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Montana's No Speed Limit Safety Paradox (hwysafety.com)
71 points by presidentender on Feb 23, 2010 | hide | past | web | favorite | 75 comments

This analysis is a joke. Have you looked at the data on this page? It is inconclusive. The context is insufficient. What about overall traffic, weather, non-fatal accidents? other factors such as visiting travelers or data by county. Nowhere do I see data demonstrating any speed safety paradox. Comparing fatalities in only two years? and look at the green and red boxes between 1998 and 1999 for averages.

If you want to do a real study, start walking through some data covering a wider range of years, like the 2003 reports here (which covers fatalities by county going back decades):


Then you also have to consider improvements in auto safety over the years and how many of what kind of car and driver demographics were in the fatalities.

Edit: More traffic and fatality data:






The article alleges that matters of fact were also lied about, such as the nature of the effect on highway funding.

If there were a study that suggested similar conclusions, what would the result be? More lying?

It seems to me that the proponents of the law should have the burden of conclusive proof, not the opponents.

Speed limits are a major imposition on drivers. They would have to have a significant effect on fatalities to be worthwhile. What about spending the same effort on other life saving approaches, such as mandating safer vehicles? Is that more efficient?

> It seems to me that the proponents of the law should have the burden of conclusive proof, not the opponents.

Why? It seems like the norm is speed limits, I thought that the burden of proof rested with those contesting the norm.

Depends on what you mean. If Montana currently had no speed limits, and someone was proposing that Montana impose speed limits, should such a motion then place the burden on the opponents to defend the current practices, or should it be on the proponents that are proposing new practice? Trying to say, "well everyone else is doing it, so it is 'the norm' and we should just follow their lead," is rather disingenuous. You can't propose a new idea counter to an existing idea, then try to push the onus of proof onto the supporters of the existing idea while skirting any proof of the new idea.

Similarly if the tables were turned, the proponents of removing the speed limits should have the burden of proof placed on them as well.

Eh, maybe. As far as I can tell, the speed limit was repealed in Montana without much to back that course of action either. I don't see how you can put the burden on the speed limit group when that burden was not borne initially by those who supported its repeal. Seems to me that under that regime whoever can get the law passed most sneakily gets to put a heavy burden of truth on the other team, and then say that they're in the right.

Anyway, this generalization

> The lower–than–US fatality rates on the German Autobahn (where flow management is the primary safety strategy), and now Montana's experience, would indicate that using speed limits and speed enforcement as the cornerstone of US highway safety policy is a major mistake.

is totally out of line in an article that doesn't even address the technical question of statistical significance or deal with potential biases Montana's or Germany's automotive demographics put on the data.

I agree, the fact that the german Autobahn is compared directly to US highways is laughable. It's comparing apples and pears: not relevant.

Why can't you compare apples and pears? They're both fruit that grows in trees and they both have similar use culinary purposes. I can make cider out of both, and the results are actually quite similar.

Almost everywhere I drive, people usually speed. As a result, the speed limit is a constant distraction - I have to pay attention to what it is on the current stretch of the road (some of the roads I have to drive on to get to work change speed limits 3-4 times) and to the average speed of people in each lane, and figure out whether it's in my best interest to drive at the speed limit, or whether I'm going to have people constantly merging around me if I don't speed.

If the speed limit was gone, I'd just pay attention to the velocity of other drivers and make sure I have plenty of room in front of me to stop - which I try to do anyway. I wish some states or counties would try making changes to speed limit policies.

They would except for two powerful motivators to maintain artificially low limits:

1) On city and suburban roads, parents demand extremely low speed limits in the name of child safety. This results in 25MPH and 35MPH zones on roads where reasonable drivers would normally travel 40MPH or higher.

2) Traffic ticketing is a significant source of income for the local government and police agencies. Artificially low speed limits allow speeding tickets to be written on a regular basis.

