Results 1 to 12 of 12

Thread: Why 70 Miles Per Hour Is the New 55

  1. #1
    Staff
    Join Date
    Aug 2006
    Location
    Houston, TX
    Posts
    3,126

    Why 70 Miles Per Hour Is the New 55

    Virginia Becomes the Latest State to Raise Its Speed Limit; Drivers in Mississippi Go Really Fast


    Left to their own devices, American drivers confronted with an open stretch of interstate highway tend to drive at about 70 miles per hour—whatever the legal speed limit happens to be.
    Virginia is the 34th state to raise its rural interstate speed limit to 70. WSJ's Joseph B. White says improved car safety was one reason behind the move, but skeptics worry the increase will lead to more fatalities and greater energy use.


    That's the finding of an analysis of speed data gathered by TomTom Inc., a marketer of GPS navigation devices. This helps to explain why safety advocates and conservationists are losing the long-running debate over lowering freeway speed limits.
    The Virginia legislature last week passed legislation raising the speed limit on rural interstate highways to 70 mph from 65 mph. The state's new Republican governor, Bob McDonnell, put boosting the legal speed limit high on his list of priorities, and got action less than three months after taking office.
    Virginia will become the 34th state to boost interstate speed limits to 70 mph or higher. In big, empty states such as New Mexico, Idaho and Nevada, posted limits on rural interstates can be as high as 75 mph.
    TomTom collected speed data from 45 states and the District of Columbia, under agreements with customers who agreed to allow the company to collect the information anonymously to improve the quality of its route guidance by directing customers away from congested roads at peak travel times.



    The TomTom data suggest that most drivers tend to stay within a few miles per hour of the speed limit on major roads. In 31 out of the 46 jurisdictions, average freeway speeds ranged between 65 and 70.1 mph.
    TomTom found the fastest drivers, on average, in Mississippi, where interstate drivers average 70.1 mph, or a hair over the maximum posted limit. The company doesn't have speed data from some sparsely populated states, including Montana, where drivers may be moving faster than those in Mississippi, says Nhai Cao, senior product manager for TomTom's SpeedProfiles database.
    Virginia drivers clock in at a law-abiding 65 mph. The slowest drivers—drumroll, please—are in Washington, D.C. Freeway traffic in the nation's congested capital crawls at an average of 46.4 mph, according to TomTom's data. That may explain the eagerness of Virginia residents who work inside the Beltway for the freedom to go faster when they finally see some open road.
    Hawaii is the slowest state, with highway drivers traveling at an average 52.7 mph.
    Speed limits and enforcement have taken a symbolic significance that transcends vehicle mechanics or highway design.
    The 55 mph national speed limit enacted in 1973 in response to the first Arab oil embargo was justified as a means of conserving fuel. In 1987, the law was changed to allow speeds up to 65 mph. But the Republican Congress elected in 1994 did few things more popular than repealing the limit altogether in 1995.
    Driving speed has become a proxy for bigger questions about personal freedom versus government control.
    The argument for raising speed limits is fundamentally an argument for letting drivers use their own judgment. The argument for stronger speed control is that too many people behave badly behind the wheel.
    More Eyes on the Road





    Associated Press Workers install a new speed-limit sign along Interstate 65 in Indiana, one of 34 states to raise its ceiling to 70 miles per hour or more.



    Insurers and other safety advocates, including groups such as the Governors Highway Safety Association, have consistently called for motorists to slow down, and for state and local authorities to get tougher on speeding enforcement.
    "Higher speeds are bad on any road," says Anne McCartt, vice president of research for the Insurance Institute of Highway Safety, a research arm of the insurance industry.
    The Federal Highway Administration estimates that in 2008, about 31% of the total 37,261 highway fatalities were related to speeding over posted limits.
    But advocates of relaxing speed limits point to federal statistics which show that both fatalities and fatality rates on U.S. highways are declining even as speed limits rise. The U.S. Department of Transportation last week reported that its latest estimate of highway deaths in 2009 is 33,963—the lowest number since the government began keeping these grim records in 1954. The fatality rate is estimated at 1.16 deaths per 100 million vehicle miles traveled.
    Modern cars and light trucks have an average of 225 horsepower under the hood and sophisticated safety systems such as traction control. They are designed to cruise comfortably, safely and efficiently at between 65 and 70 mph—if not faster, particularly in the case of the autobahn-burners German luxury brands sell.
    If gas prices spike again this summer, as some predict, the idea of dropping speed limits again may get a new hearing. But Virginia's decision and the powerful cars consumers are buying suggest otherwise.
    Write to Joseph B. White at joseph.white@wsj.com

  2. #2
    Vulture of The Western World Eric's Avatar
    Join Date
    Jul 2006
    Location
    The Land of The Edentulites
    Posts
    22,890
    My opinion -

    VA is just legalizing the de facto average/typical speed on highways such as I-81 and I-95. That Tom Tom research is not accurate/reflective of the actual, typical speeds on those roads. Drive 65 on I-81 or I-95 and you will have a long line of cars stacked up behind you.

