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California Considering Lanes with No Speed Limit (motortrend.com)
38 points by prostoalex 32 days ago | hide | past | web | favorite | 71 comments

I have always lived in the US and Canada but was on a driving vacation in Germany in the past year. I did hours of Autobahn driving at 160kMh/100MPH. The drivers are MUCH more courteous in Germany. ALL Trucks are in the right most lane as are cars pulling ANYTHING. That alone will never fly here.

This means that the only vehicles in the two left lanes are cars and some small trucks. Even then most vehicles stayed well away from the far left lane. Mostly because the cars were not capable of courteously driving in the left lane.

What this all means is that I saw no acts of aggression on the roads that are very common on US freeways. Acts of aggression can include driving at the speed limit or less in the left lane because "I can and it's not against the law".

Speeding cars approaching other cars quickly, tailgating, and flashing headlights when they are maybe already exceeding the speed limit and have not had a chance to move over yet.

In summary, it was much more comfortable driving in Germany at 100MPH than driving on US roads at much lower speeds.

> Acts of aggression can include driving at the speed limit or less in the left lane because "I can and it's not against the law".

What's especially shitty about this is that in many states, it actually is against the law, but since it's so poorly enforced, people either don't know or don't care.

I'm not a left lane parker, but isn't driving above the speed limit also against the law?

Yes. In some (most?) states, the leftmost lane on a motorway above 65MPH is supposed to be used for passing only.

What makes highways dangerous are large speed gradients and this is an issue caused by drivers both on the high end and the low end of speed. Hence why most highways have a minimum advertised speed. The issue is that no one respects the speed limits anymore which often expands the gradient and makes the highway less safe. Left lane or not, you shouldn’t exceed the speed limit.

Yes, but two wrongs don't make a right.

It is not your job to deliberately stay in someone's way to prevent them from speeding. Leave the speed enforcement to the police.

If this did go live in California, it would need to be policed in a different way. The “left lane is for passing only” would have to be enforced strictly before it would operate efficiently, and a minimum speed limit would have to be posted.

Agreed. In Houston, the people are all incredibly passive aggressive, clueless or blind to folks in the left lane. If someone is behind me approaching at a high rate of speed, I get out of the way. Why this is not someones first instinct blows my mind. I actually did quite a bit of driving in Colorado this summer and was amazed at how courteous most people were in this respect. In Houston and most of Texas, the left lane seems to be where people that don't want to ever change lanes congregate, so I have to pass on the right.

As long as they are not near you, moving over is fine. If they are approaching you quickly and they are close, from a defensive driving perspective, you should probably stay put until the speed differential is reduced and can safely move over. Otherwise you risk both you and them attempting to change lanes at the same time.

I wouldn't say it's more comfortable. The rule on the Autobahn is that you move right if someone is coming up behind you. If it's two lanes each way, you'll have trucks going 80kph in the right lane and BMWs going 220kph in the left. If you want to go 150, you will find yourself urgently merging a lot with 70 kph speed differentials. The amount of attention and skill this requires is far more than the Interstate demands.

> According to the bill, money for construction of two new lanes on each side of I-5 and CA-99 would be drawn from California's Greenhouse Gas Reduction Fund.

Wait, what?

> The bill is being pitched as a way to cut idling in traffic and therefore reduce greenhouse gases

This looks like next level reality distortion field to me. Increasing speed limits cannot possibly decrease greenhouse gases, nor can adding lanes (which increases capacity and therefore use.) The most optimal speed for reducing greenhouse gasses appears to be 40-60mph, so any discussion of speeds outside that range is therefore not about lowest GHG emissions.

Having high-speed lanes seems OK to me, but drawing that effort out of funds tagged for GHG-reduction seems like a court challenge waiting to happen, and is morally unacceptable anyhow.

Granted, the reasoning is fairly dubious, comparing the two emissions side by side would obviously render the reasoning that higher speeds create fewer greenhouse gases false. But having said that, the opposite isn't actually that "green" either, reducing every vehicle despite its optimal torque range to certain speed limits isn't an instant reduction to carbon production since you will generate more of it by running a lower powered engine at higher rpm's than it was designed to run optimally.

