SPEED LIMITS: MAXIMUMS OR MINIMUMS?

Have you ever been driving down the road, seen a speed limit sign, and been confused? If so, this post is for you. If not, then I’d bet that you’ll still thoroughly enjoy the sentiment about to be expressed here. According to Google, and Google’s default dictionary, a limit is defined as ‘a point or level beyond which something does not or may not extend or pass’. Let’s move past the run-on sentence and frightening occurrence of the word ‘or’ and get to the quick and dirty of it.

In the case of driving, the limit would be a level of speed, or a point on your speedometer, indicating where you shall not cross. It’s clear and obvious. Thou shalt not move beyond what thou dost see on the speed limit sign. Why? Because the car may not extend that limit. The car also does not extend that limit – only the people in charge of traffic laws can do that. The car may however pass the given limit since the car can do that, but it shouldn’t. All of this according to the official Internet definition. 

Is that really how we drive, though? Reading the limit as the absolute highest point we can push our engines to go? Have you ever been on a road anywhere? Clearly we use it as the opposite. A suggested minimum, which is why I find the term Speed Limit to be misleading. Also why I can see how it confuses certain people who don’t know the social definition of the term. The driving definition of a limit is the minimum speed I’ll allow you to go before my road rage comes out to play. 

We all know that the actual speed limit falls somewhere between 5-15 MPH over the stated number on the sign. Depending on what state you’re in, what time it is, if it’s a holiday weekend or not, the specific road you’re on, and what the rest of traffic is doing. Those factors all play into your ability to roll the dice with your lead foot. My guess is that you probably have a good idea of how all those key areas play into the common roads around where you live. It becomes a little trickier when travelling, but relying on the general majority of the traffic flow is usually a good indicator. 

By incrementing the stated limit then aren’t we essentially extending it and allowing our vehicle to surpass it? Google scientific theory disproved! Given that all of us are at least aware, even if we still don’t really get it, of the actual speed limits, explain to me the curious case of the snail drivers. These are the ones that see the stated limit and believe that their max speed must fall between 5-10 MPH below that. Below! So if we have someone pushing 15 over, and another person pushing 10 under, we end up with a dangerous gap. And this irritates me to no end. 

For those that feel comfortable hovering in the 0-5 MPH over the speed limit, you do you. I do not care because that’s what passing lanes are for. Unless you’re in the passing lane, in which case, move over. This lane is not for you yet. As a driver, though, I do expect every other driver to be doing the speed limit at a minimum. Why? Because that’s the unwritten law of driving and if you’re doing double digit speeds below what I’m doing that is equally as dangerous as the people who like to push multiple variables of ten past what the sign says.

Say what? Yep, I will die on this hill if I have to. Overly slow drivers are just as dangerous as overly fast drivers. The worst part? They believe it’s safe. I’ll go ahead and say it, nobody, and I mean nobody, except maybe you, on the road is expecting you to be significantly under the speed limit. If it’s 65 MPH and you’re chilling at 52 just because, get off the highway and find some backroads for your Sunday stroll self. That’s a good way to cause an accident. 

If your car genuinely cannot do the speed limit for any number of reasons (spare tire, engine trouble, student driver, etc.) that is fine. We all have to go places and sometimes the highway is the most convenient. Get in the slow lane and put your flashers on. If your flashers aren’t on, my horn will be. However, if we are on a road where the speed limit is 35 MPH, literally zero excuse. 33 MPH is unacceptable. 32 MPH is also unacceptable. 31 MPH for sure is unacceptable. 30 MPH and below is downright insane. There are bike riders who would give you a run for your money at those speeds.

Alright, jumping off my pedestal for now. If you know someone who would enjoy this post and want to share it with them, that would be awesome. Sharing is caring, after all. Don’t forget to subscribe to get these in your inbox twice weekly and follow TRP on Twitter for frequent musings. Thanks for reading!


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