‘Variable Speed Limits’ allow Police to Trap Motorists on the Fly: NMA E-Newsletter #454

From Joe Cadillic, writer of the massprivatel blog

A nightmare driving scenario, is slowly making its way across the country as states everywhere begin installing ‘Variable Speed Limits’ (VSL) which allows law enforcement to change speed limits on a whim.

Imagine you are cruising down the highway, obeying the posted speed limit of 75 MPH only to find out that you’re being ticketed for driving 15 miles over the speed limit.

How can this happen you ask?

In cash-strapped America, it is now possible for the police to alter the rules mid game using VSL’s. States like Wyoming, Oregon, Georgia, WashingtonUtah,  New JerseyFlorida and Minnesota have already begun using them.

The U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT) is paying states $1 billion to use VSL’s to create ‘aggressive congestion-relief programs’.

“In 2006 and 2007, USDOT demonstrated its commitment to helping reduce traffic congestion in major urban areas by issuing two Federal Register Notices soliciting cities to apply for Urban Partnership status under the Urban Partnership Agreement and Congestion Reduction Demonstration Programs. The selected cities with the most aggressive congestion-relief programs would receive priority consideration for available Federal discretionary funds (approximately $1 billion) across 10 programs.”

VSL’s are allegedly about relieving congestion and ‘Smarter Highways’.

But how will states pay back the $1 billion?

By ticketing motorists of course.

The Georgia DOT claims VSL’s aren’t being used to create speed traps.

“Our ability to remotely change the speed limit on the corridor is not intended to create speed traps. Rather, the changing speed limits are designed to create safer travel by preventing accidents and stop-and-go conditions.”

States resist speed trap transparency

“States are more than happy to receive their annual share of $450 million in federal cash used to run speed traps and roadblocks, but they are now actively resisting efforts to increase the transparency and accountability of the programs being funded.”

Law enforcement would never use VSL’s to ticket unsuspecting motorists’ right?

An article in the UK Sun claims, police used VSL’s on smart motorways to trap 210,538 motorists since 2013 to May 2017. UK motorists can also lose three points on their driving record for each VSL offense.

And just like the UK, the Washington State DOT claims VSL’s will be used to relieve congestion and reduce the possibility of accidents.

“Ideally, approaching traffic will slow down and pass through the problem area at a slower but more consistent speed reducing stop and go traffic. By reducing stop and go traffic we’re also reducing the probability of an accident by giving drivers more time to react to changing road conditions. This helps drivers avoid the need to brake sharply as they approach congestion.”

But are they telling the truth?

A Washington DOT document reveals that VSL’s are being used to ticket motorists…

“Think of the VSLS signs like a regular static speed limit sign. The speed limit is just that—a limit. It’s the maximum speed you should travel, however you might have to drive slower than the posted speed limit due to traffic or weather. Also, just like a static sign the speed limits are enforceable and you could be ticketed by law enforcement for exceeding the posted speed limit.

An article in KIRO 7 warns, that the state police don’t track how many motorist have been ticketed using VSL’s.

“The state patrol does not keep statistics for infractions on the variable signs, but we did pull speed ticketing for east and westbound I-90 for mile posts between the signs for the past few years.”

The reason they’re not tracking how many motorists have been ticketed for ignoring VSL’s is simple, the public would be outraged. And the USDOT knows it.

A recent USDOT report reveals that the Feds are worried motorists will ignore VSL’s.

“Implementing a VSL system also comes with challenges, including enforcement of speeds that change, driver comprehension, and setting thresholds for speed limit changes…”

“Driver compliance or driver response is a critical factor for effectiveness of VSL systems.”

So how will the USDOT force driver’s to comply?

Under a section titled ‘Legal and Enforcement Considerations’ the USDOT wants states to change their laws.
·    Review State and local statutes and agency policies to ensure that a VSL system is enforceable if a regulatory speed limit is desired.
·    Begin meeting with law enforcement partners early in the process to discuss any concerns and processes for enforcing the VSL system, if enforcement is required.
·    Ensure that law enforcement personnel can safely enforce speed limits with potential safe places to stop violators, if enforcement is required.

The future of American driving is indeed grim. The USDOT wants to send customized speeding warnings to each individual vehicle.

“Traditional VSL broadcasts uniform speed limit information via roadside infrastructure, and emerging connected vehicle technologies can send customized messages to each individual vehicle”.

The Feds want states to change their laws, so they can collect more money from motorists.

For years, law enforcement has known that speed limits are universally too low. (Click here & here to find out more.)

So why would states use VSL’s?

So they can grab a piece of the $1 billion of course.

Driving isn’t a privilege—it’s become a cash cow for the government.

For more information about VSL’s click here & here. For more information about companies that are profiting from VSL’s click here & here.

Editor’s Note: The opinions expressed in this newsletter are those of the author. For the NMA’s FAQ on Speed Limits, click HERE.

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