So you can't make an absolute statement in either way actually. You can only adjust to the vehicle base in use currently if you want to optimize efficiency, speed, fuel consumption and emissions.

making it less desirable to drive will reduce greenhouse gases. making it more desirable to drive will increase them.

Potential resolution could be to limit use of the lanes to just zero emissions vehicles.

If you're getting when you're going faster there is less congestion on the road therefore less pollution form other cars, there are other advantages too but please do not make this a moral argument.

You won’t get where you are going faster just because a lane has no speed limit. There’s a reason the other lanes are moving at 5mph or less.

Congestion isn’t about what happens on straight stretches of road, it’s about what happens at exits and junctions. I mean sure, you get “standing waves” is traffic caused by people changing lanes or braking suddenly, but when an exit lane is full because the traffic ahead is held up by a red light or a busy stop/yield intersection, no speed limit is going to help.

What will help is fewer (yes, fewer) lanes on the main road, more lanes (or “holding space”) at intersections, and mechanisms for allowing exiting traffic to enter side roads without using intersections.

It's just physics, not a moral argument. Drag increases as a function of velocity squared, and increasing speeds above some point requires more energy per mile.


If there isn't a lot of traffic on a section of road, people can move through that section faster at higher speeds, so there can be less congestion.

On the other hand, if there is enough traffic, high speeds reduce the throughput of a given section of road because braking distances as a function of speed increase faster than speed.


Actually, there’s less congestion on the road if you follow at a safe distance from the car in front of you. Congestion is caused by following too closely and braking too hard. If everyone followed at the minimum safe distances, your average speed would likely be faster than it would be in stop-and-go congestion.

Congestion can also be caused by too little free capacity to even maintain that distance... Which is what typically happens where I live. There's a bridge with four lanes. Two of the lanes split off to an exit which includes another highway junction. Two other lanes continue, and are joined by a third lane from the other highway. This turns almost the entire bridge into a parking lot every afternoon. Even on the weekend, this interchange will typically be backed up.


Electric cars are, on average, much faster than typical ICEs.

Edit: Added the usual caveats. And yes, they are.

Faster, or quicker? And "on average" depends on what population you're averaging. There are things arguably describable as "electric cars" that don't even go highway speed.

Not “considering” in any serious way. Proposed by one wealthy GOP State Senator from an area full of wealthy anti-tax hard liners who like to speed around unsafely in their sports cars, and don’t like the concept of a Greenhouse Gas Reduction Fund. Here’s the district: https://calwatchdog.com/wp-content/uploads/2015/01/37th-Dist...

This bill is never going anywhere. The GOP is now 10/40 seats in the CA State Senate (2 seats vacant), and 19/80 in the CA State Assembly.

Yep. I live in said district and this could not be any more true. I don't have just one or two anecdotes, but hundreds and I've only lived here for a relatively short amount of time. I drive a red Model S and people attempt to race all the time (once out of every few times I go out, or more often), and even then they drive super aggressively and fast. On YouTube, many of the high speed driving videos are filmed here, too.

I'm not going to say this should have any bearing on the merits bill at hand, but your characterization is absolutely correct.

> I drive a red Model S and people attempt to race all the time

I saw a documentary about this once called 'Fast and Furious'. You just need to find the fastest guys and beat them.

"wealthy" is bad I guess..your socialist stripes are showing...that being said, i know plenty of poor people that would love to speed.

another benefit is that this would help with unclogging the courts with tickets and reduce the strain on the criminal justice system.

Wealthy people are not inherently bad. But this part of Orange County has a culture of extremely aggressive and entitled driving by folks in very expensive cars. Among the most dangerous and unpleasant driving I have experienced anywhere in the USA.

Funny that at the same time Germany is considering speed limits. American cars also need better tires to go faster, not just all-season tires.

>local reports indicate the lanes would run from Stockton to Bakersfield, a distance of approximately 240 miles via I-5 or 230 miles via CA-99.

I've driven these probably 30 times each. The standard minimum speed there in the daytime is already 80-90 mph in the fast lane.

