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:
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?
Why? It seems like the norm is speed limits, I thought that the burden of proof rested with those contesting the norm.
Similarly if the tables were turned, the proponents of removing the speed limits should have the burden of proof placed on them as well.
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.
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.
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.
The extreme version of that is called a police state.
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.
> 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.
(I am not a German, and only have the slightest idea of the actual laws from German class in high school.)
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.
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.)
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'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.
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.
(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)
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.
BTW, if you want a nerve-wracking experience try driving the same setup in Italy.
* 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.
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.
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.
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 wonder if the authors of the study would be as on-board for intrusive inspections as they are for removing speed limits?
Awesome! I feel sad and deprived now, given that we don't do that in America.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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).
What nonsense! As my driving instructor never tired of telling me: it's a speed limit, not a target.
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.
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.
Isn't what you describe a legislative, not executive function?
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...
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.
== 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.
I stand corrected.
Disclaimer: I'm speaking from memory, not research.
But not having a speed limit on other roads makes them completely impassable to bicyclists and pedestrians.
Designing roads to promote desired speeds may be more effective than speed limits at reducing bicycle and pedestrian fatalities.