive it that hard, and it eats up gas.

Most of the arguments I see for this change come down to, "I like to drive fast." Or that it's more convenient. Or everyone does it ... I just don't get it. It's like we all want to change the world for the better, as long as we all get to continue driving exactly the way we like. I don't think that's going to work out in the long run.
posted by krinklyfig at 8:30 PM on September 1, 2011


The first one I recall in my life involved a single car rolling due to the wind pushing the car off the road

BTW, they were going roughly 90 MPH by the accounts of the passengers who survived. The driver did not. It was a flat, straight two-lane highway in the middle of the day, no weather to speak of other than the wind. It's difficult to say conclusively if they would not have had an accident if they were going slower, but the police did say that the chances of passengers surviving would have been much higher if they had been going the speed limit of 65 MPH. But we were all in a hurry to get where we were going (I was in a different vehicle, but we were supposed to meet up later), and people frequently drove that highway much faster than the posted limit similar to reasons other people give here: not many cars, flat stretch of road in Utah, you can see for miles, etc.
posted by krinklyfig at 8:41 PM on September 1, 2011


I drive as fast as I think I can get away with for the given road conditions. The speed limit has no bearing on it, but enforcement for the given area sometimes does. Unfortunately, in my youth, I did drive cars that weren't built for it way too fast for too long (pegged out at 105MPH for 3 hours for instance). Luckily there were no consequences. Now I drive the speed limit + 7 MPH because I can't afford the tickets. Sometimes that's so slow that it's unsafe because it makes me inattentive to drive with so little need for focus.
posted by BrotherCaine at 8:51 PM on September 1, 2011


85? That's Tuesday in Los Angeles.
posted by Xere at 9:24 PM on September 1, 2011


85? That's Tuesday in Los Angeles.

Jeez, have those people never seen an episode of CHiPs?

Those cars are going to be so frigging airborne it's ridiculous.
posted by Sys Rq at 9:31 PM on September 1, 2011


I've driven performance cars for decades. I used to get stopped on my Austin to Dallas run about once a month, back when I'd go down all the time.

One weekend, I was driving a 64 mustang' modified to hold a 351 Windsor holly high rise. She was blindingly fast. Had a lope that set this girl's heart aflutter. Some moron in a Viper decide to play tag at 120 MPH, and was obviously not an experienced driver so I backed it down to 90...hoping h would think he "won" and would get on down the road.

Instead, he hit something....pothole, crack, tumbleweed' hell I don't know, but the cops told me he was going about 90 when he hit the overpass column. His car fucking shattered-there wasn't enough left to make a model car. He died instantly.

I've never driven my cars faster than 75 since, except on a track. Our cars and our roads are t designed for high speeds, but mostly, Americans are poorly trained, have no idea how to handle their cars at high speeds, and with rare exception, we'd all be better off slowing down.

Also, you kids get off my grass.
posted by dejah420 at 9:45 PM on September 1, 2011 [11 favorites]


My opinion on this issue is that this is a good thing. Most people drive 80-85mph on rural interstates anyway.

There's already a lot of supposition and conjecture here and I don't want to add further to it. Since I simply don't have the energy to grab sources to present here, I'll tender my feelings on the issue and preface them with the notion that I have tried to base my opinions on facts and statistics that I have read rather than simply my gut feelings.

My opinion is that more lives are threatened by poor driving habits than outright speed. I believe we need, on a national level, to have a much more rigorous and comprehensive driver's education program. Driver's ed in the US basically consists of teaching basic traffic laws and testing whether you can park your car and understand the basic mechanics of how to drive in traffic. There is no education on actual technical driving skill, or how to handle automobiles in various emergency situations.

The other aspect to this is that, to put it bluntly, many cars on the road in America are absolute piles of crap.

While I'd love to have a road system like the Autobahn with no rural speed limits here in the United States, I fear that it's entirely impractical due to the fact that the poor level of average driving ability coupled with the miserable state of repair of your average roadgoing vehicle would make for a pretty bad combination. You'd have yahoos in their 87 Cutlass Cieras feeling entitled to drive 110mph, and it would be bad.

As far as fuel consumption goes, I feel that there are much more wasteful practices to be addressed before we start talking about speed limits and their effect on consumption. I think addressing the problem of the suburban commute and lack of mass transit infrastructure in larger cities would go much farther if we were actually concerned about fuel consumption.

To me, 80-85mph seems like a sane limit. I would NOT be a proponent of increasing it further. But to me, there's no point in having an artificially low limit when people are going to drive faster than it anyway. I just don't think the argument that raising the limit will automatically turn our highways into a bloodbath and turn the atmosphere to coal holds much water.
posted by autobahn at 10:27 PM on September 1, 2011 [1 favorite]


Driver's ed in the US basically consists of teaching basic traffic laws and testing whether you can park your car and understand the basic mechanics of how to drive in traffic.

