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Ol' 55
March 1, 2006 12:30 PM   Subscribe

An act of civil obedience. Kids with cameras drive the speed limit en masse, thereby blocking traffic and raising questions not only about the difference between de facto and de jure speed limits, but also about how incredibly pissed I'd be had I been behind them. [via]
posted by Sticherbeast (155 comments total)

 
Now what was their point?
posted by DieHipsterDie at 12:38 PM on March 1, 2006


That Ashton Kutcher lookalike/wannabe is pretty full of himself, and I too would be pissed were I stuck behind them (I routinely hit 90 in the 70 zone), but I have to admit thinking that view from the bridge towards the end was awesome.
posted by Gator at 12:38 PM on March 1, 2006


Uh, the speed limit is low to encourage energy conservation.
posted by The Jesse Helms at 12:39 PM on March 1, 2006


Gator: So you're part of the problem?
posted by DieHipsterDie at 12:40 PM on March 1, 2006


I saw this the other day. Frankly, if something I did inspired someone else to clip a car on the side of the highway, I'd feel pretty bad about it for a while. They weren't standing on principle and not allowing their bags to be searched at a store or something; they were demonstrating dangerously that the posted speed limit is not the official speed limit.

Guess what? Lots of laws go unenforced. Sometimes, an attempt to enforce a law highlights the inequality of it. Now, if you think pointing that out is worth pissing off ten thousand people driving two ton bullets at 100 km/h, maybe you should take another look at your priorities.
posted by jon_kill at 12:40 PM on March 1, 2006


I don't know about Georgia (this was in Atlanta, right?) but in most states it's illegal to drive in the left lanes without passing.

Huh.

So I guess that sort of undermines their point.
posted by bbuda at 12:40 PM on March 1, 2006


If there is a problem that is.
posted by DieHipsterDie at 12:41 PM on March 1, 2006


If you increased the speed limit and then enforced it, the only actual change would be to the speed limit signs.
posted by smackfu at 12:41 PM on March 1, 2006


Why would they enforce it if the speed limit was raised? They rarely enforce it now.
posted by DieHipsterDie at 12:42 PM on March 1, 2006


Gator: So you're part of the problem?

Nah, I don't think so. I have never flipped anyone off, or even honked my horn (my horn doesn't work), and I don't engage in any dangerous passing behavior (like the van in this video that clipped a stopped car on the shoulder. I just like to drive fast.
posted by Gator at 12:43 PM on March 1, 2006


If you increased the speed limit and then enforced it, the only actual change would be to the speed limit signs.

Perhaps the capriciousness (and in some cases, racism or sexism) of speed-limit enforcement would be mitigated.
posted by Kwantsar at 12:44 PM on March 1, 2006


That's a pretty dangerous thing to do. They're laughing idiotically at almost having caused an accident (when the van hit the car on the shoulder while passing them). Plus, they can't spell.
posted by carter at 12:45 PM on March 1, 2006


I get the point. The speed limit should be faster. I hate these kids.. not because of what they did, but because they're the biggest dorks I have ever seen.
posted by jeblis at 12:46 PM on March 1, 2006


Speed limit from Wikipedia. Also, would have looked better with blacked out unmarked Chevy Suburbans.
posted by The Jesse Helms at 12:48 PM on March 1, 2006


Ahh they didn't cause the accident the guy in the van did.
posted by jeblis at 12:49 PM on March 1, 2006


There are several researchers who have surmized that the artificially low speed limit, and it's unenforcable nature creates a broken-window effect that ends up increasing unsafe behavior in areas other than just speed-enforcement.
posted by nomisxid at 12:49 PM on March 1, 2006


They shouldn't have posted their faces in that video, because if I ever see any of them, I'll punch them in the face.
posted by billysumday at 12:53 PM on March 1, 2006


I mean that in a really nice way.
posted by billysumday at 12:54 PM on March 1, 2006


I saw this the other day and it pissed me off mightily. They claim their point is that the speed limit is too low. Really the message they're trying get across is, "Look at us! We can piss people off but it's all legal! We're awesome rebels!" The whole attitude of the thing is obnoxious.
posted by joegester at 12:58 PM on March 1, 2006


Those kids are obnoxious and their video sucks.
posted by thirteenkiller at 1:00 PM on March 1, 2006


On a related note, I live near a road that's technically called a (Steveston) Highway, yet is effectively a busy road through a residential neighbourhood running about 5km. Everyone, including police, violates the posted 50kmh speed limit. Yet every three months or so the police come out with radar to trap drivers who are travelling the same speed the police otherwise ignore and drive at.

All this does is piss off the drivers and make them respect the police less.

I've attempted to get someone to up the speed limit or agree to not use radar or to actually enforce the speed limit consistently (and have the police drive it), but the municipality calls it a highway and therefore under provincial jurisdiction. The province calls it a municipal road, and therefore under municipal control. So the same idiocy continues indefinitely.
posted by Kickstart70 at 1:00 PM on March 1, 2006


I don't know about Atlanta, but here in my city there are certain lanes in certain highways where, if drive at or below the speed limit, they will write "suicide" in your death certificate. Now what they did on the video was sort of irresponsible but can they really be blamed by other people misbehavior? While I think everyone agrees there should be a speed limit on most (if not all) places, making it too low for no apparent reason is quite a reckless behavior by the authorities, since it will make many drivers ignore the limit and go beyond the real limit and their (the drivers) ability (since they won't have the signs as a reminder of what they should be doing).
posted by nkyad at 1:00 PM on March 1, 2006


I was this much of a moron when I was that young - Idealistic, spastic, sure that people over 30 just didn't get it, sure that the world was filled with dumb problems that I had a productive solution to. I cringe when I think about it.

The world is the way it is for a reason. And starting from zero when addressing your pet outrage, that is, ignoring the context, history, research, and ancillary concerns, is a sure way to ensure your moron factor.

Speed limits are set by engineers, politicians, and committees. There is a great deal of both science and politics that goes into it. And yes, everyone understands that we don't drive the speed limit. Welcome to Earth.

Or is the point, "I can really piss people off"?

An aside - I lived in Montana when they eliminated the speed limit for all freeways. It didn't work well.
posted by y6y6y6 at 1:00 PM on March 1, 2006


Okay, can someone explain to someone who (a) lives in a country where speed limits are viciously enforced and (b) casts ancient Houdou curses upon people who tailgate him, then overtake on the wrong side to speed past him, what the hell this is all about?

"Artificially low speed limits"???
"de facto and de jure speed limits"???
posted by Jimbob at 1:01 PM on March 1, 2006


ok, honestly, i liked the creativity behind the protest, but i hated the inspiration. what were they trying to prove?! i rarely have a problem with speed limits. most of them are higher or lower according to environments and road designs - such as wooded areas with high deer population, urban/suburban areas, or even dangerous roads. STILL, i drive about 10+ miles over the limit. everyone does.

The laws are NOT absolute here... The laws are purely regulatory. on top of that, cops only pull you over if you do excedingly high speeds - like 90 in a 55 zone - which endanger other drivers doing more reasonable speeds.

You may scoff at these laws, but i once saw a dude pull out from behind me at 110 in a 75 zone, trying to weave in and out of 95-S, but all that he ended up gaining was a Nascar style blowout and spinning out so hard that i would be surprised if he survived at all.

Finally, speeds around 55mph are optimal for gas mileage on most cars. if you feel like burning twice the gas, fine... keep in mind you'll be paying about the same amount as a speeding ticket in the end.

i'm ready to be flamed.
posted by Doorstop at 1:02 PM on March 1, 2006


I almost quit watching when they misspelled "obedience" in the opening credits. But then I would have missed the guy saying, "All I could do was pretend to be busy with my cell phone, so that people couldn't be too angry with me, right?"
posted by amro at 1:03 PM on March 1, 2006


nomisxid: There are several researchers who have surmized that the artificially low speed limit, and it's unenforcable nature creates a broken-window effect that ends up increasing unsafe behavior in areas other than just speed-enforcement.

I believe it. How can people be expected to have any respect for the law when the law is so unbelievably stupid that it is far safer to break a safety law than to follow it?

I tend to think that casually broken laws like speeding (with artificially low speed limits), jaywalking, etc. tend to foster a view that the law is asinine and capricious, and the police are there not to benefit public safety or keep order but to act as 'gotchas' for these meaningless little rules and collect revenue.
posted by Mitrovarr at 1:04 PM on March 1, 2006


Kickstart70 : "Yet every three months or so the police come out with radar to trap drivers who are travelling the same speed the police otherwise ignore and drive at."