Getting stuck behind some asshole who actually goes the speed limit in the fast lane isn't just annoying (it can add an hour to an SF => LA trip), it's also dangerous. It encourages people to pass by dodging and weaving through the line of much slower semi trucks in the slow lane. Also, CHP likes to hide under overpasses to hand out tickets, so people tend to slow down before them and then speed up again after them.

All these lane changes and speed changes are much, much likelier to cause accidents than high speed is. The road would be a lot safer if people in the fast lane were encouraged to all drive at the same high speed. This bill is a fantastic idea.

Cars driving slowly in the left lane is occasionally annoying, but in my experience the much more common problem with the 5 is that with 2 lanes and lots of semi trucks, there are frequently trucks passing trucks, and a lot of entitled car drivers will see the left lane moving slowly and try to pass on the right.... which of course they can’t actually do because there was a truck passing a truck, so you get lots of unsafe leapfrogging.

I've gotten pulled over on the SF <=> LA I-5 before for going 91 MPH (somewhere in the middle on a steep downhill). The policeman told me with a straight face that I should go no faster than 65 MPH.

   According to the bill, money for construction of two new 
   lanes on each side of I-5 and CA-99 would be  
   drawn from California's Greenhouse Gas Reduction Fund.
   Moorlach doesn't give an estimated cost for the project,
   but says the state already owns the right of way necessary 
   for the lanes. The bill is being pitched as a way to cut 
   idling in traffic and therefore reduce greenhouse gases,
The irony of making a lane unlimited speed when 1) Driving over certain speeds (60?) significantly increases fuel consumption and 2) It's pretty constly, environmentally speaking, to replace cars and people when they inevitably crash at 100MPH

on most ICE cars, the most fuel efficient speed is the minimum speed where you can get into the highest gear without lugging the engine. frictional losses from spinning the engine at a higher rpm tend to be larger than losses from air resistance. on most modern cars, this is around 50mph, which is very slow to drive on the interstate. my car can get well over 40mpg at this speed, which drops down to the mid 30s when I travel at 80mph.

on most EVs, there are no gears, so efficiency increases asymptotically as speed approaches zero.

what I'm getting at is that fuel efficiency for an individual car should not be the only optimization target for traffic laws. we are willing to make at least some tradeoffs in efficiency to get where we are going faster. most speed limits in the US have not been increased since the 60s, and since then cars have become much more efficient, capable, and survivable in the case of a crash. I'd say at least a modest increase in speed limits is warranted.

plus, a bunch of ICEs crawling in stop-and-go traffic is pretty much the worst case scenario for fuel efficiency. if this new policy can actually reduce gridlock, it is likely to have net gains in emission reduction.

Does removing the speed limit actually prevent gridlock?

They likely don’t. In most cases, congestion and gridlock are caused by “traffic snakes” and other phantom traffic jams. These are mostly predicated on drivers braking too hard because they were following the car in front too closely.

In order to avoid stop-and-go traffic, you should try to balance the distance to the car in front of you with the distance to the car behind you. Allowing enough distance lets you slow down to avoid an accident without coming to a complete stop (as long as the person in front of you is doing the same).

A lot of driver behavior is at fault for gridlock and traffic issues. It really comes down to poor enforcement and counterintuitive game theory that makes it more advantageous to disregard the rules.

I actually have no idea. car traffic has a lot of properties that are counterintuitive. I will reword that sentence to make it more clearly a conditional.

This is why if we listened to people like you we would still be riding horses and buggies. Look at Germany are they inevitably crashing constantly at 100MPH or has the Autobahn maybe to some small extent has contributed to German cars being some of the most efficient and desirable cars in the world and pushed the envelope on what is engineeringly possible.

Perhaps Germay's safety record has nothing to do with their speed limits, or rather, perhaps any detriment to safety caused by higher/unlimited speed limits is offset by

> Germany's more rigorous driver-education system makes acquiring a license more difficult and costly than is typical in the United States.

The requirements in the US for getting a license are incredibly low in some jurisdictions.

Again if we were riding horses and buggies we would not need to even go to driving school and get a driver's license. Only when something is a necessary condition it happens, to have the same level driver-education here as in Germany first you need higher speed limits.

