Clash of the Titans LV: Speeding

October 23, 2007, 11:30 am; posted by
Filed under Connie, Debate, Steve  | 5 Comments

In this corner, against speeding, is Connie!

And in this corner, in favor, is Steve!

I have six paragraphs to convince you that speeding is bad. These pesky little vices are difficult to argue. After all, we’re all guilty of them, and we can always find justification for an occasional offense. Gotta get to work, or the doctor’s, or school. But set that aside. I’d like to address the deliberate persistent Christian scofflaw.

I don’t think anyone would argue that as Christians, we are called to obey the law, be good examples to our weaker brethren (not stumbling blocks), and not waste the liberty we’ve been given on fruitless pursuits. So I’ll move onto my next point — posted limits are set by the government for reasons of safety and gas consumption. The latest PR campaigns say that for every 5 miles you drive over 55 mph, you pay 10 cents more for that gas in your tank. Why drive all over to save 7 cents a gallon only to waste it by going over the speed limit? To save a few minutes? Just leave earlier!

I want to spend the rest of my space on safety, because I believe the only reason Christians deliberately and consistently speed is that they’re ignorant and/or purposefully blind to the facts. Maybe they just need a little information. When speed increases from 40 mph to 60 mph, the energy released in a crash more than doubles (IIHS, 2003). The economic cost of crashes that involved excessive speed were $40.4 billion, representing 18% of total crash costs, and an average cost of $144 for every person in the United States. In states where speed limits were raised to 65 mph in 1987, the higher limits are causing 15-20% more deaths on rural interstates each year. In states that raised rural speed limits, more than 400 lives are lost each year because of higher limits (IIHS, 2003).

In 2002, 39% of male teenage drivers in fatal crashes were speeding at the time of the crash. In 2002, 38% of all motorcyclists involved in fatal crashes were speeding. The percentage of speeding involvement in fatal crashes was approximately twice as high for motorcyclists as for drivers of passenger cars or light trucks.

When Texas increased its speed limit from 55 mph to 70 mph, the average speed on a sampling of its urban freeways and interstate highways increased substantially. Prior to the increase, 15% of cars on these roads exceeded 70 mph and 4% went over 75 mph. After the increase, 50% were exceeding 70 mph, and 17% were traveling faster than 75 mph.

When you speed as a Christian, you compromise your testimony — strike one. When you speed, you waste money, time and resources — strike two. And when you consistently break the law, you put yourself and others in very real danger — strike three. And you’re not just out, you could be dead — or worse, you could have killed the love of your life, or someone else’s. Try living with that.

I don’t enjoy this. I don’t want to defend breaking the law, even one as soft and pliable as the speed limit. I’m writing this primarily out of duty, but I must admit — I do speed. Not by a lot, but I do. I’m guilty. And you are too.

And sometimes it’s okay.

First, let’s talk city. I drive about 5 mph over the speed limit on city streets, sometimes lower if no one is around, but often a bit higher when there’s traffic. And that’s the real reason I speed — the flow of traffic demands it. It’s one thing to stubbornly stick to the letter (or number) of the law when you’re Sunday drivin’ down a deserted lane, but driving 30 mph on a busy boulevard will get you tailgated and cursed. Frankly, 38’s safer.

And if it’s true in town, it’s even truer on the highway. I drove 700 miles this past weekend — no lie — and 650 of those were on the interstate, where I travel somewhere between 72 and 75 mph. The most dangerous driver I saw was going about 95 mph (again no lie) and weaving in and out of traffic like a maniac. But the second-most dangerous driver I saw was driving 60 and chilling in the right lane of the Thruway. Traffic had backed up behind him for a quarter-mile, leading to dangerous lane changes and sudden surprises for those who came over a hill and encountered the mess. Like it or not, it is not safe to drive the speed limit on an interstate highway. And if you prefer to go 68, or 70, then — like the man told the woman — we’ve already established what you are; now we’re just haggling over the amount.

The statistics on safety, quoted by my opponent, are compelling. Some are even accurate. For instance, it is more dangerous to crash at a higher speed. The data, however, suggest that states that have raised their rural interstate speed limits are actually some of the safest places to drive. Deaths in those states have declined drastically over the past ten years, as they have everywhere. You were 37% less likely to be injured in a car crash in 2005 than you were in 1995, when the national 55 mph limit was repealed. The IIHS is a group of insurance companies, whose motives for publishing such a study may not be entirely pure. They raise your rates for speeding tickets, remember? Of course they like low limits.

But yes, excessive speed is dangerous. I can’t stand any reckless driving, especially when it endangers lives. Neither can the police. So they pull people over who drive 15 mph over the limit, or pay more attention to their phone than the road, or get behind the wheel when chemically impaired. The point of the law is to deter unsafe driving, and the speed limit is designed to accomplish that — with leeway built into the system. Officers can ticket a reckless 70 mph driver without having to resort to some subjective measurement of danger — but they can also let the safe driver continue at the same speed.

So drive safely, at a reasonable speed, avoiding distractions. There’s no deadline — and no text message — worth your life.




5 Comments to “Clash of the Titans LV: Speeding”

  1. Tom on October 23rd, 2007 4:29 pm

    You can’t attribute the lowering of car-accident-injury risk from 1995 to 2005 to thr raising of speed limits. That would seem to stem from a major increase in the safety of the vehicle fleet on US roads during that period, not speed-limit changes. Silly rabbit.

  2. Steve on October 23rd, 2007 4:53 pm

    I didn’t say that higher speed limits decreased injury risk. They just didn’t increase them.

  3. Tom on October 24th, 2007 3:16 pm

    You can’t even argue that, because the increase might’ve been swallowed by a larger decrease due to improved safety features.

  4. Steve on October 24th, 2007 3:38 pm

    Bah, you can still argue it; it’s just up to the reader to make his or her own judgment as to the impact of various factors. Besides, I’m not citing statistics to say it’s safer to drive fast — that’s ridiculous. I’m just trying to show that the statistics from the other side are inaccurate.

  5. Connie on October 25th, 2007 10:09 am

    All of these arguments remind me of the parable of the foolish virgins. If you use up your oil you’ll find that when you really need it -you won’t have any. Now substitute the word grace for oil.

    You can say you HAVE to speed a little and you HAVE to swear to make others comfortable occasionally but really – where do you draw the line? And which side did you end up on?

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