I don't think the police is binded by the speed limit. In my country, when on duty they are explicitly allowed to ignore any traffic regulation that would prvent them from doing their job (and when off-duty they won't get a ticket anyway, esprit de corps and all that, but that's another problem).
posted by nkyad at 1:06 PM on March 1, 2006


"All I could do was pretend to be busy with my cell phone, so that people couldn't be too angry with me, right?"

Yeah, what a weenie. In a cardigan.
posted by Gator at 1:07 PM on March 1, 2006


Guy I met, kind of a rough character, told me about the time his gangster brother was trying to rush a girlfriend to the hospital after a botched abortion. Some do-gooder decides to pull one of these 55 mph blocking moves. After honking, flashing his lights, and bumping him, he reached out his window and shot the guy, watching as the blocker's car slowly drifted right and sprayed sparks when it hit the guardrail.
posted by StickyCarpet at 1:07 PM on March 1, 2006


Too bad the hyper editing made it virtually unwatchable.

I will say this -- for a bunch of dorky guys, they sure did recruit some cute girls!
posted by pardonyou? at 1:08 PM on March 1, 2006


Having driven around Atlanta, and seen firsthand how fucking fast people drive around the city, I'm really surprised these guys didn't get shot. Y'all like to speed down there.
posted by Gamblor at 1:09 PM on March 1, 2006


The road I travel daily to get to work is a 4 lane parkway that sits about 2 miles outside of any local road that you need to get to, thusly making it curve well around any major city center, with only a few less traffic lights than the net sum of using local roads.

If traveling it weren't inconvenient enough, the speed limit is a laughable 50 mph, and because of this, I can only assume the sheer number of speed traps that regularly dot this road are where cops go to make their monthly ticket quotas.

I don't care how obviously attention-starved these hipster dorks are, nor do I care how crappy their video and/or concept is. I love this in the way that many MeFites love anything anti-Bush, no matter how crappy: Because I hate low speed limits.

...and I fucking hate the parkway. Even more than Bush.
posted by Uther Bentrazor at 1:11 PM on March 1, 2006


My son was riding with some friends (two carloads full) a few years ago and they did the same thing. Later I found out you can get a ticket for it-unsafe driving, or something like that.

Our laws are so screwy. Having said that, it was stupid. My son wasn't driving but if he had been I'd have jerked a know in his tail (Old Southern expression. )
posted by konolia at 1:11 PM on March 1, 2006


I meant knot. I guess I could have tied a knot in his know too, while I was at it.
posted by konolia at 1:11 PM on March 1, 2006


What a bunch of narcissistic blowhards. I can't wait to see their unmasking of the hypocrisy of jaywalking.
posted by docpops at 1:12 PM on March 1, 2006


Whoa, should have previewed first. Christ.

As a counter to that story, my unlce in Marietta said he once saw a station wagon tooling along in the left lane one morning during rush hour, with a woman in the back who was clearly in labor. Some guy was behind them flashing his brights because they were going too slow and he wanted to pass.
posted by Gamblor at 1:13 PM on March 1, 2006


They probably were breaking the law.
Minimum Speed Limit: I. No person shall drive a motor vehicle at such a slow speed as to impede the normal and reasonable movement of traffic. §40-6-184(a)(1)
I think a judge definitely likely uphold tickets for this even though the next section is:
II. Except when turning left, a person shall not dive in the left lane of a highway, with at least 4 lanes, at less than the maximum speed limit.(3) §40-6-184(a)(2)
posted by joegester at 1:13 PM on March 1, 2006


Actually, in Georgia there are sections of the expressway where the speed limit (plus 10%) is enforced. Especially if you have Florida tags.

And I have to say the corrdinated effort to not let anyone pass would fall under 40-6-390

"(a) Any person who drives any vehicle in reckless disregard for the safety of persons or property commits the offense of reckless driving."
posted by ?! at 1:13 PM on March 1, 2006


From my experience, the "left lane is passing only" thing is a law in about half of the US. Really, the speed limit is partially based on energy consumption as The Jesse Helms said, but it's also based on safety.

On the other hand, I'm not sure what driving 70 as opposed to 55 is really going to buy most people. I know on long trips I can shave an hour or even two off of a 12 hour trip by going 10 mph over the limit. But those trips are rare -- I usually only drive a distance that'd take two hours at 65mph, so going 75mph is going to save me what, twenty minutes? If I'm commuting across town, it's an even slimmer margin.

Lately, I just don't care. I've been more relaxed, drive through the freeway fairly often (55mph speed limit) and will look down to find people passing me on both sides. We recently expanded the freeway to have at least three lanes throughout the city (Des Moines has hit it big, now) so people can freely enter and exit on my right and pass on my left. I'll look down and find myself doing exactly 55 or, on occasion, just below. And you know what? It doesn't really matter.

Did you notice the fact that all of the cars were crowded behind the kids? If people maintained a consistent 55mph, you'd have gaps in traffic as people entered and exited. Instead, people will accelerate until they're behind someone. I've driven quickly on the interstate in the past and noticed that you don't see an even distribution of cars; you will see packs and groupings of people jockeying for position. It's a mode of transportation, but people think it's a competition.
posted by mikeh at 1:14 PM on March 1, 2006


Oh, and feel free to bend light here on the Oregon freeways. There's around two State Troopers currently on patrol since Oregonians are so astute about the cost of basic services.
posted by docpops at 1:14 PM on March 1, 2006


What does "artifically low speed limit" mean? Is there a natural speed limit that people will drive if no speed is posted? I don't get it.
posted by DieHipsterDie at 1:15 PM on March 1, 2006


I can't drive 55.
posted by Pollomacho at 1:16 PM on March 1, 2006


Mikeh, you've forgotten the basic purpose of driving: Passing the person in front of you.
posted by Gamblor at 1:17 PM on March 1, 2006


The problem isn't the speed limits; the problem is people's attitudes, and how the artificially low speed limits assist passive-aggressive people in inflicting minor (or in certain specific cases, major) harm on other people.

If everyone had a small cup of respect for everyone else, the roads would work like this:

1. Everyone leaves the left lane open for passing and emergencies;

2. Nobody drives side-by-side at the same speed.

That's it. That's all it would take to ensure the maximum traffic flow. Instead we have roads packed full of people who feel that it is their "right" to drive the speed limit AND block people who are driving faster.

Arguably, we also have people who are driving way too fast for conditions. And I am not fond of those people, but you're darn right I move over to let them by as quickly as I can -- and just because someone is driving faster than you doesn't mean they're driving too fast for conditions.

I'm a bit biased here: when my wife was hemmoraging blood on the way to the hospital for the birth of my twins (placental abruption, no further complications, all happy and healthy), I took our minivan on the freeway and drove 80-85 the entire way to the hospital -- and since that's the normal flow of traffic around these parts, the only difficulty came from people who pulled in front of us in the leftmost lane or the carpool lane and then slowed down to significantly less than the normal flow of traffic.
posted by davejay at 1:19 PM on March 1, 2006


Say what you will of their method of doing it, these kids make a great point. The laws dictating legal driving speeds make criminals out of most of us. What is the purpose of a law that most people cannot or will not follow? It ultimately teaches the vast majority of the population that laws are only to be obeyed if you think you will get caught.

Speed limits should be raised to the safe speed most people drive at and vigorously enforced, or they should be abolished.
posted by mullingitover at 1:19 PM on March 1, 2006


?! - I'm not sure if they'd be guilty by that law. Maybe only by the fact that they were blocking traffic from flowing around and an emergency vehicle wouldn't have been able to make it around. They didn't make an effort to not let people pass, they only decided to drive in different lanes, all at the speed limit. The fact that this is seen as "blocking" traffic is only because we believe that there should be a route free to pass slower-moving cars. That's not the law in all states, and you're not allowed to break the speed limit to switch lanes.

Ideally, if one of the kids were to allow someone behind to pass, they'd put on their right signal, slow to allow the other car going 55mph to their right to pass, and merge in behind him/her. Otherwise they would be violating the speed limit or illegally merging.
posted by mikeh at 1:20 PM on March 1, 2006


What does "artifically low speed limit" mean?