Your points are valid concerns, however the article is about highway speed limits. We could remove highway limits while maintaining them inside neighborhoods.

Indeed. And of course the real solution to point 1 is to design roads in residential areas so that reasonable drivers travel slowly. E.g. narrow the roads. There was an interesting article about these efforts on Reddit years ago. (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Shared_space has something on it.)

This absolutely works. The road I bicycle to work on is about the width of one large delivery truck. A normal car barely has clearance for two people on its side. The end result is that cars drive no faster than me on my bicycle, and sometimes much much slower.

Don't forget it gives authorities a reason to pull over almost anyone without needing a reason (except speeding which everyone is doing)

As far as I know, there's nothing legally stopping them from pulling people over arbitrarily anyway, speeding or no.

Personally I think speeding IS a reason. It's true that people can keep safe distances without speed limits, however it's undeniable that people who go much faster than the average speed are dangerous. Limiting the speed is one way to try to get everyone to drive the same speed. It's a system and as long as everyone sticks to it, there are less accidents. If you change the system, no problem, but don't give this as an example to declare a country a police-state. Your speed is completely in your control.

If that is the case, then they should pull over everyone who is speeding and give them all tickets. They don't do this. Everyone behaving normally is always in violation so the police pick and choose who they give tickets to.

The extreme version of that is called a police state.

I definitely consider this a bug, not a feature. I don't want to live in a world where authorities can arbitrarily pull people over. That leaves a lot of room for corruption.

As for the 1), making streets much narrower and equally usable would probably help. Wide streets encourage mindless cruising as if nothing could happen, no matter what the speed limit.

There have been a number of documented cases in Europe where removing all traffic signage in a dangerous crossing or a small town has caused the accident counts to plummet.

If there are constantly pedestrians, bicycle riders, motorcycles, and cars on the very same road with no clear distinction between where each one should roam, everybody suddenly becomes super careful.

Right. When the choice is drive legally and be a hazard or drive safely and break the law, what are you really supposed to do? Risk a crash or risk a ticket. Either way, it sucks. When you give people no good options, how do you expect them to drive?

Indeed. It is perverse that in order to be a good citizen, one must break the law.

  > What about the extreme of No Speed Limits on 4 lane 
  > Interstate and rural federal–aid primary two lane highways? 
  > These same fact–based engineers point to the German  > Autobahn, 
  > where, with no speed limits, authorities are consistently
  > reporting lower fatality rates than comparable US highways.
This is an unfair comparison. Getting a driver's license in Germany is much harder than in the US.


(I am not a German, and only have the slightest idea of the actual laws from German class in high school.)

I also hear that some of the laws are stricter. The Germans apparently heavily enforce things like passing on the correct side, and people going too slow for the lane that they are in (e.g. those people on US highways that immediately go into the far left lane and sit there going under the speed limit forcing everyone to pass them on the right rather than the left).

This is just a theory about bad left-lane drivers in the U.S. - where I live - but here goes:

Many drivers in the U.S. are uncomfortable driving and using their mirrors, most likely due to how easy it is to get a license and not having to undergo the extensive driver training as is required in Germany.

If you have a 3 lane highway, the middle lane is scary because you have other drivers on both sides of you. The right lane is scary because on-ramps merge with your lane. The left lane is the most comfortable lane because you are buffered on your left side by the median and only have the lane on your right to worry about.

Hence, you switch to the left lane, drive slowly, and stay put. Not to mention - annoy every decent driver stuck behind you.

In Washington State, it is illegal to drive in the left lane on a highway except to pass. They don't enforce it much, but I do know people that have been pulled over for that reason (albeit let off with warnings). As a result, it tends to be the faster lane to travel in. Unfortunately, this isn't the case for all states.

That's exactly my opinion on the matter, I thought my post might be a little long in the tooth if I started going on about that though (since I was only using it as an example).

You don’t drive in the left lane unless you want to pass. You just don’t. When you have passed you immediately switch back to the right or middle lane.

