Highway Safety Group Rejects Calls for National 55 mph Speed Limit

July 11, 2008
Reenacting the failed 1974 national maximum speed law is not a solution to high fuel costs or highway safety concerns, says the Best Highway Safety Practices Institute, a nonprofit organization dedicated to advancing best highway safety practices.

The solution is to properly engineer roadways to facilitate the optimum flow of traffic, a prescription that would reduce the total vehicular carbon footprint and improve roadway safety. According to the institute, the future is in educating motorists to drive safely via safety campaigns that promote keep right except to pass, yielding, courtesy and safety practices “that are based in fact.” These programs “create jobs, reduce our carbon footprint, pollution and improve the safety and efficiency of our infrastructure,” according to the experts at the institute.

Civil engineering solutions can help the energy crisis by focusing on:

  • Surface streets and parking lots; where the majority of our fuel consumption, pollution and accidents occur.
  • Reducing time spent idling, stopping, starting, changing speed, hazards, flow conflicts and cross traffic movements while adopting stronger user and access management plans.
  • Utilizing traffic circles that reduce accidents by more than 70 percent, fatalities by more than 90 percent, and fuel consumption, pollution, travel times and overall roadway speeds.
  • Promoting better driving habits, such as taking the time to rest if you're tired and yielding the right-of-way, which improves the flow of traffic.
  • Eliminating traffic flow impeding passive/aggressive drivers, hypermilers and fleet vehicles with speed governors that are set below the natural flow of traffic.
  • Educating slow drivers, reducing flow friction and chaos and addressing the issues of longer hours of driving to reach a destination, fatigue, sleep deficit, poor roadway design and roadside hazards.
  • Examining how roadway design and environment determines the speed of traffic, not the sign.
  • Studying the total carbon footprint, which includes how a policy potentially impacts productivity and its unintended consequences, such as increases in miles driven to accomplish uncompleted task, extra days of energy use for services, hotels, restaurants, etc.

Regardless of actions by a governor or Congress, the institute claims higher fuel prices will bring the following results:

  • Drivers traveling billions of fewer miles, with significant reductions in high risk discretionary driving and lesser rear end collisions, too.
  • Reducing 2008 highway fatalities and accidents, in total and per motorist mile, to all-time lows.
  • Creating reduced traffic volumes that allow more efficient traffic flows, reducing accidents and fuel consumption.

“Public officials are already erroneously attributing all of the above for the success of their program de jour, as justification to further increase automated citations, fines, fees, regulations, more programs and justifications to make traffic stops, the elimination of due process and lower (zero tolerance) enforcement thresholds,” says the institute.

So what can we do to reduce fuel use and improve safety? Go with the flow, be courteous and have our communities evaluate what they can do to improve traffic flows, reduce conflicts and promote safety.

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