It means that the speed limit is not set to a reasonable and safe speed for the size, quality and amount of traffic on the road during normal weather conditions and daytime visibility; it's set much lower for a reason not directly related to safe travel, such as energy conservation, increasing the number of speeding tickets given out, or blanket zoning regs that assume all roads == the worst roads in the region.
posted by davejay at 1:22 PM on March 1, 2006


Speed limits should be raised to the safe speed most people drive at and vigorously enforced, or they should be abolished.

You actually think that if given the freedom, most people would drive at a safe speed.

And someone please please tell me what an artifically low speed limit is.
posted by DieHipsterDie at 1:22 PM on March 1, 2006


Thanks, davejay!
posted by DieHipsterDie at 1:23 PM on March 1, 2006


Say what you will of their method of doing it, these kids make a great point.

I would replace "great" with "obvious".

Speed limits should be raised to the safe speed most people drive at and vigorously enforced, or they should be abolished.

I agree with the first part of this statement. 85th percentile should do it.
posted by davejay at 1:24 PM on March 1, 2006


I-285 (the interstate that circles metro Atlanta and is featured in this video) is a deathtrap. No joke. When people get in fender benders, or worse, it shuts down traffic for hours. Regular driving speed is 80-85 mph.

While these kids probably thought, as most young kids do, that they could do no wrong, someone might have been seriously - seriously - injured in this 'project.'
posted by NationalKato at 1:26 PM on March 1, 2006


...we have roads packed full of people who feel that it is their "right" to...block people who are driving faster.

...we also have people who are driving way too fast for conditions.

George Carlin: "Have you ever noticed that anybody driving slower than you is an idiot, and anyone going faster than you is a maniac?"
posted by Gamblor at 1:26 PM on March 1, 2006


There was a story on Primetime Live a couple of years back about overly aggressive driving that employed this very same tactic.
posted by lunalaguna at 1:26 PM on March 1, 2006


mikeh, if there are people passing you on both sides, then pull over to the far right lane, please.
posted by JekPorkins at 1:27 PM on March 1, 2006


They didn't make an effort to not let people pass, they only decided to drive in different lanes, all at the speed limit. The fact that this is seen as "blocking" traffic is only because we believe that there should be a route free to pass slower-moving cars.

Um, the fact that this is seen as "blocking" traffic is because they decided to drive in different lanes, all at the speed limit, side by side and without leaving a passing lane open. I don't care what the law says; that's blocking traffic.

Ideally, if one of the kids were to allow someone behind to pass, they'd put on their right signal, slow to allow the other car going 55mph to their right to pass, and merge in behind him/her.

Absolutely. But they didn't. And since they didn't, they were blocking traffic.
posted by davejay at 1:27 PM on March 1, 2006


An aside - I lived in Montana when they eliminated the speed limit for all freeways. It didn't work well.
posted by y6y6y6 at 3:00 PM CST on March 1 [!]


What happened with that?
posted by COBRA! at 1:27 PM on March 1, 2006


Hypocrisy is built into any system of law. Speed Limits of 55 mph not enforced until 70 mph give people the psychological feeling that they are getting away with something and the law the ability to fine you a more significant amount if you exceed that. As the guy said in the video, 70: no ticket; 75 ticket for going 20 over.

I love the "Fines Doubled in Construction Zones" that they have in my state. Interesting how the speeders seem to be stopped primarily in those areas. I guess they value the lives of road construction workers, huh? Except they are up in all sorts of areas where no humans (working or holding up shovels) are to be found. Funny how there is no "Fines Doubled in School Zones" though, isn't it?

The kids make a good point, not that this actually means anything.
posted by spock at 1:29 PM on March 1, 2006


George Carlin: "Have you ever noticed that anybody driving slower than you is an idiot, and anyone going faster than you is a maniac?

Heh, yeah, I know. Nevertheless, if you have 95% of the people on the road travelling within a reasonable range of speed, there will always be someone at either extreme, and it is people at those extremes that are the largest problem -- because the ones at the fastest extreme come up on the ones at the slowest extreme, and accidents happen. After all, it's not speed alone that kills; it's DIFFERENCE in speed that kills (ie difference in speed between you and another car, or you and a tree, or you and a bridge abutment.)

That's why I say that everyone needs to leave a passing lane; the only persons for whom that wouldn't matter would be those travelling the fastest, which might mean "at the speed limit" or "5 over" or "40 over". Being the fastest does not automatically equal driving too fast for conditions or driving over the speed limit.

Of course, no matter what speed you're going, driving side by side and blocking all lanes is a bad thing.
posted by davejay at 1:31 PM on March 1, 2006


StickyCarpet, did that guy also tell you about the time he and his homies drove around at night with their lights off and shot anyone who flashed their brights at them?

Yeah.
posted by oats at 1:31 PM on March 1, 2006


It's all too archaic: a system based on a roadside sign showing one number good for all drivers in all vehicles in all traffic conditions at all times of the day, week, and year.

Instead, your vehicle should set its own minimum, recommended, and maximum speeds based on what kind of vehicle it is (down to year and model), its inspection record, an onboard computer's analysis of the car, where it is, who's driving, an onboard computer's analysis of the driver's behavior, time of day, current traffic conditions (how fast all the other cars are going, etc.).

Your insurance company should adjust your insurance rates minute by minute, with the cost posted on your control panel, based on how you respond to the speed recommendations you are given.
posted by pracowity at 1:34 PM on March 1, 2006


I would think that four independent drivers going the speed limit (resulting in this sort of a backup) would be fine. However, the video shows a premeditated conspiracy to back up traffic. To decide whether or not this would be legal (or even a good idea) just imagine a rescue squad or fire truck back in that artificial gridlock.
posted by spock at 1:34 PM on March 1, 2006


Not to ramble on, but I just had a thought: can we equate people who drive slowly side-by-side and block all lanes as being equivalent to people who don't walk forward when a line moves up? I mean, yes, technically you don't get there any faster by moving up with the line, but it's common courtesy to close gaps so that the back end of the line isn't sticking out farther than it needs to, and so that people behind the gap don't feel nervous (like someone's going to jump into the line in front of them.)
posted by davejay at 1:34 PM on March 1, 2006


I just remembered, Florida tried to pass a law addressing this sort of thing last year. Jeb vetoed it (.pdf). Based on his reasoning, it seems like he'd be behind these kids all the way. (See what I did there?)
posted by Gator at 1:37 PM on March 1, 2006


I don't know about Georgia (this was in Atlanta, right?) but in most states it's illegal to drive in the left lanes without passing.

Theoreticaly they could get around this by cycling around eachother, but then a few cars would get through.
posted by delmoi at 1:38 PM on March 1, 2006


All this does is piss off the drivers and make them respect the police less.

Exactly, bad laws foster a disresect for the law. But no one cares, because only stuipid people run for state senate.
posted by delmoi at 1:41 PM on March 1, 2006


The world is the way it is for a reason.

Yes, that that reason is that it's run by morons.
posted by delmoi at 1:42 PM on March 1, 2006


Uh, the speed limit is low to encourage energy conservation.

Historically this is true, but police departments and municipalities nation wide have since decided to keep the speed limit artificially low because of the increased revenue. If the speed limits were raised whole entire divisions of police, highway patrol and state troopers would be out of a job over night.

Speaking as a former habitual speeder cum bicycle commuter (I've spent thousands of dollars in speeding tickets over the years) I hope the speed limit always remains low - at least until our culture changes. While many people can comfortably and safely drive at 70 or 80mph there are many more people out there who can't and shouldn't be allowed to do so.
posted by wfrgms at 1:42 PM on March 1, 2006


The kids didn't make a good point at all. They protested one law by breaking another - that being driving in the left lane while not passing.
posted by rocket88 at 1:43 PM on March 1, 2006


I'd kill to live somewhere where people actually drive the speed limit. Everyday I drive behind people doing 45 or even 35 in a 55 mile per hour zone. This is in rush-hour traffic but with no merges or exits or anything. Just very slow drivers. Drives me bonkers.
posted by octothorpe at 1:44 PM on March 1, 2006


well, they've got what they wanted - intelligent discourse on the speed limit. isn't that what civil (dis)obedience is about anyways?
posted by triv at 1:44 PM on March 1, 2006


What does "artifically low speed limit" mean? Is there a natural speed limit that people will drive if no speed is posted? I don't get it.