That’s not enforced as such, at least not that I know of, but nobody does it and that largely makes for a pleasant experience all around.

I have no idea why that is the case but it might be that stricter rules have something to do with it. You are not allowed to pass on the right – and that’s definitely strictly enforced. I have actually never seen anybody pass on the right in Germany. It’s consequently in everyone’s best interest to keep the left lane free.

(It’s also not that pleasant to see some lunatic driving 110 miles per hour approaching in the rear view mirror. Another reason to retreat to the right lane as long as you don’t pass.)

> (It’s also not that pleasant to see some lunatic driving 110 miles per hour approaching in the rear view mirror. Another reason to retreat to the right lane as long as you don’t pass.)

Really? I've witnessed many people in the far left lane that will not move over for someone that is coming up behind them, and grossly exceeding the speed limit. I've personally encountered people that would not move back into the right lane for me even when I flashed my high-beams at them in an attempted to prod them over. (I've even witnessed someone that was so oblivious to the road around him that he stopped at a stop light when there was an ambulance speeding up behind him with sirens going and lights flashing. Needless to say the ambulance hit the brakes and rear-ended him, only for him to get out of the car and look at the ambulance driver with a, "wtf are you doin'?' look on his face.)

My theory is that these people fall into two categories:

* This category: http://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=1147059 . The people that move all the way over into the left lane so that they can feel 'comfortable' and turn off their brain while driving (since they don't have to worry about people merging and other issues).

* The 'vigilantes.' They see you going faster than what they think you should be going, so they are going to be steadfast in denying you passage in your 'lane of choice.' (i.e. I don't like you so I'm not going to do what you want me to) Note that it doesn't matter that you're going within the speed limit, if they think that the speed limit is too high, then they are still going to put up a stink.

[Note: Everything I'm talking about here assumes ideal driving conditions (i.e. no rain, sleet, snow, ice, etc), even my anecdotes all happened in good driving conditions]

I actually think flashing your headlights at someone is going to have the opposite of the intended effect more often than not.

You usually wait for the person to move over on their own. If they don't, you flash your headlamps once or twice.

I'm not talking about speeding up to someone's car within 2 feet of their bumper and flashing your headlamps on and off constantly for 5 minutes before giving up and passing on the right.

It's not enforced because NOBODY does it. I watched a "Cops"-like show where they followed the Autobahn police around and once in a while they did bust someone for not using the lanes properly.

Very true. Driving the Autobahn from FRA to Bonn in my rental Mercedes A90 (small and weak) was a nerve-wracking introduction to Germany. In my experience, drivers on the right lanes will slam the brakes to let you in if there is a fast driver in the left lane (e.g., a Porsche).

There has also been a lot of talk about adding a speed limit to the Autobahn in order to prevent accidents. However, the very powerful automobile lobby doesn't let it get close to happening.

Speed limits do exist on the Autobahn now. You usually see them in major city interchanges and also when bad weather strikes. They have a very impressive system of automated signals and signs that indicate the (temporary) limits in those cases.

(And I've done the FRA run in rented A-klasse autos as well. You're right...it's an insane experience the first couple of times. But eventually checking the mirrors at the right time becomes habit and you become more comfortable. Coming back to the States is more nerve-wrecking for me now)

> There has also been a lot of talk about adding a speed limit to the Autobahn in order to prevent accidents. However, the very powerful automobile lobby doesn't let it get close to happening.

Yes, the evil lobby, always out to get the little man. Never mind that the Autobahns are safer and have higher capacity than in neighbouring countries with speed limits, and that a majority of the German people are very proud of this.

Try doing the same with seven people + luggage in a ford van (1.8l diesel). It is surreal to be driving 140kph and be passed as if you were standing still.

BTW, if you want a nerve-wracking experience try driving the same setup in Italy.

I've spent quite a bit of time driving in Germany. I have some random observations about German Autobahnen leading to no specific conclusion.

