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Just Say No to 65


By John Rosenthal

THEY SAY you aren't supposed to drive a new car more than 55 miles per hour in the first month or two of driving. They say you'll set the valves wrong and screw up your engine if you do. While I don't know much about cars and know even less about who "they" are, I followed this advice last year when taking my new Hyundai out for a spin.

But it's really hard get to New York City in three-and-a-half hours without doing at least 60. Moreover, it's very difficult to drive 55. I found that no matter how hard I tried, I could not keep the speedometer from topping 60. Without quoting Sammy Hagar, I'd venture to say that while I can drive 55, it's very hard.

Still, this is no reason to make it legal to drive 65. Neither are the improved road conditions and wider lanes on most interstate highways. I'm sure it's quite safe to drive 70 on I-95, perhaps even more so than 55. But even though Congress has said it's okay to raise the speed limit by 10 miles per hour, state governments should keep everybody driving 55.

The reason for this highway heresy is simple: people don't obey the law anyway. Polls show that about 50 percent of the people in most states don't obey the speed limit. The other 50 percent--like those people who say they don't masturbate--are probably lying.

TODAY'S SPEED limit of 55 translates into an unenforced speed limit of about 65 miles per hour. Of course, there will always be the 75 year-old women who--barely able to see over the steering wheel--will drive 50 mph in the left lane and, oblivious to the glare of your brights and the honk of your horn, refuse to let you pass. And there will always be the guys in souped-up Chevy the right lane going 80 and to whom you yell "jeez, what an asshole"--who will break the speed limit no matter what it is.

Raising the speed limit to 65 would probably benefit truckers, who could travel 10 more miles every hour. But the costs of this aren't worth it. The increase in highway fatalities alone would offset this benefit. If one more person died because of an increase in the speed limit, it would not be worth it.

Most of all, however, a 65 mph speed limit would translate into an unwritten 75 limit without beefed-up enforcement measures. Yet for a lot less money than that would cost, the government can keep the unofficial speed limit at 65 by leaving the official limit where it is.

If truckers still are unhappy, let them speed. They probably won't get caught. And even if they do, the decreased shipping time will probably offset the cost of the speeding ticket. If not, then don't speed. But don't make society pay the burden. Increased highway fatalities and excessive police costs are hardly worth cheap shipping rates.

No, I can't drive 55. But then again, I probably couldn't drive 65 either. That congressmen have made the offer doesn't mean the states have to take them up on it.

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