Opinion: The government should rethink speed limits

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Opinion: The government should rethink speed limits

Dalton Counts, Staff Columnist

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It is estimated that 225 million Americans possess a driver’s license, a small piece of plastic that gives them the opportunity to operate a vehicle in the United States. So many teenagers look forward to the day where they go to the DMV and take their driver’s test. Almost all adults with a license look back at that day and remember an anecdote of his/her experience. Sixteen-year-olds love getting to drive a car, and I’d venture to say that the 225 million Americans who have that piece of plastic do, too. Of course, not every licensed driver enjoys the task, and maybe those who enjoy the task aren’t necessarily licensed to do so by our government. Regardless, every single American who drives a vehicle is scared of one thing: a speeding ticket. 

Every driver has had that sheer moment of panic when they know they are going too fast, look up and see a police officer on the side of the road. While I have never been the recipient of a speeding ticket, I do know the awful feeling of paying for another violation. There is no worse feeling than seeing blue lights in your rearview mirror. What is interesting is that people continue to speed after experiencing this feeling. If you have received a speeding ticket, have you never “broke the law” by speeding again? It is incredibly likely that you break the speed limit every time you drive, so the question needs to be asked: Why do we even have speed limits? 

The natural answer is to say that these signs are put beside the road to keep us safe. They tell us the reasonable velocity that we should be driving on that specific section of road. The underlying logic of this is reasonable, but do they really prevent that many accidents? When a devastating accident occurs because of speeding, we must remember that the metal sign was still “governing” that road. We must also remember that it was ignored.  Many, including myself, have lost loved ones because a driver was simply going too fast. I am incredibly sensitive to this subject, and it is important for us to value life above all else. However, thousands of American drivers pay fines for safely driving over the speed limit. They would have likely never gotten in a wreck, nor were they ever endangering someone else. Their wallets should not have to suffer because of another driver’s inept ability to safely complete a task. 

Drivers need regulations while on the road. Without this, I could see our streets becoming incredibly dangerous with untold costs: both monetary and physical. The problem is that our government has focused on how fast the citizens are driving instead of all of the other factors. The infamous German Autobahn is often mischaracterized as having no speed limits. This is true for small sections of the road, but the majority of the Autobahn does have “speed suggestions.” Instead of very firm speed laws, Germany has encouraged safer driving by putting stricter enforcement on other aspects of operating a vehicle. For instance, Autobahn travelers are prohibited from passing in the right lane. We need laws, but speed limits are often proven to be ineffective every time a driver wrecks a car. Police officers should be tasked with looking at how drivers are behaving on the roads instead of simply how fast they are driving.