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Our Roads Are Nothing More Than Speed Traps, The Speed Limit Lie

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We've heard the message so many times, that we readily accept that high rates of speed on our roadways results in mangled bodies, totaled vehicles and ruined proms. But is it true?

An October, 1992 study for the US Department of Transportation Federal Highway Administration showed that lowering speed limits by 15 mph or raising them by 20 mph resulted in no change in the how fast people drive.

In other words, motorists determined what is reasonable and prudent for the roadway and pretty much ignore speed limits they consider to be unreasonable.

Raising the speed limit did not increase the speed of the drivers, nor the number of accidents.

What happened when speed limits were set artificially low? Lowering speed limits did not decrease accidents, but did increase the number of drivers eligible to receive a ticket to a whopping 67%. This would appear to be a motivating factor for many cities.

“It is interesting to note that compliance decreased when speed limits were lowered and accidents tended to increase. Conversely, when compliance improved after speed limits are raised, accidents tended to decrease,” the report states.

One Canadian study reveals that the slowest 30% of drivers have the highest accident rates, and US federal and state studies show those likely to get in an accident are driving slower than the average speed of traffic. The DOT study showed that raising speed limits actually decreased accidents by 6.7 percent.

If speed limits were set to the level that 90% of the motorist drive, accidents would decrease and drivers would comply. It seems fairly straightforward and logical.

So what do highway departments do?

They set the speed limits so that 50% of the motorists will be in violation. The study found this was standard operating procedure in 22 states. Remember, this is not some arbitrary number, but one that is studied, debated and involves engineers and experts who are aware of these findings. It is an intentional and deliberate act for one purpose only, and that's not to save lives.

And with so many people technically breaking the law, resources for stopping very dangerous drivers are stretched thin.

The entire system is a sham. It is no longer about public safety, but about revenue generation.

One interesting 2007 statistic from Marionville, MO showed that while 99% of speeding tickets received a fine, only half of all drug convictions did. Speeding tickets are a guaranteed revenue stream as fines are often set at such a level that taking a day off from work, driving downtown and parking – along with other hassles make fighting it a loser for most working folks.

Gary Wagner, a professor at the University of Arkansas Little Rock, said found a "significant correlation" between NC revenue and the number of citations. As municipal revenue dropped, citations increased and it was his opinion that this applies across the US. Speeding tickets have become a hidden tax, so it is not in the interest of communities to raise the speed limits, even if doing so makes our streets safer.

The National Motorists Association revealed that Lockheed Martin, one of the nation's largest manufacturers of red light cameras, includes a clause in their contracts that prohibit city engineers from applying engineering practices that improve compliance and reduce accidents. Cities are actively prevented from making camera intersections safer because the motivating factor is to issue as many tickets as possible.

No doubt we all see that it is about increasing government coffers, as evidenced by Arizona, which was projected to raise $90 million from photo radar statewide. It has been shown that when yellow lights are increased, violations drop and cameras are removed from the intersections. It is not that the area has become safer, it is that the ability to generate revenues has dropped. If the goal was to improve safety, yellow lights would be increased and speed limits raised.

In 2003, 40 state highway patrol agencies collected $2.3 billion in revenue (the other ten states don't keep statistics). Speeding is a huge money maker and not just for the ticketing agency, but insurance companies as well, who base premiums on points.

So next time you're driving on a major roadway and wondering why the speed limit is set to 40 mph instead of 50 mph, realize it is not about saving your life. It is so your city, county or state can make more money at the risk of you having an accident.

SOURCES:,2933,490629,00.html ... ot-safety/