Not even that. In Texas -- again, I don't know if this is still true, but it was in the late eighties -- you took your certified driver's ed class, you passed, you handed that certificate over to the DMV and took an extremely short multiple-choice test, and you got your driver's license. No road test required. I'm dyspraxic, and after the first time I drove over a mailbox ("NO! THE OTHER RIGHT!!!"), my driving instructor wouldn't let me drive any more.

But he passed me anyway. I got a license having never driven on the highway, never parallel parked, never driven in reverse even. Then I moved to Washington, and traded my Texas license for a Washington license. I've been driving for twenty years and I've never taken a road test.
posted by KathrynT at 10:36 PM on September 1, 2011


While I'd love to have a road system like the Autobahn with no rural speed limits here in the United States, I fear that it's entirely impractical due to the fact that the poor level of average driving ability coupled with the miserable state of repair of your average roadgoing vehicle would make for a pretty bad combination. You'd have yahoos in their 87 Cutlass Cieras feeling entitled to drive 110mph, and it would be bad.

This brings up a point you can really see on the roads here in NM: poverty. Many people drive their cars until they won't move any longer, simply because they can't afford to stop: they have one late 80s/early 90s car or truck held together with home repair, duct tape, and baling wire, and that vehicle (~15 mpg) is the only thing between them and not having a job. When it finally dies, they scrape up enough cash to get another beater; wash, rinse, repeat.

A better way to tackle emissions (and safety -- I suspect that far more people die in crashes caused by mechanical failure than die because they were going 85 instead of 80) would be to get the vast majority of pre-2000 cars off the road via a free replacement program. It'd be a hell of a stimulus package, too.
posted by vorfeed at 10:49 PM on September 1, 2011


Watch out for deer!
posted by XhaustedProphet at 10:57 PM on September 1, 2011


krinklyfig writes "Nearly all the fatal car crashes involving people I know personally happened on narrow, infrequently traveled highways similar to the ones which will be affected by this change in Texas."

Isn't the change in Texas to multilane limited access freeways?
posted by Mitheral at 11:16 PM on September 1, 2011


Sounds like they are restricting it to certain roads, like they do here in California with 70mph. I don't know Texas, but I get the impression (from satellite night photos) that there are many long stretches of roads connecting distant cities. So it might make more sense to someone living in the state than elsewhere.

It reminds me of the old joke of the Texas rancher talking to a farmer in Maine. "It takes me all day to drive across my ranch!" brags the Texan. The Maine farmer shakes his head. "Yep, I had an old truck like that, but I finally got rid of it last year."
posted by eye of newt at 1:01 AM on September 2, 2011


knowing that you'll be so much easier able to stop or steer around if a deer jumps

A good friend of mine was killed, (along with two of his friends,) just like this. It was on one of those long, straight, see forever roads in Wyoming. The deer took out the driver, the car veered into the opposite lane, and hit an oncoming semi. I don't know how fast they were going, but I do know that speed undoubtably affected the driver's reaction time, and ability to recover control.
posted by bashos_frog at 1:51 AM on September 2, 2011


I'm against this until the US enacts and takes enforcement seriously laws about texting/use of mobile phones seriously.

It's not speed that kills (as the Autobahns demonstrate), although it's a factor in reaction time. Inattention is a far bigger killer - we need to address that before we raise speed limits.
posted by arcticseal at 1:56 AM on September 2, 2011 [2 favorites]


Yes folks, I said seriously twice. I'm serious about road safety. Seriously.
posted by arcticseal at 1:57 AM on September 2, 2011


yerfatma: "
So you're saying the answer is 350 heads on a 302 engine
"

I've always hated that line (be it 305 or 302). Large heads combustion-chamber heads on a small engine means shitty compression. The other way around - 305 heads on a 350 - I've done it, even my Impala took off like a rocket, but you need race gas with that kinda compression. Or try it with an International Harvester 392 and 345 heads in your Scout....WEEEOOOOOOO!!!!
posted by notsnot at 4:16 AM on September 2, 2011 [1 favorite]


The Texas hate in this thread is very misplaced.

If you're a Texan, I'm sure it can be annoying.

If you're an Okie or you're from NM, LA, AK or CO, or were raised in the north by a Texan, it's funny as hell.
posted by lodurr at 5:47 AM on September 2, 2011


I believe we need, on a national level, to have a much more rigorous and comprehensive driver's education program.

But that would be socialism.
posted by lodurr at 5:50 AM on September 2, 2011


... a single car rolling due to the wind pushing the car off the road....

This reminds me of the only time I ever drove around 100 for any significant period of time. It was on Rte-17 in southern NY, I had some guy in a Golf out ahead of me doing about that speed so I hung back about 300 yards to let the cops catch him first. Very light traffic, and a much better road there than elsewhere on 17 (at least back then, this is 24 years ago). I was driving a Subaru Justy, and I'm only guessing at the actual speed because the speedo topped out at like 90.

The road in that area has nice long hills and gradual curves, so it should be safe at speed. But I noticed very quickly that I didn't have much control over the car at that high a speed. It felt like I imagine high-speed skiing would feel -- you sort of just hope for a direction and eventually the car goes there. I felt like the thing was floating -- like a small breeze would have blown me off the road. (I've since owned a car that would probably have been fine at that speed, but I discovered after I bought it that I just didn't care to drive that fast anymore.)

