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The Spokesman-Review Newspaper The Spokesman-Review

Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883
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Addicted to speed

Humans generally like speed.  We like it in our daily lives — Internet, fast food, roller coasters, jet airplanes, high-speed rail — speed abounds even in our driving.  That’s no surprise, either, given the plethora of fast cars, trucks, and motorcycles available to us.

But we don’t need a muscle machine to exceed limits — even an econo-car can go 50 mph in a 30 mph zone.  We all know the penalties too — hefty fines (doubled in school and construction zones), higher insurance rates, and even loss of license for chronic offenders.  So why do we speed?  Maybe we just like speed — one of the earliest forms of competition was seeing who could run the fastest.

I have never believed that speed or speeding is categorically unsafe.  It sure can be, but as I’ve said before, I’d prefer that someone exceed the limit to pass me rather than ride my rear bumper.  Speeding is one of the road rules that many drivers like to fudge.  Like the Montanans, who had a no limit free-for-all on their highways until 1974.  Locals there cite the need to cover huge distance as an impetus for speeding — and that might even make some sense.

However, with highway speed limits across the United States at 65, 70, 75 and even 80 mph, I find that the distance I cover at those speeds (plus or minus 3 mph) to be a satisfying speed efficiency for my cross-country trips.  I don’t take the citation risk of speeding.  And in the 25-35 mph zones, the risk (safety and sanctions) taken by speeders perplexes me even more.

A legitimate question to ask urban speeders is, “What’s the hurry?”  Speed is a fruitless endeavor when traveled distance is minimal.  For example, if you are traveling from Spokane to Coeur d’Alene, driving 10 mph over the limit gains you less than five minutes — that’s math. If you are only going from Downtown to Hilliard, the time you can save by trying to average 40 as opposed to 30 mph is about two minutes.

Is it worth the aggravation required to bully your way through local traffic for the minimal time saved given the compromised safety and sanction exposure?

Recently, an impatient driver tailgated me while I drove 32 mph in a 30 mph zone in the right-hand lane of two in the same direction of travel.  Lining up behind me made little sense, because there was a vehicle on my left passing me and he should have got behind that vehicle if he wanted to drive faster than 32mph — he was not turning right either.

When he determined I was not going to speed up for him, he swerved left behind the other guy.  But darned if that guy wasn’t about to turn left, so he swerved back behind me to clear the turner, then careened back to the left lane to blow by me after the left-turner turned.  He stared me down as he passed too — and all I ever did was maintain a constant speed of 32 mph in the right-hand lane.  I always try to imagine a reason behind such poor driving — in this case, I guessed high alcohol or low IQ.

So please try to be aware of your speed in relation to the posted limits.  When you try to justify the speeding on a time basis, the figures just don’t add up.

Readers may contact Bill Love via e-mail at precisiondriving@spokesman.com.



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