The Mayor of Melrose, Massachusetts showed his contempt for the people recently. Faced with overwhelming evidence that everybody thinks the speed limit too low — “It’s not just teenagers. It’s moms, it’s dads, it’s senior citizens.” — he asked police to write more tickets and is working with the City Council to create even more speeders to ticket.
Thanks to a diligent minute-taker, we can find out in detail why councilors support reducing the speed limit.
The only councilor who seemed to have a clue said (as summarized in the minutes)
If the speed limit is dropped to 25 mph, they will see almost every person in Melrose probably speeding. At that point in time, where do the police officers enforce, and who do they choose to enforce this with? […] she doesn’t think this is the time to set themselves up for situations where Melrose police might be selectively enforcing the speed limits […] She knows speed is a concern but it’s usually about people going a lot faster than 30 mph.
The rest talked about the need to “send a good message.” They assumed without evidence that lowering the speed limit would improve safety (repeating the thoroughly debunked myth that people drive X miles per hour over the speed limit). One supported 25 mph because she tried driving 25 mph and “it’s rather refreshing.” Is “refreshing” the new rule for setting speed limits? They didn’t care about racial profiling or creating an environment where everybody was breaking the law and only a few arbitarily chosen people were stopped.
Of course they don’t care about arbitrary enforcement. Politicians, like police, can get out of a ticket by asking “do you know who I am?” (Columnist Howie “no relation to John” Carr has observed that politicians’ driving records greatly improve after they are elected. The courtesy ride home after a drunk driving accident is part of our culture.)
This attitude is why the state used to, and the federal government still does, require that speed limit alterations have a factual basis. Wishful thinking and emotions create a situation where nobody knows or cares what the speed limit is.
Anyway, if you live in Melrose tell your councilor you don’t want speed traps. Most of them don’t care what you think, but they should still hear it.
And if you drive through Melrose you should drive at a speed that makes you feel refreshed. I bet that’s not 25.
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