March 04, 2006

The Perils of Traffic Engineering

WELL, THIS SHOULD PUT the damper on any well-intentioned but ill-advised ideas to again lower the national speed limit to 55 miles per hour.

It seems that several Georgia college students, finding the 55 mph speed limit on that city's beltway arbitrary and capricious, made a video in which they drove 55 mph in concert on the road. As a result, mayhem and disorder broke out along I-285 as frustrated motorists proved the students' point: that the 55 mph speed limit is too slow for the road in question.

Shockingly, no one -- not even any of the students -- was hurt. Of course, there are questions about whether the college students' actions were legal, but still, the film makes its point. It also makes the point that slow drivers, as a matter of course, ought only drive in the right lane.

As a driver who likes driving reasonably fast when conditions warrant, I do wish speed limits would be upgraded to accurately reflect road conditions. For instance, I've been on several roads -- for instance, I-15 between Barstow, Calif. and the Nevada line, and US-23 from northwest Ohio to Ann Arbor, Mich. -- that could handle higher maximum speeds than their respective 70 and 75 mph limits. I know they could handle them because other motorists routinely passed me on those roads, even though I was driving 80 or 85 mph to keep up with traffic.

On the other hand, as I've become older, I've come to value the engineers' judgment when it comes to lower speed limits on certain roadways. For instance, on the Pennsylvania Turnpike, there are areas where a 55 mph speed limit is reasonable and judicious, particularly if the roadway is a bit worn. That said, though, it seems we could use an upgrade to old-style, blanket speed limits, now that cars are safer, and roads are capable of handling more and faster traffic.

Posted by Benjamin Kepple at March 4, 2006 09:27 PM | TrackBack