The Right Speed Limit Is Your Limit!

People will never agree what the speed limit should be – which you’d think would raise questions about why there are speed limits at all.

It’s an odd business – this top-down imposition of one-size-fits-all when it’s obvious it fits almost no one. Even the most ardent defender of speed limits is usually guilty of “speeding” – i.e., he at least occasionally drives a little bit faster than whatever the arbitrarily-decreed fastest-allowable speed is. Such people will often defend their “speeding” as being reasonable – while decrying those who “speed” a bit more.

This being as arbitrary a standard as the speed limit, itself.

The great (and late, unfortunately) comedian George Carlin explained it best in one of his rants on the subject: Everyone who drives slower than you is an idiot – and everyone who drives faster, a maniac.

It’s painfully funny – because it touches truth, like a dentist touches a nerve with his drill. We laugh because we are at some level aware of our own idiocy.

This is the art of comedy.

The question isn’t what the speed limit should be. Which is to say: How fast should everyone be allowed to drive?

It ought to be: How fast should you drive? 

This size will not fit all. Just as the clothes you wear don’t fit all, either. They fit you. You chose them for that reason. You would not chose clothes that don’t fit you and if someone told you that you had to wear clothes that didn’t fit you then you’d know you were either in boot camp or prison.

The road shouldn’t be like either of those places. When it is like them, the result is frustrating, boring, dangerous – and unjust.

It is frustrating – and boring – to drive at a speed much lower than you can safely drive. And most people know perfectly well what that speed is, already – because that’s how fast they do drive. No matter the speed limit, which they obey only when necessary. Not because they feel the need to – an important difference.

This is actually the way speed limits are supposed to be set, by the way. It is called the 85th Percentile Standard and it is derived by taking note of how fast the majority of drivers naturally drive on a given stretch of road; the posted limit is set such that the majority of drivers aren’t “speeding” or not by much. This is an interesting admission in that it suggest formal speed limits aren’t needed as most drivers will not drive faster than their own limits even if there is no law forbidding it.

For the same reason it is unnecessary to pass laws forbidding people to swim who cannot.

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