* Autobahns have narrower lanes, and fewer of them relative to US Interstates. The most I've seen is four per side near Berlin. Two is standard, even in fairly high-traffic areas. Three is becoming a little more common than it was a few years ago, but it's still quite rare.

* Lane discipline is usually quite good. Passing on the right is illegal except for in traffic jams, and it's fairly rare that anyone does. Failing to cede the left lane to passing traffic when the right lane in clear is also quite rare.

* Drivers wishing to pass often become impatient with anyone using the left lane to pass at a slightly lower speed than they would prefer.

* Traffic jams are exceedingly common, often due to construction zones, which have even narrower lanes and very low speed limits. During a traffic jam, traffic comes to a stop, and occasionally moves for short periods of time at low speeds. During an extended stop, it is common for drivers to get out of their cars and chat, referred to as an Autobahn party.

* Very slight imperfections in the pavement usually lead to a Straßen shäden (damaged street) sign and soon after, a complete rebuild of that section of highway. It's rare to drive for an hour without encountering a construction zone.

* Most cars drive at speeds between 80 and 90 mph when there is no speed limit. Truck and cars pulling trailers are limited by law to 60 mph. On occasion, a car, usually a high-end German make will drive by in the left lane at around 150 mph.

* I have never seen an accident on an unlimited-speed section of Autobahn.

My experiences are the same as yours, but you've clearly spent more time there than me.

I would say the two greatest differences between German Authobahns and US interstate traffic comes down to two factors: - road condition and maintenance. The Autobahn roads are near perfect in design, drainage, signage and smoothness - driver attitude : as you noted, 'undertaking' or passing on the right is not only illegal, it is considered to be rude. Someone driving faster than you is in a hurry, not throwing down a challenge to you. You let them on their way, not try and impede their progress. A single flash of the lights to a slower vehicle to move right is not considered rude. - I would disagree on the average 80-90 mph on the unrestricted sections. I would estimate that most occupants of the 'fast' lane in ordinary vehicles would be doing 100-120 mph.

Another bonus of the Autobahn system is that 'normal' cars are more popular than SUV's because you just can't drive SUV's that fast, unless you have a high-end Mercedes, Porsche or BMW. Having an artificially lower speed limit encourages oversized vehicles because the speeds are low enough that their mass and frontal area don't affect progress and fuel consumption as much.

While I would say the study probably has some merit, it's very important with these time based studies to allow for the increased driver survival rate in more modern cars. I did not see that with this study, but it can be a crucial factor.

I don't think the Autobahnen are perfect in design and maintenance; in many areas, I think they don't have enough lanes for the amount of traffic they're required to handle. Freeway traffic jams are more common in Germany than in any other country I've spent a significant amount of time driving in. I would also classify the maintenance as excessive; they're so eager to repair minor problems with the road that there are severe delays resulting from road construction on a significant portion of drives over an hour.

WRT speeds in the fast lane: I wasn't talking about the average for the fast lane. I was talking about the average for all lanes. It's common to see economy cars driving at similar speeds to the trucks.

I think fuel prices have more to do with the unpopularity of SUVs than any other factor. Regular gasoline here in Florida costs around $2.50/gallon. In Germany, the price is around $7/gallon.

Compared to the United States (Northern California)

Lane Discipline is almost non-existent. People think nothing of passing on the Right, and it's frequently done (They get used to it during Rush hour Traffic, where you have to pass on the right, and then extend that bad habit to open highway conditions). Most drivers aren't even aware they should cede the left lane to passing traffic - even when the right lane is _completely vacant_. This, by the way, is not an American habit - I understand that drivers from Texas can't stand the poor highway driving habits of Northern Californians (particularly those from the Bay Area)

[Edit - After a few seconds though I realized that the Northern Californians unwillingness to cede the left lane is probably a major contributing factor the frequency of people passing on the right - the two behaviors have probably co-evolved]

I would add that German standards for auto maintenance are much higher than American ones. There are regular inspections (yearly?) to enforce these standards.

