A prevalent issue today in the state of California, as well as the rest of the United States, is the issue of speed limits on our highways, freeways, and expressways. The problem with speed limits is they essentially do nothing to benefit the citizen; instead they serve as a band-aid for a deeper problem in our transportation system, and work as a revenue generator for the state government. Instead of raising or dropping speed limits on our open roadways, they should be abolished. Eradicating the speed limit on our roadways might seem drastic at first thought.
Worries about accident, injury, and death rates spiraling out of control begin to formulate in your mind, but those worries are unfounded. There are many examples, and numerous studies conducted by reputable departments, that would suggest that this proposal of a speed limit free road might actually be feasible, and safe. The first example of this idea of a road with no speed limits is Germany’s famous Autobahn. This highway system was opened August 6, 1932, making it 23 years older the United States’ Interstate system.
The Autobahn consists of almost 8,000 miles of road, of which only half of that road has a speed limit. Even so, it is one of the safest highway systems in the world (Wilkinson, “The Autobahn Is 75 (Years Old, Not MPH)”). In fact, statistics show that it is even safer than the U. S. interstate highway system. As stated, in the online article “Driving the Autobahn,” by James M. Clash, in 2001, the death rate on the Autobahn was 27 percent lower than that of the interstates in America.
Continuing on the matter of safety, it is safe to say that the posted speed limit has extremely little to do with it. Despite the death rate on the Autobahn being lower than the U. S. ’s interstates, the average speed is substantially higher at 81 miles per hour. 15% of drivers on the Autobahn at any given moment are driving at 96 miles per hour or greater. The truth is that becoming a licensed driver is more involves more training in Germany, which leads to better drivers on the road (Clash, “Driving the Autobahn”). Becoming a licensed driver in the U. S. is a breeze in comparison, and the consequence is less competent drivers on our roads. This just goes to show that speed limits do not protect the driving citizen, and that it is up to the citizen themselves to be a safer driver. Someone turned off by the thought of no speed limit might suggest that the speed limit could just be raised. That suggestion does not solve any problems, as a study conducted by the U. S. Department of Transportation shows; people will drive at the speed that they find safe and reasonable, despite changes in the speed limit.
A quick look through the findings indicates that a very small percentage of people actually adjust their speed by a large amount, whether or not the limit was lowered or raised (US DOT Report No. FHWA-RD-92-084). So with a speed limit still in place, some drivers still run the risk of getting a speeding ticket regardless if the speed was safe and reasonable for that situation. Even if a greater average speed was observed after speed limits were removed, it would not have a significant impact on safety.
The reasoning behind this assumption comes from statistics released by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration in August of 2010. The figures show that the fatality rate from motor vehicle crashes has been on a steady decline since the 1950s. In fact, in 2009, there was the lowest number of deaths since 1950. The numbers demonstrate that fatalities dropped even after speed limits across the country were raised, following the repeal of the nationwide limit of 55 miles per hour (Highlights of 2009 Motor Vehicle Crashes).
This can be contributed for the most part to the progression of safety technologies in vehicles. Cars today are exponentially safer than their counterparts of previous decades. Having no speed limit might even prompt car manufacturers to romp up the development of safety innovations, creating an even safer driving environment for everyone. Removing the speed limit in turn removes the violation for exceeding it, which then can have numerous benefits. The National Motorists Association estimates around ten billion dollars is spent a year paying off traffic fines.
That doesn’t include the amount of money spent on insurance premium increases, the cost of missing work to go to court, or the cost of traffic school (Baxter, “Traffic Tickets Are Big Business”). If there weren’t speeding tickets, a large portion of that money could be back in a consumer’s wallet and being spent on things that would stimulate the economy. Speed limits just cover up a larger issue in our transportation system. The real problem is that there is very little skill required to get driver’s license, which fills the roads with incompetent, distracted drivers with little respect for the privilege of driving on public roadways. These drivers would not know what speed to go without limits, and because of them drivers who do know better are held back. Instead of having speed limits, which force these capable drivers to drive at the same level as less capable drivers, there should be no speed limits. In their place, a system of driver training requirements similar to Germany’s should be adopted.
If receiving a license to pilot a vehicle in California took more knowledge and skill, the rate of deaths on highways would most likely decline even more. There is no real drawback to eliminating the speed limits on our major roadways in California, and the rest of the United States. Safety would not be an issue as cars today are becoming increasingly safer, and especially if some sort of system to better educate and train drivers is implemented. In addition to those benefits, the risk of getting a speeding ticket goes away which would help people out financially, and in the long term benefit the economy.
1. Wilkinson, Stephan “The Autobahn Is 75 (Years Old, Not MPH)” http://www. concierge. com/cntraveler/blogs/perrinpost/2007/08/the-autobahn-is. html 2. Clash, James M. “Driving the Autobahn,” http://autos. aol. com/article/driving-the-autobahn/ 3. “Effects of Raising and Lowering Speed Limits” http://www. ibiblio. org/rdu/sl-irrel. html 4. “Highlights of 2009 Motor Vehicle Crashes” http://www-nrd. nhtsa. dot. gov/Pubs/811363. pdf 5. Baxter, James “Traffic Tickets Are Big Business” http://blog. motorists. org/traffic-tickets-are-big-business/