Compared to e.g. Finnish or Norwegian driver education, the US system still looks like an absolute joke. Those countries have top speed limits of 75 mph and 70 mph, respectively. It's not got anything to do with Autobahn, per se.

> Compared to e.g. Finnish or Norwegian driver education, the US system still looks like an absolute joke.

Don't even need to compare the US system to anything to know how much of a joke it is.

I don't know how much things have since I got my license in 2001, but in Oregon, driver's ed classes weren't even required. At 15 1/2 years old, you take a 30-question, multiple-choice written test to get a learner's permit that allows you to drive on public roads with a licensed driver in the passenger seat. Then at 16, you can take a 15-minute behind-the-wheel test to get your license. That's all.

Your parents would teach you to drive, who would often end up leaving large gaps in your knowledge or even teach things that are flat-out incorrect. A friend of mine was taught specifically to camp the left lane if he's going to be on the highway for more than 5 miles.

Driver's ed should be a requirement. The courses should include practical lessons including emergency maneuvers on wet pavement and how to recover from a slide. Being told "steer into/out of the skid" isn't helpful. Everyone should have practiced recovery after loss of traction. Everyone should have had to do emergency stops on both wet and dry pavement so they can actually appreciate the difference in stopping distance.

Instead, you get morons that drive 60+ mph on a snowy highway in dense fog because nobody told them you should slow down for that, and somehow it isn't common sense. Videos like this [0] need to be required viewing to get a license. This pileup was 100% preventable.

[0] https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=W9fI5M6_XVk

One thing I will give credit where due is that when I had to renew my license last time I had to retake the computer tests. That's more than the place I moved here from.

I actually am pro no speed limits because I think global warming is my hysterics than true threat to humanity.

If you read my post again you'll see I was noting that the aim of the bill is to reduce green house gasses and it seems to be common knowledge that cars are less efficient at higher speeds.

" when they inevitably crash at 100MPH"

Why would they crash? 100 is not difficult to do.

this was more to emphasize that accidents do happen and that at 100MPH the magnitude of the crash has increased (its more catastrophic)

Accidents seem to happen at all speeds.

because they're driven by people.

That makes a lot of sense for I-5. It's dead straight, and since trucks pass each other, the passing lane is often really slow. A third lane would get bogged down behind slowpokes trying to park their way past the trucks at a comfortable 5 over, when 90 is a perfectly reasonable minimum speed, so having this law might mitigate that.

This is also an argument against No speed limit as speed differential is really the more dangerous aspect. It's not safe to drive 100MPH along side semis doing 65MPH .

The moments I am most afraid when driving are the times where I am on a multi-lane highway in the left set of lanes and the right set of lanes are creeping along at 5 to 10mph trying to exit the highway on an off-ramp while traffic in my current and other lanes are still going 60 to 70mph.

It is very safe as long as people have lane discipline. Which is to say slow drivers keep the fuck to the right.

See Germany for examples.

Unfortunately here in America a lot of slow shitheads have an entitlement complex and think that anyone who wants to go faster than them is evil.

That's a rule of thumb that might not apply so well to dead straight roads with long distances between exits. The semis aren't entering the third lane. Other vehicles would be, and the fast lane ought to slow down when passing... of course, some people would, and others wouldn't. More practically it's 100 mph versus somebody changing lanes at 85 mph. Or maybe 120 mph versus somebody changing lanes at 85 mph, at night... As a former I-5 driver I'd like to see this tried; to mitigate the cost of accidents we could build a few mass graves in Cowschwitz.

The autobahn is safer because the drivers have better training. If we are not willing to train drivers just as well or better then we might want to stick with the train, which the Germans also have. While we're at it we can ask them how they managed to actually follow through and finish building it.

It's also safer because the grade and turns are carefully crafted, the surface is maintained very well, and wildlife crossing is taken into consideration. You can't really say that of most US Highways.

How do they prevent poor animals from entering the roadways?

Fences and land bridges apparently. Seems like it doesn't get them all, but keeps the bigger ones out most of the time.