    What's ridiculous, to me, is that Americans equate speed limits with the average, routine flow of traffic - what amounts to the 85th percentile speed.

    In other words, it's not really a speed limit- which would be the maximum safe speed under ideal conditions; a speed considerably higher than the average or 85th percentile speed.

    Instead, an American "speed limit" is synonymous with the routine speed at which most cars happen to be traveling - which implies that a higher speed could be acceptable, for some drivers, in some cars, under certain (ideal) conditions.

    An average speed is not a "limit" - other than as a legalism, an excuse to mulct motorists who exceed it. Which of course is exactly what we have. To claim that driving even a single mph faster than 70 on a highway such as I-81 (especially in the rural parts of the state, where traffic is fairly light) is "unsafe" - period - is not just nonsense, it's obvious nonsense - exactly the same as the old Drive 55 shibboleth was. Excepting a few neurotic ninnies - and deliberately dishonest "advocates" who profited from the system - everyone knew it was a farce. When you got pulled over and were issued a ticket for driving 62 (or whatever) you knew it was bullshit. You felt no moral guilt. Because it was obvious - painfully so - that your speed was not reckless, let alone unsafe. Your only failure was not noticing the cop with the radar gun in time to slow down.

    This 70 mph "limit" is no different. People routinely drive faster precisely because it's routine to drive faster than 70 mph in a modern car, on an Interstate highway designed for safe average speeds of 70-75 mph. People forget this. The Interstate system was designed specifically for average speeds of 70-75 mph - and this assumed 1950s-era cars/technology. Factor in 50 years of car development - everything from modern high-speed radial tires to fully independent suspensions, four-wheel-disc brakes and all the electronic safety equipment, from ABS to stability control. Is it not ridiculous that we're still talking about limits that aren't even as high as the average speeds planned for by the engineers who designed these highways?

    It's silly. Or it would be, if American motorists weren't constantly harassed as a result - under the clearly ridiculous pretense that they're "speeding" by driving faster than a limit that's lower than the average speeds intended for these highways some 50 years ago.

    A speed limit, properly defined, would be at least 10 and perhaps as much as 20 percent higher than the 85th percentile or average speed on any given road, factoring in weather, the condition of the road and so on.

    Ballpark-wise, that would suggest a limit of around 80 mph on most Virginia highways.

    You'd know it was a limit, too, because most cars would not be driving that fast. Perhaps 10-20 percent of all traffic.

    Viola, words would have meaning again.

    Cruise-controlling at 70 mph with 80-plus percent of the other cars on the road would be just what we all know it to be: Going with the proverbial flow. To describe that as driving at the maximum safe speed should qualify the speaker for a semester of remedial English. Or let's at least change the terminology. If we can't have legitimate speed limits, let's call violations something honest such as "speed tax." We'd still have to pony up, but at least we could dispense with the groaning, eye-rolling lectures about "safety" from cops, judges - and most of all, insurance companies.

    That's probably the worst part about the current system. As bad as the fines are, having to pretend we did something wrong - as when politely pretending to agree with the cop, or groveling before some judge in the hope of getting him to reduce the charge - that's a form of degradation that it would be glorious to rid ourselves of.

    Eve if we still have to pay up.

  3. #3
    Staff
    Join Date
    Aug 2006
    Location
    Houston, TX
    Posts
    3,126
    Quote Originally Posted by Eric View Post
    My opinion -

    VA is just legalizing the de facto average/typical speed on highways such as I-81 and I-95. That Tom Tom research is not accurate/reflective of the actual, typical speeds on those roads. Drive 65 on I-81 or I-95 and you will have a long line of cars stacked up behind you.

    What's ridiculous, to me, is that Americans equate speed limits with the average, routine flow of traffic - what amounts to the 85th percentile speed.

    In other words, it's not really a speed limit- which would be the maximum safe speed under ideal conditions; a speed considerably higher than the average or 85th percentile speed. Instead, an American "speed limit" is synonymous with the routine speed at which most cars happen to be traveling - which implies that a higher speed could be acceptable, for some drivers, in some cars, under certain (ideal) conditions.

    An average speed is not a "limit" - other than as a legalism, an excuse to mulct motorists who exceed it. Which of course is exactly what we have.

    A speed limit, properly defined, would be at least 10 and perhaps as much as 20 percent higher than the 85th percentile or average speed on any given road, factoring in weather, the condition of the road and so on.

    Ballpark-wise, that would suggest a limit of 80-85 mph on most Virginia highways.
    Absolutely. The whole concept of "speed limit" became fucked up when congress passed the 55 mph limit back in 1974. It may have been screwed up earlier than that.

    That 10-20 percent figure is not far off. The 85th percentile (or 90th) percentile speeds are about 8-12 mph faster than the average speed on interstate highways.

    Based on my trip to Tallahassee, I think that the speed limit would likely be 85 mph on I-10 and 75-80 mph on I-95 if they were set properly.