Yes.
posted by delmoi at 1:48 PM on March 1, 2006


What does "artifically low speed limit" mean? Is there a natural speed limit that people will drive if no speed is posted? I don't get it.

Yes.


And will that speed be safe?
posted by DieHipsterDie at 1:48 PM on March 1, 2006


And will that speed be safe?

Not so much.
posted by Gamblor at 1:50 PM on March 1, 2006


?! - It looks to me like they could get nailed for the aggressive driving statute. It specifically says any behavior that is intended to harass other motorists, which this clearly is.

On the other hand, the law only says it's not ok to be in the left lane if you're going less than the speed limit. I guess the not passing thing isn't illegal.
posted by joegester at 1:51 PM on March 1, 2006


Several times driving in San Diego, I encountered a huge slow-down in traffic, only to find that the culprit was a police cruiser, doing 55, weaving slowly back and forth across the highway to slow everyone down. Funny how pissed off people got, and how aggressive they were until they realized who it was, slammed on their brakes, and put on their best innocent faces.
posted by hypersloth at 1:55 PM on March 1, 2006


I read about half the thread -- but, basically: American drivers are kind of annoying, but it's made even worse by the ridiculous enforcement.

The US is broken in weird little ways when you look too closely. But it's okay, just keep driving past....
posted by blacklite at 1:55 PM on March 1, 2006


All I know is that the worst drivers I have ever met all sped, all argued that the speed limits should be higher, none wore seat belts, all thought they were the greatest freakin' drivers on earth, all had multiple accidents behind them, and all were on their way to totalling a few more cars.

I don't trust drivers to decide what driving laws should and should not be enforced. I don't even trust them to drive.
posted by Astro Zombie at 1:57 PM on March 1, 2006


Or is the point, "I can really piss people off"?

I think their point is that the speed limit is selectively enforced, primarily penalizing young people. It is actually a pretty good point.

davejay: can we equate people who drive slowly side-by-side and block all lanes as being equivalent to people who don't walk forward when a line moves up? I mean, yes, technically you don't get there any faster by moving up with the line, but it's common courtesy to close gaps so that the back end of the line isn't sticking out farther than it needs to, and so that people behind the gap don't feel nervous (like someone's going to jump into the line in front of them.)

Does that reasoning apply to hour long lines at amusement parks? I mean, line jumping and sticking out aren't really issues, what with the steele bars. People still get really pissed if you don't act like a sheep though...
posted by Chuckles at 1:58 PM on March 1, 2006


II. Except when turning left, a person shall not dive in the left lane of a highway, with at least 4 lanes, at less than the maximum speed limit.(3) §40-6-184(a)(2)

So you can only drive in the left lane if you are driving exactly the speed limit!? What a stupid law.
posted by MikeKD at 2:04 PM on March 1, 2006


I do usually obey the speed limit, but I try to ensure that I'm going faster than the lane to the right of me, or else I just drive in the far right late.

What annoys me here in CA (I don't know about other states) is that semi trucks, and other vehicles with trailers, usually have a highway speed limit 10mph below the rest of traffic, which means either 1) being stuck behind a truck at 55mph, 2) constantly having to pass the semis, making frequent, dangerous changes into a lane that is usually going 15-20mph faster than the 55mph truck you're trying to pass (and the frequent acceleration to match their speed pretty much screws whatever fuel efficiency you were trying to achieve by reducing your speed), 3) or risking being flipped off/cut off/capped in the head by driving the speed limit in the second-to-rightmost lane.

You'd hope that the speed would increase evenly from right to left, but the step up from the far-right to the next-to-right is a real bitch. And the other problem driving the speed limit in the slow lane: The people who come barreling up the onramp at 80mph and don't adjust to the flow of slow-lane traffic until they're halfway up your ass.
posted by bcveen at 2:07 PM on March 1, 2006


A couple guys tried this a few years back on the busiest highway in Canada and had their licenses suspended.

"Weeks earlier, Thompson had been ticketed for going 117 km/h on the same road and staged his slow-motion protest after a judge told him he was breaking the law by going even a kilometre over the posted limit. "
posted by CynicalKnight at 2:10 PM on March 1, 2006


hypersloth -- I've seen that in San Diego too (on I-8). I wonder why it's the only place that seems to do that? In fact, why do they do that at all?
posted by crawl at 2:11 PM on March 1, 2006


"What happened with that?"

They got rid of it. Mostly for political reasons. Both sides have statistics to prove it was a good or bad idea.

But where the rubber meets the road the impact was that people who drove in a safe and sane manner continued to drive the same speed they always had, and people who had little regard for safety took it as an invitation to be assholes. It was a polarizing thing which made the roads more stressful.

A speed limit, even one which is artificially low, is a pressure value on idiots.
posted by y6y6y6 at 2:11 PM on March 1, 2006


The US is broken in weird little ways when you look too closely.

That's rather succinct.
posted by wfrgms at 2:14 PM on March 1, 2006


But then I would have missed the guy saying, "All I could do was pretend to be busy with my cell phone, so that people couldn't be too angry with me, right?" - amro

That one got me too. It probably made people even angrier; "damn people on their damn cell-phones".
posted by raedyn at 2:19 PM on March 1, 2006


They didn't almost cause an accident. The driver of the van did that. Fact is, they were following the law. I'd prefer everyone did so as well. That idiot driving the van could have waited no matter what.
posted by Ironmouth at 2:22 PM on March 1, 2006


What a bunch of douchebags, and what an awful piece of video. Nevermind the driving, I was screaming mean things just watching their stupid and badly done "hipsztor video scratch!1!11!". Let the video roll already! It's a line of cars, not a 720 Rodeo off a bitchin' jump.
posted by rollbiz at 2:26 PM on March 1, 2006


That idiot driving the van could have waited no matter what

And thus, we arrive, at the crux of the issue.

Why do you need to drive fast? Why do you need to exceed the speed limit? Is your life going to be improved that much by arriving at work 3 minutes earlier? Ever noticed how the guy you sped past 5 minutes ago is now sitting next to you at the red light?
posted by Jimbob at 2:27 PM on March 1, 2006


Christ sakes. I just read the FARK thread on this project last night. I simply cannot believe the asshattery on display in that thread from the self-righteous "enraged" commentors on there.

Too find out that they're here as well is just depressing.

First thing: I don't like the attitudes that the kids had on display. Typical college-aged know-it-alls. Blah...

HOWEVER:

How is going 55mph dangerous and 65mph less dangerous?

The only thing dangerous about going 55mph is that you're not going fast enough for the fucktard who thinks it's their god given right to drive however fast they wish and for you to get out of their way.

Like the self-important douchenozzles that passed on the shoulder of the road.

I mean seriously, WTF?!

These are not emergency vehicles. They do not have lights, sirens, nor the legal imperative to do over the speed limit. They should obey the damn limit; it's set for a reason and that reason is NOT to fuck with you.

So why isn't it enforced? Because it's damn expensive to enforce properly. You either need to keep permanent officer manned speed traps up and running, or you need to install cameras (which are then criticized as simply being revenue generators!)

So we can "get away with" and have been getting away with it for a long time we feel it's our right to speed and that the limit is artificially restrictive, and that the law doesn't actually exist or apply anymore.

BULLSHIT.

That being said, I'm a speeder myself especially on the highways on the edge of my resident city. But I KNOW that I'm speeding; I don't try to make excuses or whatever. I'm breaking the law. When I get caught I pay, I don't complain about it.

But I don't sit there and bitch about "slow" drivers (ie. the ones doing the limit). It's their prerogative to do the limit - they're choosing to OBEY and there's nothing I can do about it - if I can pass them fine, otherwise I fucking get-over-myself and do the limit AT THE PROPER NUMBER OF CAR LENGTHS behind them.

Don't like the limit, gather the necessary information to form a cogent argument to raise the limit, get the necessary number of signatures together, and get the limit changed. Damnit!
posted by C.Batt at 2:38 PM on March 1, 2006


As long as the kids were driving the maximum speed limit, they didn't "block" traffic. Nobody could have passed them when driving legally. It's one thing to drive below the speed limit and prevent people from passing, it's another to drive at the limit, since you shouldn't be passed at that speed.

If they lined up like that and drove 80, should they get in trouble for obstructing drivers that wanted to do 100?

I think CynicalKnight's link nailed it - it's not so much about enforcing the law as it is about having a reason to pull anyone they want over at any time, and making money as needed.

