In the Readers' Forum, March 24, 1998, J.L. Green wrote concerning speeding in the construction zones of I-15. Green expressed deep concern about the fact that drivers do not travel at the posted 55 mph limit and stated that he drives 55-60 mph. The observation that freeway drivers routinely exceed posted speed limits is true and probably will always be so. Posted limits have little to do with the fact that drivers tend to choose driving speeds with which they are comfortable.
The slogan, "Speed kills," trips easily off the tongues of law enforcement personnel and others concerned with traffic safety. It seems so obvious that the answer to virtually any traffic problem is: slow down. Therefore, the first impulse to solve traffic problems is to reduce speed limits or concentrate on enforcement. This shortsighted practice may misdirect traffic regulation and law enforcement efforts.Any person who understands the laws of physics knows that, although speed is an important factor in highway safety, speed does not kill; some other causative factor is always present in an accident. To efficiently promote highway safety, it is better to identify the causative factors and concentrate on them. We should avoid overemphasis on speed.
When Green (or anyone else) travels at the posted limit while virtually everyone else drives faster, a line of vehicles will form behind him as drivers are forced to slow to his/her speed. This places him/her in violation of the traffic law which prohibits drivers from impeding traffic. In this "Catch 22," it is safer to assume a speed that is near the average speed of the traffic, regardless of the fact that it may be faster than the posted limit.
Because we are prone to see speed as the cause of accidents, I believe that we waste time and money setting and attempting to enforce unenforceable speed limits. Our efforts would produce better results if we focused on more productive matters - for example, preventing drivers from blocking the left lane, thus forcing others to pass on the right.
Grant K. Shelton