I've never seen anything even remotely like that on a US highway, and I've driven around the US a lot.

To put this in perspectives I paid around 2k for my German driver’s license and had a 8 week course including theory and practical lessons. In contrast, the American one was 80 bucks or so? No lessons, just the tests

Where I grew up, pretty much everyone in the area who wanted to drive took a one semester "driver's ed" course in high school.

Driving practice with the instructor was extensive, covering pretty much every common driving scenario short of hitting a deer. To even take the test, you had to have X hours logged driving with an adult who had a license.

Yes, the license is substantially cheaper, but it was also a very rural area- driving a car is just a fact of life out there, and 2k for the license would probably have cost more than quite a few of the cars.

I didn't have a semester-long driver's ed, but there was a class for a series of Saturdays at a local AAA office, with a guy who spent much of the time showing us old-school Cosby stand-up, and four sessions of driving instruction with an AAA instructor. This was worth the money to my parents because they got a savings on insurance.

If we were riding horses and buggies we would not need to even go to driving school and get a driver's license. Only when something is a necessary condition it happens, to have the same level driver-education here as in Germany first you need higher speed limits.

Not to be snarky, but the person to ask first about it's construction is Adolph Hitler, unfortunately. "Hitler's autobahn construction began in September 1933 under the direction of chief engineer Fritz Todt. The 14-mile expressway between Frankfurt and Darmstadt, which opened on May 19, 1935, was the first section completed under Hitler. By December 1941, when wartime needs brought construction to a halt, Germany had completed 2,400 miles (3,860 km), with another 1,550 miles (2,500 km) under construction."

Article link: https://www.fhwa.dot.gov/infrastructure/reichs.cfm

Per California law the speed limit is supposed to be set at the 85th percentile of speed as measured by a traffic engineering study (operating speed), not the rate of travel the roadway was designed for (design speed).

The idea behind the law is that the majority of people are lawful, and that we are in fact "voting" for the right speed to be set by traveling at that rate.

Rather than creating lanes with no speed limit, we just need to force Caltrans and local municipalities to enforce this standard.

And to legally use radar enforcement, there has to be a current survey affirming the limit.

The practical speed limit is 100 MPH, and in Texas, we have 75-85 MPH in a lot of sparse areas. And if it's a clear day, that 75 MPH is effectively 85.

So from a safety perspective, there is nothing wrong here.

The logic of pulling from a greenhouse emission reduction fund is bonkers.

This will never happen because 1. There is no appetite for increasing speed limits due to increase in emissions and increase in enforcement costs 2. Drivers here are simply not disciplined enough to make a no speed limit lane successful 3. Our roads are not engineered to support that kind of speeds, both in terms of pavement conditions as well as merge and off ramp designs. 4. There is no funding to build new lanes to I-5

> According to Moorlach, the lanes would be kept separate from other lanes, where the speed limit would remain 65 mph.

I don't know about CA-99, but I-5 is definitely 70 MPH for stretches.

EDIT: looks like both are 70 MPH at various points: http://www.dot.ca.gov/hq/roadinfo/70mph.htm

The obvious place to start are commuter lanes, especially those with specific entry-exit points that are otherwise shouldered off. Remove the maximum and introduce a 100 mph minimum.

Does "lanes" mean whole roads, or just that, single lanes on a highway composed of many? The first option seems acceptable, but the second seems like a nightmare.

I'd require drivers in such lanes to have a special license and the cars pass an inspection that they are sound enough to drive faster.

Cool! can't wait to be crushed by a 5000 pound tesla going 100MPH faster than me.

What could possibly go wrong?


I blast between LA and SF on a regular basis with my motorcycle. The bike and tires are good for cruising at 160 mph, but with all the trucks in an elephant race, I'm lucky to average 80 mph.

I'd pay a small ransom in tolls to drive on a road with no trucks and no speed limit.

I did that trip south on the 5 once. Initially I was impatient and tried lanesplitting between semi trucks. After doing this about 4 times, rationality kicked in and I decided that waiting the extra 30 seconds it takes for a semi to pass another was worth it to not have "he was smooshed to death by a truck, the idiot" in my obituary.

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