Anyways, I've always felt that laws that aren't enforced regularly and consistently should be automatically repealed. If it's not important enough for them to be enforcing it properly, then it's obviously not important enough to have a law about it.
posted by evilangela at 2:40 PM on March 1, 2006


This is why I travel only by jetpack.
posted by bardic at 2:42 PM on March 1, 2006


Ok they are douche bags with an unoriginal idea. To me it seemed as though the "(un)criminal mastermind" got a ticket for going 80 in a 55 zone, and being a rich white college kid (as evidenced by cars and video cameras and that much extra time) decided to do a protest. This was also in the book TTYL, only the douche bag kids in that story got a beer bottle thrown at them.
posted by Suparnova at 2:45 PM on March 1, 2006


"They're laughing idiotically at almost having caused an accident (when the van hit the car on the shoulder while passing them)."

In their defense, though, it was really the person driving the van who "almost caused an accident." Ultimately, the driver is the one responsible for his or her vehicle, regardless of how idiotic the driver in front of you is. There obviously wasn't enough room to pass safely, so the person in the van had no business trying.

That said, it was disappointingly lame for an idea with such potential as "civil obedience." I mean, is this an issue that anyone really cares about?
posted by magodesky at 2:46 PM on March 1, 2006


Jimbob: Why do you need to drive fast? Why do you need to exceed the speed limit? Is your life going to be improved that much by arriving at work 3 minutes earlier? Ever noticed how the guy you sped past 5 minutes ago is now sitting next to you at the red light?

That's all well and good when you're talking about a 20 minute commute, but on a all-day interstate trip, the difference between 75 and 55 can be 3-4 hours. On a three day trip, that can add up to a whole extra day of travel time.
posted by Mitrovarr at 2:46 PM on March 1, 2006


“Ever noticed how the guy you sped past 5 minutes ago is now sitting next to you at the red light?”

Agreed. I get off on driving smoothly. I make fantastic time because I usually don’t need to stop if I modulate my speed properly.
posted by Smedleyman at 2:46 PM on March 1, 2006


(Growing up in the DC area we kind of had the opposite of this. Kids would try to clock the Beltway (495). I'm sure they video tape it now, and it's stupid and dangerous, but there were plenty of legendary Volvo wagon drivers in my day.

And that's one to grow on.)
posted by bardic at 2:48 PM on March 1, 2006


What those kids ignore is common courtesy. Mind you, this is the problem with far too many drivers, and society in general, in some places these days. A freeway is designed to allow a large number of vehicles the ability to travel relatively unimpeded. The efficacy of this design breaks down when respect for others is abandoned.

What they have demonstrated is that disrespect for others is endemic, to the point that they feel entitled to behave in an anti-social and extremely dangerous manner. Someone could easily have been killed, not the least likely one of them. To make some completely obvious point that everyone already understands in such a dangerous way speaks volumes about their own lack of respect for others and sense of self-entitlement.

As a holder of a professional licence for a quarter century, I can say with conviction that most of the participants in this experiment are likely pretty bad drivers themselves. It's my observation that bad driving is mainly a reflection of attitude, and it as an attitude of selfishness that causes most so called "accidents".

Had they truly intended to expose the hypocrisy of speed limits, they would have been far more effective in capturing the driving habits of legislators and the law-enforcement personnel responsible for setting and enforcing public safety.

Because 5 minutes of video showing those kinds of drivers flagrantly disregarding traffic regulations would make a far better point than the flagrant disregard for public safety on display in this video.
posted by PareidoliaticBoy at 2:49 PM on March 1, 2006


Ever noticed how the guy you sped past 5 minutes ago is now sitting next to you at the red light?

Oh, I love it when that happens (when I'm the one who was sped past, I mean). I'm all, "Way to go, dude! Beat me to the red light! Surely your penis is a thing of might and majesty!"
posted by Gator at 2:52 PM on March 1, 2006


just get off your freaking cell phone and out of the left lane.
posted by hpsell at 2:54 PM on March 1, 2006


"I mean like everyone goes like 75, right, and that's fine. But then, if I go like 80, which is really, if you think about it, just 5 over... but then, I'm ticketed for it... but I don't understand how they can expect us to follow the law if they don't enforce it."

Someone got an A on their community college film project...

And I did think about it... and 80 IS just 5 over 75. Wow!
posted by AspectRatio at 2:56 PM on March 1, 2006


PareidoliaticBoy

Jesus H Christ on a pogo stick. Are you serious?!

They lack respect and courtesy for the other drivers?

They're the ones being dangerous, BY GOING SLOWER?

How is going slower dangerous?

The only danger it increases is, as I said above, the road-rage factor in the self-important asshats who flaunt the law by speeding, tail gating, PASSING ON THE FUCKING SHOULDER, passing on the RIGHT, cutting people off, passing through more than one lane at a time (sweeping?).

They're going to get angry and do something rash. How is that the problem of those who decide to obey the law?
posted by C.Batt at 2:57 PM on March 1, 2006


On a three day trip, that can add up to a whole extra day of travel time.

You know the speed limit. Plan your trip with that in mind, or catch a plane.

But look, I know where you're coming from. On the open highway, when mine is the only car in sight, there's no-one to fuck with me, and I've got no-one to fuck with, I often drive 140kph in a 110 zone. Well, not so much now I've only got a 4 cylinder, because it tends to chew through the gas, but I used to drive that fast in my old Skyline.

In traffic, it's another story. In traffic, things work well, as they're supposed to, when everyone drives the same speed. How do they know what speed to drive at to make things work well? The speed limit. It's that simple. Drive over that, and you're suddenly changing lanes all over the place to get around slower drivers, then you'll get stuck behind someone you can't pass and the slower drivers will catch up. There's no point in trying to speed in these conditions - it's much less stressful if you just swallow your pride and go with the flow.
posted by Jimbob at 2:58 PM on March 1, 2006


All that said, anyone remember the days of photo-radar in Ontario? Man, what well-disciplined drivers on the 401! But it was scrapped ... and part of me rejoiced but part of me is thinking, "why did they scrap photo radar?".

If people are upset enough about the law, change the law. Right now, speed limits are poorly enough enforced that instead of thinking about what truly appropriate speed limits ought to be, they can just get away with whatever speed they think they ought to go.

Bring back photo-radar!
posted by bumpkin at 3:00 PM on March 1, 2006


It didn't suck that much. It wasn't entertaining in the slightest (well, maybe the end bit) but it's an interesting idea borderline competently executed.

If you're carrying a bleeding and dying alien spastic - blow your horn continuously. Otherwise, STFU.

I actually like driving at the legal limit. I'm carrying some damn precious cargo. And occasionally my girlfriend.
posted by Sparx at 3:03 PM on March 1, 2006


When you deliberately do something to impede traffic by blocking the passing lane you no longer are a lone actor. Your actions now affect others, and the whole concept of safe driving is to not affect the decision making process of others. On a highway where all drivers are "speeding", deliberately driving slower in the fast lane is rude, inconsiderate and dangerous.

Speed limits are arbitrary designations, set for variable reasons, hence the lack pf consistency in enforcement.The number one rule in traffic safety is predictability. Behaving in an unpredictable manner is both rude and dangerous.

Anyone who doesn't understand this very simple concept is definely going to be a bad driver.
posted by PareidoliaticBoy at 3:08 PM on March 1, 2006


Just for the fun of it, I watched it without sound... after about two minutes I decided they were all idiots just based on how they looked and acted...

Too bad some semi didn't just plow through those jerks..

now, get me more coffee!
posted by HuronBob at 3:09 PM on March 1, 2006


hypersloth - The weaving back-and-forth thing that police do on some freeways is usually to slow traffic down when there's been an accident or extreme congestion ahead. I can't find it, but there's been a post on MeFi about it before. It's a pretty cool tactic.

Mitrovarr - that makes some sense, except for the fact that I know of no states with a 55 mph speed limit on the interstate. The lowest I know of is 65 mph, and I believe many states have upped it to 70/75 outside of urban areas. If you're still doing ten to twenty over (and going 85 or 95mph) I can almost certainly say that's unsafe. Not necessarily because you'll hit someone, but because others will have less reaction time.

JekPorkins - I tend to stick to the middle of three lanes because the right lane tends to have people merging in from entrance ramps every ten or so blocks. After recent construction some of the entrance lanes are fairly long, but many merge in quickly enough that I would want to give drivers space by moving out of their way. Rather than switch lanes every minute, I tend to take the path of least resistance and give everyone enough room.