After a while, I couldn't keep up anymore, so I ratcheted back down to about 65.

So, yeah, there's some risk involved here when older cars or cars not designed to go that fast are being driven at that kind of speed. Add in mediocre roads and it gets a little scary.
posted by lodurr at 6:08 AM on September 2, 2011


The Texas hate in this thread is very misplaced.

Shucks. I was strictly ribbing Texas above. I can do that; I'm from South Carolina. We're like a midget Texas.
posted by octobersurprise at 6:11 AM on September 2, 2011


A very brief illustration of how to interpret stats to get either an increase or a decrease in traffic deaths after an increase in the speed limit.

So, let's forget about safety for a moment: Speed costs. I hadn't really believed it at a gut level until I started tracking speed versus mileage on several freeway trips back in the 80s (see above), and found that my mileage increased dramatically if I drove 65 or less. My wife drives about 750 miles per week most weeks, and she tells me she gets much better mileage when she drives the limit (65 here in NY) than when she drives even 70.

If saving energy matters -- or saving money, if you don't want to think that altruistically -- then lower speed will get you there.
posted by lodurr at 6:13 AM on September 2, 2011


Large heads combustion-chamber heads on a small engine means shitty compression.

Yeah, the first time I played the song for my dad he just harrumphed and said, "Why?"

Some moron in a Viper decide to play tag at 120 MPH

These people. I know it's a serious case of First World Problems, but this is my one complaint about my car— the kids who decide you bought the thing to constantly race other people on the highway. I'd never seen such bad driving before I met all these people (at speed). I've developed a tick where I'm constantly scanning the edges of my driver's side mirror for a car that whips out of traffic behind me and comes screaming up.
posted by yerfatma at 6:15 AM on September 2, 2011 [1 favorite]


This thread inspired me to read up on the Cintra contracts for SH 130 and the related Trans Texas Corridor route that was being developed for I-35 at one point. I know there were contractual penalties built into the SH 130 contract to keep the state from raising the speed limit, which would put more drivers on 35 and fewer paying tolls on 130. (At one point there was actually a consideration of dropping the speed limit on 35 to push more drivers to 130!) After sifting through Google links to old news stories, the verdict is that 130 is still a crappy, inconvenient bypass for people trying to go past Austin and that I'm really glad the TTC boondoggle was spiked by the feds and the legislature in the last session.

I don't expect the limit on 35 to go up to 85 (and to be fair, for a lot of the distance between Dallas and Austin that's probably too fast to be quite safe even when the roads aren't under construction). But I'd be pretty pissed off if the speed limit were dropped to 55 on the interstate to drain people off to a toll road where the speed limit was 85.
posted by immlass at 6:27 AM on September 2, 2011


I honestly don't know about west Texas road maintenance nor how one makes a guarantee like that without stats of some sort to back it up, but I don't think a lack of maintenance suggests faster driving speeds are a good idea. I do know NM road maintenance is pretty much a permanent ongoing project due to the way the climate and traffic tears up the roads, and we're right next door.

Minnesota has wider and more frequent temperature swings than just about any other state in the union. Its 92 degrees here right now and it looks like Odessa, in Western Texas, will get up to 96 today. We'll be getting down to 50 in sometime in the next few days. Our summers get just as hot (though far more humid) and our winters get much colder. In the later fall and early spring, it is pretty normal for us to see 30-40 degree swings in the space of a day (and even larger swings in the space of a week). That's without even getting into winter where the plows scrape the snow and ice off the interstates at 60mph.

By contrast, Texas and especially West Texas is relatively dry and stable.

A lack of maintenance doesn't make higher speeds a good idea but a lower need for maintenance might.
posted by VTX at 6:27 AM on September 2, 2011


Maybe this is more evident for the roads in Northern Ontario, but you're missing a "...easily driven at 50 under ideal conditions" there. They try to overdesign the road so that it can still be driven even when it's rainy, windy, snowy, or it's 5am and all of the drivers are hungover. Don't confuse a healthy safety margin for overdesign.

Umm, but generally, speed limits are supposed to be the speed you drive "under ideal conditions" - it's generally not safe to drive on MOST highways at the speed limit, in the middle of a snowstorm.

It used to be that way, but in the last few years, since they implemented the hefty speed fines (not to mention the speed limiters on transport trucks), the usual top speed on the 401 is about 120km/h. I'm perfectly fine with that.

Another thing is that there are even heftier fines for speeding in construction zones. I'm seeing a lot of "construction zones" these days with orange signs and pilons, but no workers or machinery in sight. Hmm.



...

110, when traffic is flowing smoothly, maybe. 130 is still significantly faster than 99% of the traffic out there, and there's no way in hell you can go that fast on the 401 during rush hour (which is roughly from 5:00 in the morning until 11:00 at night).

And if you try to go that fast on anything that's not a 400-series highway you stand a really good chance of hitting a pothole and flying into orbit.