I wonder if the authors of the study would be as on-board for intrusive inspections as they are for removing speed limits?

you have to renew your "TÜV" (the vehicle is safe and in good condition) and your "AU" (the pollution nis in certain limits; helps detec engine failures etc)). every two years. i think for every week or two you#re over your due date the fine rises up to a point where they take the vehicle of the road until it passes the inspection.

>During an extended stop, it is common for drivers to get out of their cars and chat, referred to as an Autobahn party.

Awesome! I feel sad and deprived now, given that we don't do that in America.

This is similar to a project that began in Drachten, Holland

The removal of traffic lights at one major intersection saw accidents fall from 36 in four years to two over the next two years, and the average time for vehicles moving through the intersection fell from 50 seconds to 30 seconds, despite a rise in the volume of traffic.


I love ideas that solve social problems with brain dead simple solutions.

Unfortunately it's unlikely this solution will last or spread to other states for two reasons: a) It takes the control from the authorities and gives it back to the people. b) Because the states make a lot of money from speeding tickets and it will be a lot harder to give them if there isn't a speed limit.

It is also unlikely to spread because the solution (no speed limits outside city limits) covers a lot of territory in a sparsely populated area like Montana and covers almost no roads in the dense urban centers in which the vast majority of the population lives and drives.

Additionally, it is not giving control back to "the people", it is giving it to the driver and that is not necessarily what "the people" would want in all situations.

in sparsely populated areas, people spend a lot of time on the minorish highways, going back and forth between the populated areas. going somewhere 30 miles away isn't a big deal, because it isn't 30 miles of stop lights and cross traffic.

More to the point, you have to go somewhere 30 miles away all the damn time. If you live in a big city, you don't have to go to another city to see a medical specialist or to go shopping.

You forgot: c) lots of people would cry 'fowl' citing massive carnage on the highway as 90% of drivers immediately increase their speeds to 100+mph on downtown city streets (i.e. people over reacting citing nightmare scenarios that pull at emotions rather than logic in a bid to control what other people can/can't do)

100mph is clearly not "safe and reasonable" for downtown city streets. Your scenario is absurd and not supported by real world experiences.

I think that you forgot to read the whole post, especially that part about people "appealing to emotion rather than logic," or do you seriously intend to claim that people won't make those arguments (wrong or right) whenever such a proposal is tabled?

Cars would probably sort more efficiently between left-lanes and right-lanes based on their desired speed with the removal of an artificial anchoring value. And if lower same-lane variance in speed is achieved, there would be fewer dramatic changes in tailing distance between cars and fewer lane changes required, resulting in fewer opportunities for accidents to occur.

I don't know about others, but driving above the speed limit (i.e. 75 in a 55) forces me to pay extremely close attention to everything that is going on while driving. That way, I'm actively engaged in passing people, constantly scanning ahead to maintain safe following distances, and constantly updating my awareness of the "bubble" that surrounds my car and where I can go should a situation unfold on the highway.

Then again, I have to put up with New Jersey drivers here in Philly, so that usually involves an entire repertoire of techniques to put them safely behind you. For example, as I'm approaching a Jersey driver in the left lane doing 55, I'll pull the car nearer to the median so they catch my Xenon headlamps in their driver's side mirror. This is preferable to flashing high-beams because it's not perceived as road-ragey and casually alerts the yellow-plates that you want to get by.

The MSF courses teach this driving style to motorcyclists, that in all situations you want to know exactly where you would go to escape an accident, and in general you want to accelerate out of any situation where you are put at risk.

It's aggressive defensive driving at its best.

I just moved out to Philly from central PA and the drivers out here are driving me nuts. In the 10 years of driving I did back home, I think I saw 1 person run a red light. Today, I'd be lucky if I got to see only at a single stop on my way to work in the morning. I've been here for 4 months and I've already seen two accidents from people running red lights and stop signs.