There were a number of things I wish the kids differently, but I think that there's definitely a point here. I'd also say that their reaction to the van that passed was a little dumb, but it seemed like one of those "my god, that's insane" laughs that's more an expression of incredulity instead of comic relief.
posted by mikeh at 3:10 PM on March 1, 2006


deliberately driving slower in the fast lane is rude, inconsiderate and dangerous.

As is deliberately driving faster on a slow road?

The number one rule in traffic safety is predictability

Like the predictability of a road having a defined speed for everyone to drive at, and not exceed?
posted by Jimbob at 3:11 PM on March 1, 2006


A freeway is designed to allow a large number of vehicles the ability to travel relatively unimpeded.

I think you are on to the root of the problem.

Never let engineers design your communities.
posted by Pollomacho at 3:12 PM on March 1, 2006


Interesting Law: Another law prohibits a driver from “intentionally impeding the normal flow of traffic by traveling side by side at the same speed while in the adjacent lane.”

What the heck? If they are travelling the speedlimit.. what?
posted by countzen at 3:19 PM on March 1, 2006


oops from this article.. probably requires further research:
Senator kills left lane passing bill
posted by countzen at 3:20 PM on March 1, 2006


The stupid reverse-forward-reverse-forward effect was the most annoying thing about this, imho. Yes, we're all impressed your software can reverse the film. NOW FUCKING QUIT IT.
posted by beth at 3:23 PM on March 1, 2006


Thanks Jimbob, you beat me to it.
posted by C.Batt at 3:23 PM on March 1, 2006


And another thing for the dimwits who think that speed limits are the ONLY defining characteristic of road safety.

Most drivers are aware of the concept of a safe following distance, and at least pay lip service to it. However, very few practice the next most important saftey rule after being predictable. ( For those unclear on the concept, being predictable does not mean adhering to some arbitrary limit which is almost universally ignored) .

Leaving a safety zone around all sides of your vehicle is perhaps the most important thing one can do to avoid an accident. This means having a gap both behind and in front of you , as well as on both sides. All motorcyclist slearn to do this, as do all professional drivers.This important safety zone simply can not be created when everyone is driving at the same speed, side by side, on a freeway. Such a situation is inherently dangerous, and all good drivers will avoid these clogs on the freeway as the accidents just waiting to happen that they are.
posted by PareidoliaticBoy at 3:28 PM on March 1, 2006


Well, the chicks at the end were kind of hot. The video didn't have any audio for me, so I guess I missed out on.. uh.. something.

Although, is it really "civil disobedience" if they are slowing down to the legally posted speed limit?

"disobedience

n 1: the failure to obey [syn: noncompliance] [ant: conformity, obedience] 2: the trait of being unwilling to obey [ant: obedience]"

In this case, it looks like a bunch of self righteous dipshits.. and a couple cute chicks.
posted by drstein at 3:31 PM on March 1, 2006


I'm surprised at how many people seem to have negative feelings towards drivers who drive at the speed limit. Don't they realize how many people die in car accidents every day?

Zipping down a road at 100km/h packed inside little more then a tin can while other tin cans are zipping around you is the most dangerous thing people in American do on a daily basis. It blows my mind.
posted by The Wig at 3:37 PM on March 1, 2006


I don't mind the 55 mph thing so much, but what pisses me off is the fact that just before they pass the bridge with the camera on it, they keep slowing down, stopping and REVERSING. That's really stupid, probably dangerous and shows that they're just doing it all to showboat. Plus, it completely negates the point they are trying to make. The speed limit is 55. NOT -15.
posted by seanyboy at 3:38 PM on March 1, 2006


Yea speed limits suck. We've got this interesting combination freeway/frontage road system in Las Vegas (mostly due to rapid growth and the fact that the fucking feds wont give us any money to build the LV Beltway but they can give Sen. Stevens $500M for a bridge to nowhere).

So yea, starting in the southeast part of town, its freeway for about 13 miles (65MPH), then frontage roads for 5 miles (45MPH), then freeway again for 6 miles (55MPH), frontage roads (55/45MPH) again for 3 miles, back to grade seperated freeway for another 2 miles (55MPH), then 45MPH frontage road the rest of the way around.

Suffice to say, no one goes 45MPH on the frontage roads after they've been on a freeway doing 75 (traffic permitting). If traffic is light, the average speed on the frontage roads is about 55-60MPH, while the average speed on the freeway portion is 65-70MPH regardless of what the speed limits are psoted at. And NHP will enforce the unreasonably low speed limit intermittenly, so its a crap shoot (which is appropriate for Las Vegas I suppose).
posted by SirOmega at 3:41 PM on March 1, 2006


This [thread] is basically all about the reasons I don't drive on the highway.

I'm perfectly comfortable going 50 or 55. What I'm not comfortable with - never have been - is going 75 or 80. And it's not safe to drive the speed limit, so I'm effectively kept off the highway.
posted by anjamu at 3:41 PM on March 1, 2006


if we had teleporters, none of this would be a problem anymore.
posted by TechnoLustLuddite at 3:41 PM on March 1, 2006


Zipping down a road at 100km/h packed inside little more then a tin can while other tin cans are zipping around you is the most dangerous thing people in American do on a daily basis.

I always though it was eating McDonalds (and fast food in general).
posted by SirOmega at 3:42 PM on March 1, 2006


Although, is it really "civil disobedience" if they are slowing down to the legally posted speed limit?

read it again.

(i thought the same thing too at first)
posted by TechnoLustLuddite at 3:43 PM on March 1, 2006


Yup, everyone should drive at speed limits. Here in the UK, all dual carriageways and motorways have a 70MPH limit, which i've always believed to be entirely fast enough. Despite this, everyone still does around 80. Often more.

As other posters have pointed out, driving slowly has the advantage that it allows more cars to be on the road at a time (smaller gaps needed). It also means that if there is a bottleneck, such as a closed lane, the traffic jam is much smaller.

Going back to the real world, the only safe way to obey the speed limit is to drive in the slow lane. It does present a few problems (getting stuck behind even slower drivers) but basically works. Trying the stunt these kids pulled is unsafe, due to other people's disregard for the law. 55mph does sound awfully slow, though!

The root of the problem is the granularity of control that can be put on speed limits. Ideally, (as mentioned) you'd have individual limits for each car, road, driver, weather condition and sex (couldn't resist!). This is both impossible to work out and enforce. It would also be mightily confusing. Our current system is wrong in bad conditions or bad roads (too fast) and wrong in good conditions or empty roads (too slow).

So you're stuck. Sure, up the limits on some roads, but you wont solve the underlying problem. Its probably unsolvable. On this side of the pond our major problem is not speed limits, its sheer quantity of traffic. Oh, and irritatingly abundant cameras.
posted by iso_bars at 3:46 PM on March 1, 2006


Zipping down a road at 100km/h packed inside little more then a tin can while other tin cans are zipping around you is the most dangerous thing people in American do on a daily basis.

I always though it was eating McDonalds (and fast food in general).


baBOOM!
posted by The Wig at 3:50 PM on March 1, 2006


It was kind of fun to watch this video, although I think everyone knew what would happen.

It was interesting as a coming of age thing, I think most people tried stuff like this when they are younger and recognize why it is not a good idea when they are older.

I don't consider myself any smarter, stronger, or better than I was in my early 20's but I am certainly more effective for reasons I can't quite put my finger on. Maybe its because I won't inspire rage in a few hundred people for very little payoff like these people did. Local legend status at that age though, is very important.

On the other hand, I will drive to this city and do a remake of this video as one of the drivers for a shot at some of those girls. Which is probably what these guys viewed the payoff as anyway.

So nevermind my critique.
posted by Deep Dish at 4:19 PM on March 1, 2006


These kids are dipshits. One thing taught in all 5 hour classes for safe driving is do not drive in the left lane(s) slower than the flow of traffic. You are endagering your life, and the lives of the other drivers on the road. The automobile, especially in America, embodies freedom, power, and joy in the minds of many enthusiasts. Add to that, the "world revolves around me" meme, and you're one ingredient away from a a bad situation. You don't KNOW why someone is speeding. Perhaps they've been consistently late to work, and don't want to get fired after being written up. Perhaps it's a medical emergency. It could be several of a million reasons. Think back to some family emergency or urgent situation in which you were driving. I would dare to say that 99% of people would speed in the situations, and feel justified to do so.