Now, I'll admit that I'm not driving on the GTA highways during rush hour (where I would expect the average speed is closer to 70km/h than 110), but I drive on the QEW and/or 403 through Mississauga around lunch time just about every day, where the middle lane is usually sitting at 120 km/h, and there's a not insignificant amount of cars going past at LEAST 10km/h faster in the left lane. And I drove out to the airport last Friday afternoon, which was QEW->403->401->427... About 3pm... And again, 120 was the MIDDLE lane speed. I haven't noticed a significant decrease in traffic speed during non-rush-hour times since the stupid "150km/h = street racing" law came into effect. But maybe rush hour is a whole different beast.

As for construction zone fine increases - I thought it was "fines increased when workers present"? That's what the signs around my area (west end/Oakville) say.

And what (100km/h limit) highways are there in the GTA (other than the QEW/Gardiner) that AREN'T 400-series?
posted by antifuse at 6:48 AM on September 2, 2011


God Bless Texas
posted by BuffaloChickenWing at 7:00 AM on September 2, 2011


Can't believe I went to sleep, got up, and the thread is still going. Strong feelings on the issue.

A 30% decrease in fuel efficiency. Not very good.

My point was it's a 30% increase to 28 MPG... so still considerably better than the fleet average. My mileage goes up to infinity if I walk, but there's tradeoffs to be made between mileage and time. On a 500 mile drive, we're talking about $12 in gas to save about an hour and a half (at a less-idealized 35 MPG). Quite worth it in my book.

At 85 MPH, the only thing I worry about is deer. I've driven a billion grillion miles in my life and never hit anybody, and I know the tolerances of the vehicle so I know when to slow down. Yesterday I didn't even worry about deer -- I could see everything occuring for three miles ahead. (Including some elk, for which I slow down vigilantly.)

Finally... I agree with the upthread sentiment that long-haul highway speed limits are a bad way to make energy policy. They're roundly ignored, and they get around the real problem -- most Americans have to drive EVERYWHERE, and not on the lonely stretches of I-10 either.
posted by zvs at 7:05 AM on September 2, 2011


Minnesota has wider and more frequent temperature swings than just about any other state in the union.

Yeah, I've said in the past that Minnesota is about the only state that can make fun of people in Wisconsin complaining about extremes in weather.
posted by quin at 7:26 AM on September 2, 2011


It won't be long before it's 100 mph... actually it already is... here's the sign.
posted by loststates at 7:33 AM on September 2, 2011


This is a very odd thread to read with the number of people who seem to think 80+ is a crazy speed to drive. Even on the MA Pike (90) between Worcester and Boston, 80 is the average speed for the left lane during rush hour (m-f). Barring accidents and bottlenecks that's also the speed from Newton to the Boston/Brighton/Cambridge tolls. I would suggest that stretch of roadway is far from rural.
posted by paxton at 7:44 AM on September 2, 2011


Perhaps some of the people that consider driving at 80mph are the ones that have been sucked into the hideous loophole that US manufacturers have used to save money on meeting crash legislation: Namely pick up trucks and large SUV's.

Did you know that most pick up trucks are classified as a commercial or emi-commercial vehicle? Not in how you license them but in how they sell them. This means they meet a very different set of regulations than a normal road car (which equals development costs and so cheaper selling price). And I absolutely agree that 85mph in a truck is a very, very different beast than 85 mph in a (say) Dodge Caravan, or a Ford Focus.

Trucks and SUV's should not be doing 80mph or more. They simply aren't safe at that speed from either a crash safety or a vehicle stability standpoint. 85 mph should be for cars and I often forget just how few of those are actually driven by americans. For some reason you prefer your crappy ladder-chassis trucks that sit 2 feet off the floor.
posted by Brockles at 7:55 AM on September 2, 2011


Seriously, this thread is so disappointing. I know you all have better reading comprehension than this. I swear, it's like someone says "Texas" and you all lose 40 IQ points.
posted by jph at 8:02 AM on September 2, 2011


When in Rome Texas....
posted by entropicamericana at 8:09 AM on September 2, 2011


the verdict is that 130 is still a crappy, inconvenient bypass

Seriously, who drives on that thing? I have yet to even foresee a need, personally. I recently sat at a red light at 183 S. on the way to Lockhart where it underpasses a new stretch of 130, and thought for a minute that 130 wasn't open yet, because there were NO CARS on it. At all. After about a 1:30 red light, as I was taking off from the green, a lone vehicle on 130 came into view, southbound.

In the short term, they would have made more money off of that land running goats. I hope it gets plowed back under, but I suppose if the investors have deep enough pockets, it'll come along eventually. The subdivisions are starting to go in, slowly. I think real estate speculators north of Lockhart are counting on a fresh batch of Dell 'bots to move out there because 130 will move them to their cubes in Pflugerville and Round Rock. Hell on earth.

