A report and accompanying press release from Down Under shows how our prescriptive attitude towards speed limits is backwards.
Australian researchers asked drivers how fast they thought it was safe to go. They also measured how fast drivers actually went. They rediscovered a phenomenon I have frequently commented on.
In America people drive 70 but insist the limit should be 55. They’ll demand the speed limit past their house be lowered to 25 even though they drive away at 35 every morning.
In Australia they’ll say a certain speed is safe through a work zone, but when you watch them they go faster than that.
Complaining about that is like complaining that a police officer’s speed estimate was not based on arithmetic. A driver got off after a police officer didn’t know how many inches are in a yard. I thought the court’s decision was wrong. You can be bad at math but still figure out if a driver is going dangerously fast or over the speed limit.
Drivers don’t divide kilometers by hours to choose a driving speed. They drive what feels comfortable. They are often wrong if you ask them to self-report that comfortable speed.
This is not a story about work zone safety, as much as the university and media might want it to be. It’s a story about human nature, and it backs up what I’ve been saying about the “do as I say, not as I do” attitude of traffic regulators.
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