Bascially speaking... stay the hell out of the left lane unless you're going well over the speed limit. But, don't whine like a bitch if and when you get a speeding ticket... end of story.

Another peeve of mine are folks who, after getting into a minor fender bender, decide to hash it out in the middle of an on ramp or highway, creating a dead stand still... If it's not serious, pull the damn car over!

Case in point... I was running late to meet my girlfriend, and two jackasses had brushed sideview mirrors at the top of the on ramp. They were arguing in the middle of the on ramp and totally blocking traffic. Oblivious to honks and reason, finally, myself and a group of motorists, used our Clubs (more than just car security!) to persuade these yahoos to pull it over.
posted by Debaser626 at 4:31 PM on March 1, 2006


I wish a lot of people here would look themselves in the mirror and decide whether or not their driving practices follow the ethics of "First, Do No Harm," because there is so much vehement hatred surrounding any discussion about traffic impediments on Metafilter. That kind of "I hate anything that gets in my way" hatred cannot lend itself to safe driving.

To be sure, the filmmakers weren't following safe driving practices. (My Driver's Ed emphasized safety zones and advised us not to block speeding tailgaters.) But what the van did was much more worthy of outrage.

Over 20,000 people die on our roads a year. Let's get outraged about that for once.
posted by Skwirl at 5:01 PM on March 1, 2006


PS - Regularly unenforced/unenforcable laws opens up the door for biased, selective enforcement. A lot of the time, they actually exist for that reason. See: Homosexuality and sodomy laws or ask just about any African American.

PPS - Required reading about the physics of traffic. Like any moderately complex system, there are a lot of unintuitive outcomes.
posted by Skwirl at 5:10 PM on March 1, 2006


Um, they weren't driving slower than the flow of traffic. The flow of traffic was all driving behind them, at the same speed as them.

Slower traffic is supposed to stay out of the left lane, right? So which car is the slower one? The cars behind aren't going faster than the ones blocking them.

My favorite auto safety theory is the one that says that the safest car in the world is the one with no seatbelts and a 10-inch spike in the center of the steering wheel. If everyone was forced to drive a car like that, there would almost never be an auto accident.

I imagine if this same experiment were done on the 405 in L.A. during rush hour. Oh, right, the traffic wouldn't be moving anyway, and nobody would notice ;-)
posted by JekPorkins at 5:18 PM on March 1, 2006


Skwirl - I like your link best

(but the little animated cars look like bugs and make me itchy)
posted by ersatzkat at 5:23 PM on March 1, 2006


Over 20,000 people die on our roads a year. Let's get outraged about that for once.

Funny how close to ten times as many people die on the roads annually than have died in all Al Qaeda attacks on US soil.
posted by b1tr0t at 5:35 PM on March 1, 2006


42,643 fatalities in 2003, apparently.
posted by b1tr0t at 5:40 PM on March 1, 2006


spock writes "Except they are up in all sorts of areas where no humans (working or holding up shovels) are to be found. Funny how there is no 'Fines Doubled in School Zones' though, isn't it?"

Work speed zones are often in place because the road itself is an increased hazard. Things like abrupt lane closures, uneven surfaces, fresh ashphalt, missing or soft shoulders, narrowed lanes, missing light standards, missing signage etc. etc. Highways have all sorts of standards that the average person isn't aware of but when violated results in accidents.
posted by Mitheral at 6:05 PM on March 1, 2006


b1tr0t... deaths caused by gun shootings, heart attacks from pounding Big Macs by the dozen and horrific car crashes at high speeds in our gas guzzling SUVs are our God given rights as Americans.

42,643 deaths in 2003 is a small price to pay for Freedom!

But terrah??? Outrage!!
posted by AspectRatio at 6:11 PM on March 1, 2006


Doorstop said: The laws are NOT absolute here... The laws are purely regulatory. on top of that, cops only pull you over if you do excedingly high speeds - like 90 in a 55 zone - which endanger other drivers doing more reasonable speeds.

Not true. I got a speeding ticket for doing 64 in a 60 zone. The one time I got caught going too fast for anyone with any brains to be going, the cops just wanted me to open the hood so we could talk about the engine and the shop that built it.

Just last weekend I made the Dallas to Austin round trip. It's a mostly 4 lane highway, two lanes for each direction. The flow of traffic was averaging 80 miles an hour on both lanes, except for the known speed trap towns and areas.

There were times when the flow of traffic was moving fast enough that I was uncomfortable, just because it was bunching up at 80-90 mph...and I don't trust anybody else's skills at that point. I've driven stock cars and race cars since I was old enough to reach the clutch, and I can tell you that 90 is way too damn fast in a crowd. Especially in cars that aren't designed to go that fast, or handle that bump in the road that will make your car airborne.

I do think the kids have been infected with the hipster virus, and that's annoying, but that doesn't dispute the fact that the law should be enforced or modified...but not ignored until it's quota time.
posted by dejah420 at 6:12 PM on March 1, 2006


What I find most interesting, and most underplayed in the video, is the question of what the "right" speed limit is. What will get you a ticket and what won't. That's a tough question for people who take the law seriously.

Ostensibly, you get a ticket for going over 55. But, really, you won't. You'll get a ticket for going over some other number, not published for your public knowledge. Now that's a problem.
posted by generichuman at 6:21 PM on March 1, 2006


Um, they weren't driving slower than the flow of traffic. The flow of traffic was all driving behind them, at the same speed as them.

Slower traffic is supposed to stay out of the left lane, right? So which car is the slower one? The cars behind aren't going faster than the ones blocking them.


Possibly the most inane comment I've ever seen online. Of course the other drivers are going slower. They've been prevented from driving faster by the frickken dipsticks blocking the freeway.

If a group of dyslexic circus-clowns all got on the freeway in their miniature cars and drove 15 mph, would that then be recognized as the normal "traffic flow" .
posted by PareidoliaticBoy at 7:11 PM on March 1, 2006


If a group of dyslexic circus-clowns all got on the freeway in their miniature cars and drove 15 mph, would that then be recognized as the normal "traffic flow" .

Sadly, on some Twin Cities freeways, I think it would.
posted by gimonca at 7:32 PM on March 1, 2006


Nice link skwirl, I have seen similar studies written about in the NewScientist.

I remember the comment 'changing lanes in queuing traffic is like pacing around the platform as you wait for a train'. Or similar.

Claes Tingvall has some interesting ideas on the subject.
posted by asok at 8:06 PM on March 1, 2006


A couple decades ago my friends wanted to get 4 white Buicks, all with sequential license plates, and drive the speed limit side by side on the 280. Not to be jerks, just to freak people out. If we did that nowadays we'd probably be shot.

And I hate driving the 5 because it's Two Lanes of Hell: One for the campers and semis to go 30, and one for everyone else to go 90+. Very safe.
posted by NorthernSky at 8:40 PM on March 1, 2006


mikeh: Mitrovarr - that makes some sense, except for the fact that I know of no states with a 55 mph speed limit on the interstate. The lowest I know of is 65 mph, and I believe many states have upped it to 70/75 outside of urban areas. If you're still doing ten to twenty over (and going 85 or 95mph) I can almost certainly say that's unsafe. Not necessarily because you'll hit someone, but because others will have less reaction time.

Well, I think a few states on the east coast have 55 limits, but I could be wrong. In any case, it's true to a lesser degree for 65 mph speeds; the difference between 65 and 80 (which is the speed-of-traffic on most of the interstates I've seen) is substantial. If you drive 650 miles in one day, that's nearly two hours difference. The extra chance of falling asleep at the wheel (partly because you're there longer and partly because driving slow is boring) will also negate some of the safety benefit.
posted by Mitrovarr at 9:01 PM on March 1, 2006


Mitrovarr - that makes some sense, except for the fact that I know of no states with a 55 mph speed limit on the interstate.

Acutally, in Atlanta where this took place, I-285's speed limit is 55 and 75/85 is 55 inside 285.
posted by jmd82 at 9:04 PM on March 1, 2006


A lot of the metro areas in the east enforce 55 close to town and 65 or higher further from the city.
posted by ?! at 10:07 PM on March 1, 2006


Speed limit enforcement varies GREATLY from state to state, and very often city to city intrastate. Virginia residents likely have a very negative opinion of speed limit enforcement. Merely possessing a radar detector is a crime.