You want to see what drives highway expansion around here? Look to see who bought the land on either side of it in the few years prior to its construction. I think the real-estate bust caught this batch of speculators by surprise, and that has impacted the profitability of the toll road. I'd figure that since they're likely in collusion, the toll authority was counting on the traffic from the new subdivisions they were making possible.
posted by Devils Rancher at 8:15 AM on September 2, 2011 [1 favorite]


I think if you could get Brockles' suggestion of limiting the 85 mph limit to cars into the Texas legislation you would probably literally see heads asplode. I would like to be there, with popcorn.
posted by caddis at 8:17 AM on September 2, 2011


Do they even have cars in Texas? Well, you know, normal ones. I thought it was all pick up trucks, Huge SUV's with a stack of supercars clustered around the Houston area.
posted by Brockles at 8:33 AM on September 2, 2011


120 was the MIDDLE lane speed

I'm talking mostly about a section of the 401 that's further east, but if you're going faster than 115 on the 401 between the 404/DVP and the 409, you are still the fastest car in your vicinity. The average speed of traffic is not 120 on that section, even in the middle of the night.
posted by one more dead town's last parade at 8:39 AM on September 2, 2011


Seriously, who drives on that thing?

We took it once on the way back from Dallas to see what would happen and because we really didn't want to drive through town on 35 (we live near 35 & Ben White) during rush hour. There was no time savings for us and possibly, even with I-35 traffic, a net time loss. We've also taken 130 to get up to Hutto to turn off to go to Jacksonville, but it's not out of the way for that route.

You want to see what drives highway expansion around here? Look to see who bought the land on either side of it in the few years prior to its construction.

See also: Grand Parkway extension outside of Houston. I'm a mean free-market-hating commie but I kind of hope the land speculators lose their shirts.

Do they even have cars in Texas?

I drive a VW Beetle and before that drove Saturns, but as I mentioned, I'm a free-market-hating commie who lives in the People's Republic of Austin. I may not count.
posted by immlass at 8:51 AM on September 2, 2011


I would bet there are more Prius sales per capita in Houston than many places.
posted by Horselover Phattie at 8:54 AM on September 2, 2011


paxton, whatever you do, don't tell them it's legal to drive in the breakdown lane on 95 in MA during rush hour and that winds up being the fastest lane during high traffic. It makes people cry.
posted by yerfatma at 8:59 AM on September 2, 2011


When I was in high school (yes, in Texas), one of my classmates drove an old VW with longhorns mounted on the front.
posted by KathrynT at 9:07 AM on September 2, 2011


I'm talking mostly about a section of the 401 that's further east, but if you're going faster than 115 on the 401 between the 404/DVP and the 409, you are still the fastest car in your vicinity. The average speed of traffic is not 120 on that section, even in the middle of the night.

Well, I guess I'll get to see for myself tonight, on my way out to Whitby at about 9pm. But I *have* been on that stretch of highway recently enough (took my son to the zoo on Canada Day weekend) and it didn't feel any slower than it has in the past. I'll have to see what traffic is doing tonight when I go through, now that I'm actually paying attention :)
posted by antifuse at 9:32 AM on September 2, 2011


higher speeds = fewer idiots on the road (eventually) - natural selection will have it's way.
posted by bettepage at 5:58 PM on September 1 [+] [!]


It's true, the roads will have plenty fewer idiots on them once all the twits who are terrified by the Number of the Beast 85MPH decide to stay the hell home and let the rest of us drive in peace.
posted by FatherDagon at 11:23 AM on September 2, 2011 [1 favorite]


Thought experiment #1: Imagine driving the speed limit (or shit, 5 MPH under; it is an upper limit). You might even try it for reals. Now think about the stupidest thing another driver might do to cause an accident with you.

If you were paying attention, how hard would it be to get in an accident? I used to live on a 25 MPH windy mountain road and it was boring to drive only 25, but the chance of hitting a kid chasing a ball or a car pulling out of a blind driveway at 25, even at night? Nearly zip. Hearing the police claim "speed was a factor" for every traffic fatality gets old, sure, but on the interstate at 60 MPH, can you get into an accident?

If you want to claim that you can't drive the limit or leave a time cushion in front, I wonder how hard you've tried. It takes some practice, but I drive with some aggressive fucking assholes in the SF Bay Area & I can leave a gap. It probably takes as much practice learning to flow with moderate-speed traffic as it does learning to jam through gaps at the high end of the speed distribution.

Thought experiment #2: Imagine riding a bike for a trip you commonly take by car. Consider how long it will take. Now pretend your car is a bicycle plus a time machine.

It takes me less than 15 minutes to drive to work and almost an hour to bike. Saving another 2 minutes in the car by driving 75 instead of 60 is just silly.
posted by morganw at 12:47 PM on September 2, 2011 [1 favorite]


Today the maximum speed limit in Texas increases to 85mph (137km/h).

I realize it's a little late to be pointing this out, 325 comments in, but the maximum speed limit did not increase to 85mph. HB 1353 increased the maximum speed limit to 75.

Legislative Session: 82(R)

House Bill 1353

House Author: Elkins et al.

