Too Fast

Meeky passes on a link to an article in yesterday’s Wall Street Journal (unfortunately it requires a login) about states raising speed limits to as high as 80 mph. Here’s a partial sample:

States around the country, including Texas and Michigan, have recently increased speed limits on hundreds of miles of interstate highways and freeways. Other states are expected to follow soon.

Near Detroit, drivers long confronted by signs telling them to go no more than 55 miles per hour or 65 mph are seeing new signs with 70 mph speed limits. By November, cruising at 70 mph will be allowed on nearly 200 miles of road, including parts of Interstate 75 and M-59, a major suburban route. Texas has begun erecting 80 mph signs along 521 miles of I-10 and I-20 in 10 rural western counties, giving them the highest speed limit in the U.S. In September, Virginia is likely to boost the speed limit on I-85 near the North Carolina border to 70 mph from 65 mph.

Driving faster may get people to their destinations more quickly, but it can also add to the rising cost of owning a car. The Department of Energy estimates that every five miles per hour a person drives above 60 mph costs an extra 20 cents a gallon, for a fuel-efficiency loss of 7% to 23%, depending on the type of car and gas. That’s because higher speeds increase aerodynamic drag on a car, requiring more horsepower. Over a year, it costs roughly an additional $180 in gas to drive 75 mph instead of 60 mph, according to the Environmental and Energy Study Institute, which promotes energy efficiency and renewable energy.

Meeky’s reaction:

This is unreal – and a logical outcome of designing highways for higher speeds than are (or were) legally allowed, to protect the builders from lawsuits.

Notice the “people drive that fast anyway” argument.

The one that really frosts me, “…and many drivers are now protected by front and side airbags.” So what about those who don’t have them? Or peds and cyclists (which do exist on these roads)? Guess they’re just (soon to be) chopped liver.

The awful outcome of this is, of course, the possibility that “It isn’t clear if the urge to increase speed limits on interstates will trickle down to smaller roads and streets, usually controlled by local officials.” – where there are more peds and cyclists.

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