If I understand this correctly, by passing a National Speed Limit back in the 70s, tens of thousands of people died due to increased accidents (or more)

This is not a "paradox" in any way, it's merely a counter-intuitive result of research.

Also working from memory. Before the speed limit went away the ticket was only something like $5 as an F.U. to the feds. So effectively, there wasn't much of a deterrent then. After the limit went away you would get hit not with speeding, but reckless driving if you were going too fast, and that's much worse than a speeding ticket. Today, the speed limit signs are back up. There are a lot of very dangerous roads in Montana where you just can't go without a speed limit.

Maybe the reason the fatalities went up is because people feel they have to stick close to the limit even where it's not a smart thing to do. However, people in Montana should know all "reasonable and prudent" because of the horrible road conditions in the winter.

A lot of dangerous roads where you can't do without a speed limit? Bullshit. People can keep to a safe speed without being forced to on pain of ticketing. The advisory signs (the yellow ones) didn't come down when there were no speed limits.

As an example, I lived in a neighborhood where there were a lot of people living and our only way to get out was to get on a highway where people routinely drove at 75 mph or higher. There was a wide corner on one end which hid oncoming traffic (but not enough of a corner to slow people down) and a hill on the other end which also hid traffic. At these speeds you typically have freeways with on/off ramps, we had to pull out directly into it. The city ended up putting in a light farther down the road to protect a bigger neighborhood but that didn't help our own. This road wasn't obviously dangerous because of the road itself, the danger was from people getting on the road at low speeds.

Montana has lots of these types of spots because of a state of drivers used to driving at high speeds on roads which service a lot of very spread out communities.

because people feel they have to stick close to the limit even where it's not a smart thing to do.

If it's unsafe to drive at an allowed speed, then it obviously needs to be lowered.

Even if unlimited speeds were to be allowed, it would still be very useful for drivers to have recommended speeds that are set according to local conditions (preferrably "intelligent" ones that also take weather etc into account).

If it's unsafe to drive at an allowed speed, then it obviously needs to be lowered.

What nonsense! As my driving instructor never tired of telling me: it's a speed limit, not a target.

Then why not just have a global speed limit? (Or no limit, for that matter)

It seems obvious to me that different speed limits are indicators of road conditions, and that it should be safe to travel at that speed in a normal car in normal weather conditions.

Agreed. It is a good thing to remove the limit and force the driver to consider for himself what is safe given his condition and vehicle. He should have been doing that all along.

I want to run for governor on this platform: per-lane speed minimums

It would be hard to collect data to back up my hypothesis, but based on my observation on the highways, slow drivers cause the most traffic and dangerous situations. If someone is going slow in the fast lane, everyone has to pass them on the right. This causes a huge bottleneck of people merging into the middle lane.

If we need speed limit laws at all, they should define a speed for each lane: 85mph in the far left lane, 75mph in the next, etc. Pick your lane and go your speed. Everyone in each lane should be going the same speed. It's safer and more efficient.

I want to run for governor

Isn't what you describe a legislative, not executive function?

I think the article is trying to hit at something more philosophical about driving and speed limits in general.

The article had a lot of conclusions made, without the needed studies documented. I wish I had the studies at hand to prove most of the conclusions.

I personally doubt the results laid out about Montana (in the article presented) Only on a matter of time frame, the educational practices, and the licensing protocol (that dominates american culture). People drive the way they are educated, and a LARGE part of that is from their parents. REGARDLESS of the tests and protocol new US drivers must go through.

HOWEVER, statistically speaking, There are things that the "engineers" and other nations have proven to be more effective then speed limits and warning signs. Mostly lack there of.

I think the problem goes beyond the laws, The designator would be the education, licensing, and philosophy of driving. Change those things in favor of the statistically correct method of driving, and well...