Effective: 9-1-11

Senate Sponsor: Williams

House Bill 1353 amends Transportation Code provisions relating to speeds that are lawful unless a special hazard exists that requires a slower speed. The bill makes 70 miles per hour a lawful speed on a highway numbered by Texas or the United States outside an urban district and makes 60 mph a lawful speed on a highway that is outside an urban district and not a highway numbered by Texas or the United States. The bill makes an exception for a school bus, requiring the school bus to comply with certain prescribed speeds. The bill removes speeds that are lawful for certain vehicles in nighttime, for certain trucks, and for vehicles outside an urban district for which a speed limit is not otherwise specified. The bill requires an entity that establishes or alters a speed limit on certain highways under authority granted by law to establish the same speed limit for daytime and nighttime and, among other provisions, increases to 75 mph the maximum speed that the entities may set, with a certain exception.
posted by IanMorr at 1:07 PM on September 2, 2011 [1 favorite]


But how does that explain the mentions above that 80mph is already the set speed limit in many areas?
posted by antifuse at 1:30 PM on September 2, 2011


That was already permitted by Tex. Transportation Code §545.353(h-1). And there's nothing in HB 1353 that, at first glance, seems to make a 85 mi/h speed limit legal.
posted by grouse at 1:44 PM on September 2, 2011


"a bicycle plus a time machine"

You mean I can burn calories and kill Hitler?
posted by Eideteker at 4:25 PM on September 2, 2011 [1 favorite]


Fighting fascism is now 50% better for you.
posted by arcticseal at 5:37 PM on September 2, 2011


Its 92 degrees here right now and it looks like Odessa, in Western Texas, will get up to 96 today. We'll be getting down to 50 in sometime in the next few days. Our summers get just as hot (though far more humid) and our winters get much colder. In the later fall and early spring, it is pretty normal for us to see 30-40 degree swings in the space of a day (and even larger swings in the space of a week). That's without even getting into winter where the plows scrape the snow and ice off the interstates at 60mph.

That sounds exactly like where I live now, Taos, NM.
posted by krinklyfig at 6:48 PM on September 2, 2011


My point was it's a 30% increase to 28 MPG... so still considerably better than the fleet average. My mileage goes up to infinity if I walk, but there's tradeoffs to be made between mileage and time. On a 500 mile drive, we're talking about $12 in gas to save about an hour and a half (at a less-idealized 35 MPG). Quite worth it in my book.

For one car, not bad. One million cars, not good. Wasteful. You keep talking about the individual cost to you in time. I'm talking about the societal cost.
posted by krinklyfig at 6:52 PM on September 2, 2011


At 85 MPH, the only thing I worry about is deer. I've driven a billion grillion miles in my life and never hit anybody, and I know the tolerances of the vehicle so I know when to slow down. Yesterday I didn't even worry about deer -- I could see everything occuring for three miles ahead. (Including some elk, for which I slow down vigilantly.)

Here's the other problem. Everyone boils this down to their own perceptions of their individual driving habits. Hey, great for you. Fantastic that you believe yourself to be a safe driver and fully capable of handling everything coming at you at 85 MPH. You may not be as good as you think you are, however. People often rate themselves far above their own abilities in many areas of skill. But let's assume for the sake of argument that your assessment of your own driving habits is accurate. Question is, is everyone else equally capable? If not, why assume everyone will drive like you do at 85 MPH? Or should the law only apply to those who know in their hearts they drive safely at any speed?
posted by krinklyfig at 6:59 PM on September 2, 2011


desjardins wrote: It is motherfucking FUN to go over 100 mph in German car. So I've heard

A 1988 Mercedes-Benz 420SEL can hit 120mph without breaking a sweat. Fantastically stable, unlike most cars past 90 or so. There was once a time when gas was cheap... ;)

krinklyfig wrote: I don't really get the hostility to lower speed limits or people who prefer not to drive fast. It's as if people don't feel free unless they feel a sense of entitlement on the road, and everyone joined them in it.

I think you're misjudging. People aren't hostile towards those who want to drive slow. They're hostile towards people who want to drive slow and also feel like they have the right to dictate how fast other people drive in uncongested areas where their (excess, to you) speed couldn't reasonably present a danger to others. It's the same thing that pisses people off about left lane blockers, especially those that exhibit the attitude of "I'm driving the speed limit, so bite me!" (thankfully, in most states in the US, it's now illegal to block faster traffic by remaining in the left lane while not passing. And yes, I have seen that particular view expressed by people on Internet fora)
posted by wierdo at 9:04 PM on September 2, 2011 [2 favorites]


They're hostile towards people who want to drive slow and also feel like they have the right to dictate how fast other people drive in uncongested areas where their (excess, to you) speed couldn't reasonably present a danger to others.

That seems to be a very specific argument, and not everyone was arguing for that. In many cases people were arguing that the flow of traffic was already above 80 in many busy stretches of freeway. In any event, how is it unreasonable to have reasonable speed limits, which help fuel efficiency and lower emissions, at the very least? Is it really important to people to drive as fast as they want? Anyway, the faster speed limit doesn't appear to change magically to a slower limit if more cars are on the road.

