Nanny State

Sammy Hagar, Thou Art Refuted! Or Avenged! Or Whatever…


The burden of bad ideas falls upon us unequally. Here's a bad idea that would hit drivers more than non-drivers, courtesy of Matt Yglesias, Ezra Klein, and Kent Sepkowitz. Writes Yglesias:

Thus, via Ezra Klein comes Kent Sepkowitz's suggestion that we design cars so as to make it impossible for them to drive over, say, 75 miles per hour. This seems reasonably sensible to me.

Sepkowitz's idea, as put forth in The New York Times recently, is the triumph of smart-boy thinking over anything as pedestrian as about 30 seconds' thought and research:

Speeding is the cause of 30 percent of all traffic deaths in the United States—about 13,000 people a year. By comparison, alcohol is blamed 39 percent of the time….

The technology to limit car speed has existed for more than 50 years—it's called cruise control. In its common application, cruise control maintains a steady speed, but a minor adjustment would assure that vehicles, no matter the horsepower, never go past 75 miles per hour. This safety measure should be required of every new automobile, the same as seat belts, turning signals, brake lights and air bags.

Sure, it would take us longer to get from here to there. But thousands of deaths a year are too great a cost for so adolescent a thrill as speeding.

Whole thing here.

For starters, there's any number of reasons why you would want a car that go faster than the speed limit. Let's say, oh I don't know, you're rushing a pregnant woman to the hospital, or a Planned Parenthood clinic before the second trimester kicks in, or you're in an RV and being chased down a highway by a bunch of freakin' satanists while on vacation, or you need to accelerate in order to jump off a dock and onto a garbage barge—we can all come up with reasons why a temporary burst of speed and/or speeding would be necessary and preferable to some ironclad dictate from D.C.

More important, however, is the simple fact that on non-interstate roads, where the vast majority of speeding-related fatalities occurs, more deadly accidents happen in speed zones with 45 mph limits or lower than in zones at 50 mph or higher. The numbers are different on interstates, which are built for high speeds anyway. But even there, roughly the same number of speeding-related fatalities in 2005 occured on interstates in 55 or higher speed-limit zones and non-interstates with 35 mph or lower speed-limit zones (think city streets). Look it up.

The problem isn't absolute speed; it's reckless driving in a given context. The solution to that isn't muzzling engines. But I'm sure there's a seamless method of surveilling all drivers at every moment that will not only be effective but impervious to misuse by the police.