Wednesday, October 20, 2010

The Speed Limit

Varying by state, county and municipal locality, traffic rules and conventions are microcosms of larger social systems and are always "subject to change." In terms of Marshall Berman's memorable book title, All That Is Solid Melts Into Air eventually.

Let's take "speed limits." Most traffic rules currently revolve around gas-powered vehicles, marginalizing older horse and pedestrian-based conventions -- as well as the emerging electric vehicle culture that will replace or at least modify them.

During WWII, speed limits in the USA were reduced to 35 miles per hour (mph) maximum. They were pushed up again after the war, then lowered to 55 mph by the Nixon/Ford administration in 1974, then partially raised again in 1987, then thrown back to the states in 1995. Some highway speed limits in the old "cowboy" states -- formerly big horse states -- now legally permit vehicle driving up to 80 mph.

Then there's the "margin" of an extra five mph or so -- how many people have been ticketed by the highway patrol for going fewer than six miles over the limit?  Very few sober ones, I suspect.

In future posts, I'd like to get more at the behavior of drivers (and "law enforcement") and the types of vehicles driven; plus challenges to the dominant paradigms from horse-based traditions (as with Amish and related groups), pedestrians, school zones, railroad crossings, hitchhikers, bicycles, motocycles, feral and pet or "livestock" animals, night driving, weather conditions, etcetera.  Let's not forget basic signage and technological changes, and "minimum speed limits." 

My question is this: have you ever known any driver who did not go over the speed limit at some point(s) in their driving history?   Where is a reasonable cutoff point and why do we do what we do?

Today's Rune: The Mystery Rune.  


離婚 said...

You write very well..

jodi said...

Erik-we ALL go over the limit at some point. This is true of speeding and most things in life. My driving record sucks!

Johnny Yen said...

My father is the only one I know who refuses to go over the speed limit. It's a sort of "Walter" from "The Big Lebowski" aspect of him; he feels like he's the only one following the rules.

When I was still a teacher, there was a boulevard I'd take as part of my route to work because I knew that the 30 mph speed limit was never enforce; I regularly ran at 50 mph on it. One morning I realized, to my horror, that there was a Chicago cop running beside me. Then I realized that he too was going fifty miles per hour and didn't seem concerned about either my or his speed.

Charles Gramlich said...

We talk about the speed limit thing when we discuss the roles of punishment in my learning class. And it used to be that one of the questions on the MMPI to catch cheating was something along the lines of: "I've never even thought of exceeding the speed limit." Those who answer true to that kind of question are judged as unreliable test takers.