You want statistics, compare educational training across platforms and nations. Compare Money (education, licensing, upkeep, and running costs, (ie fuel)) Compare daily driving habits, (public transportation in Europe is... better, to say the least)...

It would be a complex algorithm to say the least... But my personal conclusion would be FOR personal judgment. Speed limits be damned...

This appeals to my common sense. The most dangerous drivers I encounter are the ones on the low side of the speed limit causing chain reaction lane scrambling. Besides setting realistic speed limits we need cops to spend their time enforcing minimum speed limits. Someone with a pickup truck full of crap going 40Mph with other cars blowing past them at 80Mph is just not safe. In the age of GPS asking these people to use backroads for low speed travel is completely reasonable.

The title is slightly incorrect--there has never been a time in montana that there is no speed limit. The speed limit in the absence of a posted numerical limit was the "reasonable and proper" number.

It is certainly a complex area. I know that one of the issues was that out-of-state people were going there and acting as if there were no limit.

I think there are other measures of usefulness of such limits as these--one is wear and tear on the roads. The other is property damage. There is a famous case of icing in Chicago a number of years ago where the express lanes in the outbound Kennedy saw a massive pile-up. There were complaints about bad design of that part of the highway, even extending to some officials. The engineers responsible for the design pointed out that the road was designed for the posted speed limit. If you have ever driven on the Chicago expressways, the posted speed limit isn't even thought of as a challenge--it is totally ignored.

Thus, here is one incident of property damage as a result of speed limit violations.

So the issue is more involved than just the death toll. Injuries were not noted in the statistics either.

Disclaimer: I grew up in Montana, and still have family there.

Re: "The title is slightly incorrect--there has never been a time in montana that there is no speed limit"

== SNIP ==

During a challenge of such a ticket in 1998, the Montana Supreme Court declared the Reasonable and Prudent Speed Limit unconstitutional, on the basis of vagueness. Remember the Governor, Judges, Highway Patrol et al wanted speed limits, rather than ruling the way the MHP was enforcing them was wrong, the Court struck down the law altogether so they would be forced to have speed limits, thereby circumventing the legislature's blocking of their collective efforts.

To their chagrin, during this last 5 months of no law whatsoever Montana reported its modern low in fatal accidents.

== SNIP ==

Ah, you are correct. I was thinking of the time during the reasonable and proper in which it was often quoted that there is no limit in Montana.

I stand corrected.

I still live in Montana. While it's inaccurate to say that there was never a speed limit, my information indicates that even without injury tracking, the article's points are still valid. The injury rates during the "reasonable and prudent" period followed the death toll pretty closely - why would higher speed collisions result in more injuries and fewer deaths?

Disclaimer: I'm speaking from memory, not research.

Well, what I don't see there (and i didn't drill down) is what effect the different speed limits had on actual speeds traveled. I suspect that some people take the posted limit as a suggestion (plus 10 or 20%), whereas no posted upper numerical limit might throw people on their judgement, which might have a lower aggregate speed limit. Pure conjecture here.

I think that this is probably valid. Many people, without knowing the posted limit, will actually travel slower that what it is (or would be). This wouldnt' be the case on interstate roads, but on more rural roads. Some people always try and stick on the limit even if the road conditions are not at the optimum.

I used to do a lot of Greyhound travelling in the late 90's. We were going through Montana one night in either '97 or '98, and the bus driver was certain he could make that bus do 100. I really was wishing for a speed limit then. Of course, 2hrs later, he fell asleep behind the wheel and we all had to yell at him to stop the speeding bus before we wrecked.

This is perhaps applicable on interstates.

But not having a speed limit on other roads makes them completely impassable to bicyclists and pedestrians.

Has this been tried?

Designing roads to promote desired speeds may be more effective than speed limits at reducing bicycle and pedestrian fatalities.

It is. But considering how many roads we build like freeways in this country, well-enforced speed limits are necessary for now.

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