  4. #4
    Vulture of The Western World Eric's Avatar
    Join Date
    Jul 2006
    Location
    The Land of The Edentulites
    Posts
    22,890

  5. #5
    Left to their own devices, American drivers confronted with an open stretch of interstate highway tend to drive at about 70 miles per hour—whatever the legal speed limit happens to be.
    I really don't think that that data is accurate. Out west, where the speed limits are refreshingly higher, most people do not drive only 70. You would be a huge hazard if you did. Even on many rural 2-lane roads out there the speed limits are 65, because the roads are just straight and flat with minimal wildlife crossing.

  6. #6
    Vulture of The Western World Eric's Avatar
    Join Date
    Jul 2006
    Location
    The Land of The Edentulites
    Posts
    22,890
    Quote Originally Posted by dieseleverything View Post
    I really don't think that that data is accurate. Out west, where the speed limits are refreshingly higher, most people do not drive only 70. You would be a huge hazard if you did. Even on many rural 2-lane roads out there the speed limits are 65, because the roads are just straight and flat with minimal wildlife crossing.
    Agree. And not just out west, either.

    Ever drive in West Virginia? Traffic runs 80-plus there (speed limit 70-75).

  7. #7
    Staff
    Join Date
    Aug 2006
    Location
    Houston, TX
    Posts
    3,126
    Quote Originally Posted by dieseleverything View Post
    I really don't think that that data is accurate. Out west, where the speed limits are refreshingly higher, most people do not drive only 70. You would be a huge hazard if you did. Even on many rural 2-lane roads out there the speed limits are 65, because the roads are just straight and flat with minimal wildlife crossing.
    Diesel -

    Where do you live out west?

    How is it driving out there? Lots of cops?

  8. #8
    I'm not buying that survey, either. Maybe they're counting big rigs, which would probably distort the results. Just try running at an even 70 on pretty much any road down here in TX - you're liable to get run off the road.

  9. #9
    Senior Member
    Join Date
    Jul 2006
    Location
    Raleigh NC, USA
    Posts
    3,628
    I've found that the speeds that drivers go will vary in Texas.

    Houston - very fast drivers. Speed limit is regarded as a minimum.
    Austin - Sloooow drivers. Very seldom will I see anyone speeding, much less the 10-over I was used to in NC.

    Chip H.

  10. #10
    Quote Originally Posted by swamprat View Post
    Diesel -

    Where do you live out west?

    How is it driving out there? Lots of cops?

    I don't live out west. I live in Pennsylvania. I have just been there a couple times in the past few years. The driving is nice....much nicer than in the east, the roads are open, the speed limits are much faster on rural roads, the roads are in better shape and the drivers seem to be more courteous. I don't really know how the cops are, but I've never see as many as I do here in PA.

  11. #11
    Staff
    Join Date
    Aug 2006
    Location
    Houston, TX
    Posts
    3,126
    Quote Originally Posted by MeanMeosh View Post
    I'm not buying that survey, either. Maybe they're counting big rigs, which would probably distort the results. Just try running at an even 70 on pretty much any road down here in TX - you're liable to get run off the road.
    This is a little off track, but I am not so sure about the above. Sometimes speedometers are up to 5 mph optimistic, giving the impression that you are traveling faster than you actually are.

    I often get into arguments with people driving the left hand lane who say "I'm driving 75 mph, so I shouldn't move over." The fact is, his car may read 75 and mine may read 70. He thinks he is going faster than he is.

    So, when people say that if they are doing 70 mph, they are likely to get run over, they are half right, but they may only be doing 65.

    That is why a lane courtesy "keep right except to pass" law would be good. It codifies good driver behavior regardless of how fast you are traveling.

  12. #12
    Senior Member
    Join Date
    Jul 2006
    Posts
    1,073
    Quote Originally Posted by chiph View Post
    I've found that the speeds that drivers go will vary in Texas.

    Houston - very fast drivers. Speed limit is regarded as a minimum.
    Austin - Sloooow drivers. Very seldom will I see anyone speeding, much less the 10-over I was used to in NC.

    Chip H.
    I did nearly 2,000 miles around the south-eastern part of Texas last November. Driving at around the posted limit, the only places I felt I wasn't keeping up with the flow were Houston & Dallas - although I was the only one actually accelerating away from traffic lights!

Similar Threads

  1. 64 Mercury with 600,000 miles
    By swamprat in forum Car Care & Repair
    Replies: 3
    Last Post: 06-30-2009, 07:13 PM
  2. 1983 Honda CB550SC Nighthawk, REALLY LOW MILES $2,000
    By bikerlbf406 in forum On Two Wheels
    Replies: 2
    Last Post: 11-06-2007, 04:30 PM
  3. Replies: 0
    Last Post: 10-27-2007, 07:46 AM
  4. 3328 Miles Later-----
    By Jim Rose in forum Motor Mouth
    Replies: 14
    Last Post: 05-07-2007, 12:24 AM
  5. Every 3,000 miles is too often for oil changes
    By Jim Rose in forum Car Care & Repair
    Replies: 17
    Last Post: 03-29-2007, 12:32 PM

Posting Permissions

  • You may not post new threads
  • You may not post replies
  • You may not post attachments
  • You may not edit your posts
  •