Tennessee has quite aggressive highway patrolmen. If you go 90 in a 70 in the great state of TN, and you encounter a patrolman, you will be pulled over with virtually 100% certainty.

The only reason speeding is even possible in TN is because of the sheer number of interstate miles. Interstate 40 alone runs over 400 miles through the state. I would think that our cop:highway mile ratio has to be one of the lowest in the nation.

TN is also usually considered to have the best maintained roads in the southeast. All that road improvement comes at a price, and that price is exacted in part through vigorous enforcement.

Some small towns/hamlets have laughably low speed limits that are solely to enrich the local police force. Lakewood, TN is a famous speed trap. Think of a 5 lane highway with a 45mph speed limit that is draconianly (is that a word?) enforced.

5-10 miles over is usually pretty well tolerated on the open road, although you will get ticketed for 7 over very easy if the cop is bored or nearing quota day.
posted by Ynoxas at 10:11 PM on March 1, 2006


I can understand the need for such an experiment, but not at the cost of blocking off all lanes, including the far left (passing) lane. They should have left the far right lane open too (merging lane).
By conducting their little 'experiment' the only thing they did is piss off their fellow motorists, possibly endanger lives (including possibly their own if one of the motorists had a fit of road rage), cause such bunching up and frustration that it might have caused accidents behind them and otherwise needlessly impeded the flow of traffic while making everyone's miserable commute just that much more unbearable. Here's for lifting each and every one of the 'experimenter's' licenses for a year so they can reflect on their contribution to society.
And the reversing and forwarding aspect of their video was just as annoying as the experiment itself. Truly a selfish and egocentric thing to do to one's fellow motorists.
posted by mk1gti at 10:13 PM on March 1, 2006


Skwirl's link brings up the point I wanted to make, that almost no one else is making in this thread (except a small group of people like Jim "Man O' Lantern" Bob). Driving the speed limit like these kids were doing was very safe- the "pissed off" drivers, like the pissed off posters, are part of the problem! These kids did not make the roads less safe, and did not endanger lives. Mario Freakin' Andretti in his white "child molester" van was the only one endangering lives...


Lots of people have realized things that skwirl's link points out, including the importance of not doing stop-and-go rush hour traffic, where people race up to close any gaps only to have to hit their brakes when they reach the next cluster of fucktards. It actually makes traffic far worse to do this, as does constantly switching lanes, and you don't get their any faster as an individual by adopting this strategy. It does seem more logical that people will ultimately be happier if the traffic is going a nice, steady 55mph than if they have to do 80, then stop, 80, then stop, 80, then stop. Further, a nice steady but slower 30-40 mph on 520 westbound here in Seattle would be preferable to the parking lot that it often is at 5pm on a weekday.

What these kids were doing makes sense, even though they did it for the wrong reasons (they didn't do this to to show that by driving 55 steadily, they'd make traffic smooth and still safe, but to rail against "unjust" speed limits). And in that last shot when we see the empty highway followed by a steady line of cars rolling forward actually reminds me of what skwirls' link, and what a similar traffic engineer said in a radio interview I heard, suggest: that if you were to put "pace cars" on the highway, you'd improve traffic by sectioning it into 2-3 mile long blocks that don't do the race-and-stop, race-and-stop pattern, but instead move smoothly at a given speed. If people were to drive steady speeds that didn't require stopping every few hundred yards, and not switch lanes, they'd find that even big accidents didn't "ripple" uproad but were cleared out readily and traffic would flow smoothly albeit 10mph slower.

I suspect that 2 miles back of these kids, the drivers weren't even bitching too much as they couldn't see why traffic was moving "only" 55mph and steady... because while 55mph isn't the usual 80, they were probably happy that the traffic was moving steadily and evenly.

All you breakneck drivers need to stop bitching about people driving the legal limit because you wish to go 80mph for no good reason, and recognize that good game theory might show us how driving non-intuitively could actually lead to better, smoother, and faster traffic overall.
posted by hincandenza at 10:30 PM on March 1, 2006


I think some of us are missing the point.
Cute or not, the girls are just as dorky as their idealistic weiner pals.
Cellphone Guy especially. Nice to know that you don't need balls to 'make a stand' these days.

They are intentionally impeding the flow of traffic, and intentionally driving in an manner that is unsafe. God, at first I was torn between my hatred of leadfoot motorists and smug hipster losers, but smug hipster losers win my bile yet again.

And I always thought it was acceptable to speed if passing a vehicle that isn't driving at the limit.
posted by Alvy Ampersand at 11:09 PM on March 1, 2006


two comments

1) i can't help but feel that people in the future are going to look at this as proof of how fucked up we were ... self-righteous dweebs earning the irrational anger of their fellow citizens ... all in those gas guzzling cars we were so wonderfully in love with, even as they wrecked our landscape, killed our people and inspired us to get involved in crazy foreign adventures

2) when the poor finally get sick enough of the bullshit to do something about it, all they have to do is take some cars out on the freeway, drive along side each other at 55 ... slow down ... stop ... and walk away, leaving miles long traffic jams ... when they're towed off ... find other cars, rinse and repeat

if you're really vile, have your buddies waiting with guns to rob those who get stuck

that's all any group of disaffected people has to do to shut this country down for a few days

eventually, someone's going to do it, i think

i'm glad i live in a small city
posted by pyramid termite at 1:03 AM on March 2, 2006


ps ... if you're wondering where the poor are going to get all those cars ... well, hell, they steal them ... of course!
posted by pyramid termite at 1:04 AM on March 2, 2006


Not original. This was done in Michigan, a long time ago. I think they were protesting the 55 limit, but don't recall for sure.

The American Interstate system was designed to be safe at speeds in excess of 70mph. Perhaps that was with an antiquated idea of traffic density, I don't know.

The German autobahn seems to function well without speed limits in many places. But there, they make a fetish of changing lanes to pass, getting quite absurd about that (pass, move right, pass, move right...).

In the late 80's, commuting from Long Beach to downtown LA, I discovered the safest way to drive was to flow with the traffic in left lane. Least amount of lane-changing idiots! Yea, it was fast. That's where I learned to be comfortable driving fast. The other lanes were nightmarish!
posted by Goofyy at 3:25 AM on March 2, 2006


Aren't there any computer geeks out there who have studied the optimal speed for improving traffic flow on a highway? (Kind of like a "Theme Park Tycoon" for traffic.) In a rush hour situation, what happens if everyone drives 65 +- 3 mph and no one tailgates? Does the number or reduced accidents offset the reduced speed? What happens if everyone stays in their lane except when entering or leaving a highway? (within 1/2 mile of entering or leaving or merging onto another highway.)

Someone must have done simulations on this.

Why can't cities with bad rush hour traffic coordinate mass experiments on these issues? How could this be done? What cities would be best for this type of experiment?
posted by notmtwain at 5:51 AM on March 2, 2006


notmtwain: civil engineers study that exact problem in EXCRUCIATING detail. A friend of mine finished his PhD in Civil and the computer simulations he discussed were frighteningly complex but also not very productive.

Apparently, measuring traffic patterns and gauging how to deal with them is much more difficult than a casual inspection would imply, even using sophisticated computer modeling and high level physics.
posted by Ynoxas at 7:09 AM on March 2, 2006


The problem with trying to computer model any type of driving patterns is that "actual" drivers work under a varied set of circumstances that are impossible to anticipate. Perception varies widely, response time varies, attention varies.

Most urban highways have a variety of merging issues that cause traffic delays. Even when a car is following a proper distance, more room must be allowed for a merging car. This means that one car needs to slow down or the other needs to speed up. It's a fact of life especially when volume is near capacity. When this merging happens often enough then it leads to delays. To prevent this from being a problem there needs to be an actual speed difference between lanes. If people drive slower in the left lane than in lanes with many entrance and exits, then the problem escalates more than it should.
posted by JJ86 at 9:56 AM on March 2, 2006


WAS THIS A COPYCAT PRANK?
Years ago I was musing about the beneficial effects of "rolling barriers" of police to eliminate highway traffic jams triggered by stop-and-go driving. I lost the reference, but someone emailed me info about a group of drivers in Toronto who pulled the same stunt in the early 1990s. They were angry about being ticketed during morning commutes.
posted by billb at 12:43 PM on March 2, 2006


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