Newspaper editors are a conflicted bunch. They tend to be socially liberal, but there’s one way most of them want the government to crush subjects under a metaphorical boot heel. That’s by speed enforcement.
Editors at The Day want camera enforcement of speed limits I-95 in Connecticut. They sent a reporter onto I-95 with instructions to obey the speed limit.
The slow reporter said, “When a tractor trailer zoomed past me, it was hard not to think about some of the crashes that have happened in the last ten years.”
He gets it! He understands why low speed limits are dangerous. Because misguided drivers might obey them and cause other vehicles to swerve around them or rear-end them. Decades ago rolling roadblocks were a common means of protest meant to show people how stupid the 55 mph speed limit was.
Newspaper editors don’t get it. I feel like I’m in the era of the divine right of kings, unquestionable by mortal men. Obey or die!
That is exactly the false dichotomy created by The Day’s editors. They ask rhetorically “What’s the greater social ill: being recorded and penalized for breaking the speed limit or dying in your car because another driver didn’t have to fear getting a ticket?”
In fact there’s a third option. Disobey and live. They offered no evidence that speed limit enforcement was needed and good evidence that it was not.
Offered the choices of enforcement or death, we should learn from experience and reject enforcement. I wrote about the report on Scottsdale’s speed cameras showing that they hurt more than helped. That was based on the most favorable evidence camera supporters could find. Reality may have been worse. The UK had a similar experience. A few cameras caused the crash rate to rise. When there were enough cameras to scare people into slowing down they didn’t improve safety, they only gathered revenue.
There’s a slight ray of hope. Connecticut DOT staff recently authorized 65 mph on I-84 between Waterbury and West Hartford. 65 is the maximum speed limit allowed by state law. Almost all of the state freeway system should be 65. 20 more miles is at least a small step.
Does that mean the governor gets it? Maybe not. I haven’t heard any reports that the signs, authorized in October, have been posted.
In 1995 a MassHighway engineer told the press that our highways were designed for 70. He didn’t clear his statement with the Governor first. That nail got hammered down real fast.
Speed limits are first and foremost a public relations tool. That’s what newspaper editors don’t understand.
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