It's the same thing that pisses people off about left lane blockers, especially those that exhibit the attitude of "I'm driving the speed limit, so bite me!"

It is? Not sure where you're getting that from this conversation. I drive in the slow lane but still drive slightly over the limit, so as not to be unreasonable.
posted by krinklyfig at 1:09 AM on September 3, 2011


immlass: "I don't expect the limit on 35 to go up to 85 (and to be fair, for a lot of the distance between Dallas and Austin that's probably too fast to be quite safe even when the roads aren't under construction). But I'd be pretty pissed off if the speed limit were dropped to 55 on the interstate to drain people off to a toll road where the speed limit was 85."

Oh man...not me. Well, 55 would be too slow for the Austin to Dallas corridor, but if that stupid corporate boondoggle of tollroad was 85, and the regular ol' paid for with tax dollars infrastructure was lowered from 70 to 65...I would take the 65mph highway every single time. (Except maybe right there around Italy and Waxahachie, which always seems to back up for 5 miles, even though there's nothing there but dust and the construction workers that have been there since the 80s. Perhaps I should bring them a sandwich, maybe they're stranded...)

See, here's the thing; most people don't know how to drive. Most people don't understand physics, nor do they think about physics as it pertains to their car; which is a giant mass hurtling along with great velocity.

I've been driving stock cars since I was 14 or so. I was trained to feel the difference between how a car is connected to the pavement at 65, 75, 85, and 115, and 200 mph. And I tell you what, 85 mph in a standard truck, or other elevated car - you are no better connected to the pavement than you would be if you were driving 150mph, as far as reaction time is concerned. Hell, I'm an outstanding driver...and I'm neither good enough, nor fast enough to control a car that goes airborne at any speed.

The fact is that while I'm all for allowing people to find new and interesting ways to land themselves a spot on the Darwin awards, I'd just as soon they not be doing it in a way that could kill the rest of us.
posted by dejah420 at 12:33 PM on September 3, 2011 [1 favorite]


but if that stupid corporate boondoggle of tollroad was 85, and the regular ol' paid for with tax dollars infrastructure was lowered from 70 to 65...I would take the 65mph highway every single time.

I would too, but I'd still be pissed off that the state of Texas was lowering the speed limit to shift vehicles onto the toll road. If the road isn't safe at high speed, limiting the speed to a safe number is one thing. But making the public road deliberately more difficult to use--not safer but more difficult to use--to put cash in the toll road companies' pockets is not OK. Similarly, it's not OK to stop widening 35 to force people onto the toll road, which was another rumor going around at the same time over those Cintra contract penalties. (But hey, at least those guys up near Italy could go home then.)
posted by immlass at 3:09 PM on September 3, 2011


In any event, how is it unreasonable to have reasonable speed limits, which help fuel efficiency and lower emissions, at the very least? Is it really important to people to drive as fast as they want? Anyway, the faster speed limit doesn't appear to change magically to a slower limit if more cars are on the road.

Speed limits are simply not the way to go about this. There is almost no correlation between a change in speed limit and a change in actual average speed. Furthermore, speed limits have almost nothing to do with safety and more to do with a way to generate revenue for the law enforcement department that issues the tickets.
Conclusion

The primary conclusion of this research is that the majority of motorist on the nonlimited access rural and urban highways examined in this study did not decrease or increase their speed as a result of either lowering or raising the posted speed limit by 4, 10, or 15 mi/h (8, 16, or 24 km/h). In other words, this nationwide study confirms the results of numerous other observational studies which found that the majority or motorist do not alter their speed to conform to speed limits they perceive as unreasonable for prevailing conditions.
posted by VTX at 5:48 PM on September 3, 2011 [1 favorite]


krinklyfig wrote: That seems to be a very specific argument, and not everyone was arguing for that. In many cases people were arguing that the flow of traffic was already above 80 in many busy stretches of freeway. In any event, how is it unreasonable to have reasonable speed limits, which help fuel efficiency and lower emissions, at the very least? Is it really important to people to drive as fast as they want? Anyway, the faster speed limit doesn't appear to change magically to a slower limit if more cars are on the road.
...
It is? Not sure where you're getting that from this conversation. I drive in the slow lane but still drive slightly over the limit, so as not to be unreasonable


Note that I did not say that you block the left lane, only that your position in this thread hits a nerve because it's very similar to those that smarmy left lane blockers often use to justify their behavior.

