NMA E-Newsletter #238: An Easy Way to Speak Up

Summer is a great time to set pen to paper or fingers to keyboard and write a letter to your local newspaper or to an elected official. Many NMA members have been doing just that so we thought we would share a few examples to inspire you.

Executive Director of the NMA Foundation Board Jim Walker is fighting hard to keep red-light cameras out of his home state of Michigan. Here are some excerpts from a letter he recently wrote to Detroit Chief of Police James Craig:

“Michigan, and an area like Detroit in particular, has a very high rate of unlicensed and uninsured drivers due to the Driver Responsibility Fees which many lower-income drivers simply cannot pay. Their license gets suspended for non-payment of the fees but they have to drive anyway to get to work to feed their families.

Red-light cameras will create another big group of these unlicensed and uninsured drivers when many poor people will be simply unable to pay the $100 to $200 tickets for split-second violations that did not endanger anyone. Their license and their car registration renewals will be denied for just one unpaid ticket. They won’t even be able to sell the car involved to get money to take taxis and buses instead.”


The NMA’s new Hawaii activist, Lopaka Aldrich, has quickly embraced his advocate role with this letter to the editor of The Maui News:

“According to
The Maui News, July 18, the Operation Speed campaign will be activating traffic and patrol officers, as well as “strategies” to stop and cite motorists for exceeding speed limit signs on major highways from July 20-27.

One only has to drive daily on Maui’s four-lane highways to see that 85 percent of the drivers travel at 60 mph although the speed limit is posted at 45 mph. This “85th percentile” is the standard used by traffic engineers all over the planet to establish speed limits.

Michigan traffic engineer Martin Parker states: “The likelihood of a crash occurring is significantly greater for motorists travelling at a speed slower, and faster, than the mean speed of traffic.”

So why are speed limits so artificially low?

Jim Walker, executive director of National Motorists Association Foundation, states: “They are arbitrarily set, usually too low, for one or both of these reasons. 1. The venue wishes to create lucrative speed traps for revenue with under-posted limits. 2. The venue responds inappropriately to requests from well-meaning but uninformed residents to lower the speed limits below the safest levels because the residents sincerely but falsely believe it will increase safety.”

It isn’t speed that’s killing us. It’s bad driving and rules of the road that are seriously out of touch with the way most motorists drive. Nail bad drivers, not someone who is travelling in a reasonable and safe manner at the 85th percentile.”


Finally, longtime Illinois member, Steve Doner, jumped into the fray with this letter to the Springfield, IL, State Journal-Register in support of raising Interstate speed limits in Illinois:

“Studies have long shown that speed limits have little effect on the pace of faster traffic, and any traffic engineer will explain that 85th percentile speeds are the proper way to set limits (the maximum speed at which 85 percent of traffic actually flows when unencumbered)

Unreasonably low limits do not slow down faster traffic but do cause several types of dysfunction which make the roads more dangerous, including:

  • Increased road rage. This is brought on by the points noted below.
  • Increased speed variance. Slower traffic tends to flow at the posted limit thus increasing speed variance between the fastest and slowest traffic — a leading cause of road rage when drivers do not keep right and yield to faster traffic.
  • Distracted/impaired drivers. Dumbed-down limits encourage distracting activities like texting and contribute to road rage when drivers are too busy to notice someone wants to pass.
  • Increased congestion. Heavy traffic can only move as fast as the slowest car. Lower limits increase gridlock.
  • Punitive speeding penalties. Illinois instituted “super-speeder laws” recently. Under this law a person can go to jail for driving 85 mph in the Chicago area (30 mph over the limit). If enforced our prisons would soon be full.
  • Loss of respect for all traffic laws. When limits are set at 55 on expressways, some will learn to disregard limits on roadways where 55 is an appropriate speed — including construction zones.

In addition, insurers, including AAA, like low limits and speed traps because these enable them to charge safe drivers higher rates without any additional risk.”


Pick a driving issue that you feel passionately about and speak up. The NMA has prepared summary points for all of our issues to help you get started. Every effort helps to combat the disinformation and misguided policies that lead to unsafe traffic conditions as well as needless targeting of responsible motorists.

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