Sunday, June 15, 2008
One of the changes made by Republicans after they took control of Congress in the 1994 elections was to get rid of the national speed limit. Many states were then able to raise their speed limits, and they did. Some traffic safety groups complained that this would lead to increased accidents and deaths on our interstate freeways. Remarkably, accidents actually dropped after the speed limit was raised. Why? It turns out that what causes accidents is more related to differences in speed that how fast you are going. With a higher speed limit, vehicles are more likely to be driving at about the same speed.
Why do I mention this? Congress hasn't passed another national speed limit. However, we are dealing with a similar situation because of choices made by drivers and trucking companies in response to high gas prices. Many drivers realize that they can save money by driving slower and have chosen to do so. Also, trucking companies are requiring their drivers to slow down in order to save money, or in some cases, actually place devices on their trucks that won't allow them to surpass a certain speed. This means that there are lot of cars and trucks that are driving slower, while others (those who value getting somewhere quickly over saving money, I suppose) continue to go fast. Thus, we have a similar situation to pre-1995 where there are large differences in the speeds of vehicles on freeways. I predict that by the end of the summer we will see a spike in traffic accidents as a result.