And I don't think that I called into question the reasonableness of speed limits in general. I merely stated that the hostility isn't towards you, it's towards the idea of you (or anyone else) being the arbiter of the one true correct speed to drive when said speed isn't impacting others. I don't think anyone ever said people should be required to drive 80. There is a minimum speed on many roads, but it's based on safety, in that driving significantly slower than the 85th percentile speed is just as dangerous, if not more, than driving significantly over it.
posted by wierdo at 12:44 PM on September 4, 2011


So, just to update my own little Toronto-based derail - I still refuse to believe the people that say 115 km/h is a FAST speed on the 401. Two more trips, Friday night at about 9:30pm and Sunday morning around 11am, I travelled from Oakville to Whitby and back. Average middle lane speed - 120 km/h. The only places it really slowed down significantly were around the 427/401 junction, which is ALWAYS bad, and around the construction area near... I want to say Yonge St? But I may be wrong. Other than that? Yeah, the only time the left lane was going slower than 130km/h was because of lane blockers going 110, and in that case the middle lane was cruising past those slowpokes too. :)
posted by antifuse at 5:32 AM on September 6, 2011


Totally agree with that. I drive all over the GTA and out to Oshawa plus Windsor twice a week. 120 is slow, 130 is about top for any volume of the traffic.

Volume forces the speed down, but only rush hour style volume, not just 'other than an empty highway'.
posted by Brockles at 9:02 AM on September 6, 2011


This conversation illustrates nicely why "slow lanes" and "fast lanes" should not exist.

There are a number of states in the US that have these signs periodically that say "SLOW TRAFFIC KEEP RIGHT."

These signs are pointless and ineffectual, because "SLOW" is a hopelessly relative value. Is 70MPH "slow?" Well, probably – if the speed limit is 85 and everyone else is going 90. In my 1991 Dodge Spirit, 70MPH is way too fast, though. "Slow" depends on the car, on the time of day, on the traffic around you – and since it's so relative, it's pointless to advise people to move over whenever they think they're going "slow." Absolutely pointless, to the point where I wonder why they waste money on such signs.

In other states (Colorado, for instance) they have signs that actually mean something concrete. They say "KEEP RIGHT EXCEPT TO PASS." That's a sensible request, because "passing" and "not passing" are absolute values.
posted by koeselitz at 9:09 AM on September 6, 2011


These signs are pointless and ineffectual, because "SLOW" is a hopelessly relative value.

But that relativity is what makes them absolutely correct. If you are going slow compared to the other traffic, then stay right. The fact that people are too dumb or stubborn to accept that they are driving 'slow' is the problem.

The signs are correct, people's reaction to them is the stupid bit. If there are people going faster than 'you' (or want to) then you are going slow, no matter what you think of your speed.

People ignore the 'keep right except to pass' signs anyway. People ignore both signs, despite them both being accurate. Dumb arses.
posted by Brockles at 9:26 AM on September 6, 2011


But – the trouble is that the signs don't say "slow traffic in relation to other vehicles keep right." In fact, people don't naturally think of "slow" and "fast" in such terms when they're driving. When you want to know how fast you're going in a car, you don't look at the person next to you; you look at the gauge on your dashboard that tells you that you're going 70 miles per hour, or whatever it may be. And the fact that signs also appear helpfully reminding you how fast you're allowed to go in more absolute terms (that is, by landspeed) makes a person assume that "slow" and "fast" are supposed to be determined by miles or kilometerers per hour.

So naturally people end up in this conundrum: how fast is fast? How slow is slow? And I've heard this argument played out hundreds of times – "oh, I was going the speed limit in the fast lane, and people were honking at me! But I was going as fast as you can legally!" et cetera. It may be incorrect to do this, but people do it naturally.

That's why I prefer signs that state this much more plainly: "keep right except to pass." You can lie to yourself or to others and claim you were about to pass or something like that, but in general the condition of "passing" is down to one thing only: the relative motion of two cars.

I really believe that "slow traffic keep right" signs cause more subtle problems, as well. The apparently absolute nature of "slow" and "fast" lead people to believe that, on long stretches of road where the speed limit does not change, they can stay in one lane and never move so long as they remain at a constant speed. But this simply isn't true, and it's lazy driving. I notice it's very common to see this in lots of "slow traffic keep right" states – people going 70 mph stubbornly stick to the "fast" lane, even if someone going 85 mph rushes up on them from behind, or even if they're coming up on someone going slower in the same lane. And they seem somewhat annoyed when they're forced to change speed or change lanes.

But you might be right – I don't know that the average driver can grok either of these signs and follow them correctly. Heh.
posted by koeselitz at 10:24 AM on September 6, 2011


If drivers were trained in proper lane discipline and law enforcement were actually allowed to enforce that instead of this incessant focus on speed limits, none of that would matter. We probably wouldn't need either sign.
posted by VTX at 1:28 PM on September 6, 2011


koeselitz wrote: This conversation illustrates nicely why "slow lanes" and "fast lanes" should not exist.

There are a number of states in the US that have these signs periodically that say "SLOW TRAFFIC KEEP RIGHT."


The construction I've seen used, "slower traffic keep right", seems to have concrete meaning. I guess a true moron could ask "slower than what?"
posted by wierdo at 1:58 AM on September 7, 2011


I saw that exact wording last night, and thought of this thread. "Slower traffic keep right makes more sense than slow traffic keep right," thought I, "I'll need to mention that in this thread when I get to work tomorrow.

wierdo, get out of my head please. And/or my car. It's entirely possible you're hiding in there, what with all the junk I've got in the back seat.
posted by antifuse at 5:58 AM on September 7, 2011


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