Tuesday, November 24, 2015

Speed limit fallacy


It seems reasonable to assume that driving slower is safer.  After all if you are not moving, you can’t crash.  You will never get anywhere either, and you can still be crashed into.  While it is true that driving slower reduces severity of accidents there is no evidence that it reliably prevents them.  Most fatal accidents happen at below 35mph!  This is simply because most driving time is spent below 35mph, in locations where collisions are likely to occur, like urban intersections.  On the other hand when all vehicles are going in the same direction at the same speed, as in a tunnel, they cannot collide.  If they do get a little out of sync and collide the severity is reduced.  This is the rationale to build limited access divided highways. The safest situation on traditional roads is to discipline traffic so that the difference in speed among vehicles is minimized.  This can be done two ways.  Draconian enforcement or rational speed limits.  Unfortunately there are not enough police or courts to make the former viable, unless we want to give the police shoot on sight authority, but that has problems of its own.   

It is widely believed that no matter what speed limit is posted most people will cheat by 5 to 10 miles per hour.  Many people also think the police will give them 5 mph or 10% grace. Neither is true.  It has been scientifically established that if there is no posted limit on a highway 85% of the drivers will drive at a safe and reasonable speed for the conditions.  The traffic will thus be self disciplined and inherently safer.  More than half will be within a 10 mph range of speed, with many going slower for personal reasons, and a few going a little faster.  Of course there will be a small number going outrageously faster.  These are the ones enforcement should be concentrated on.  Unfortunately enforcement creates revenue and that can become the motivation for increased enforcement activity.

Untrained politicians and bureaucrats believe in the fallacy, and given the chance almost always decide to post the speed limit 5 to 10mph less than good traffic engineering dictates, 10mph slower that they themselves do drive on the same roadway.  When their prophesy comes true, their solution is to lower the limit by another 5mph.  This has almost no discernible effect on the maximum speed. Instead the traffic gets more chaotic and dangerous, because while small percentage will rigorously obey, the crazies (habitual speeders) will try to drive as fast as ever.  The rigorously obedient will frustrate not only the crazies, but many otherwise safe drivers, who will now tailgate (follow unsafely close) and be tempted to pass unsafely.  A driver who might feel safe driving 55 on a certain highway will probably not take many chances to pass one driving 50, but as the speed of the impediment decreases the willingness to pass increases.  As the motivation to pass increases the conditions under which a driver will attempt to pass deteriorate.  Almost no one would hesitate to pass a farm tractor going 7mph.

Another problem is boredom.  Bored drivers minds may wander or they may get drowsy.  I don't think anyone in a race ever fell asleep at the wheel, but it is  a real hazard on long boring tips at speeds that require more attention to the speedometer than the road.

On a highway the grouping of traffic can be observed.  The slower a vehicle is travelling the closer the following traffic will be, disproportionately closer.  Likewise the frustration and risk tolerance of the following drivers will increase.  On a narrow highway for example a car travelling at 35 will accumulate a large number of cars behind it, with at least one obviously tailgating.  A car travelling at 45 will have fewer cars following, with hardly anyone tailgating.  A driver at 55 will probably have none behind him, until he overtakes one of the slower drivers above.  Too-low speed limits decrease safety.


Friday, November 20, 2015



Or “governments lie”, the expressions are like yin and yang.  For twenty years the governments and all the self appointed safety Nazis told us the lower speed limit was saving lives.  When raising the speed limit to 65 on rural interstate highways in many states lowered the accident rate in those states, we were told oafishly, I mean officially, that the number of accidents on the rural interstates had increased.  Never mind that the traffic had increased twice as much as the accidents, or that statewide the accidents went down.  Governments lie, all governments.
Government also told us that raising the speed limit would not get us to our destination any faster.  American Association of State Highway and Traffic Officials claims a freeway carries the greatest number of cars past a given point at 30, that’s right 30, mph.  When the freeway speed limit was raised from 55 to 65mph the time from my house to the regional airport decreased from 3 hours to 2!
They ignored an important factor.  The faster traffic moves, the less time a given vehicle is on the highway.  If each vehicle spends less time on the highway, there are fewer vehicles on the highway at one time, and they all move even faster.

Government told us “Three Strikes and you're out” would be a mistake, the courts and the jails would overflow if we actually prosecuted felony repeat offenders and made them stay in jail.  The papers were full of anecdotal evidence.  Guess what, crime went down, the courts are getting caught up and the jails are doing as well as ever.  Government lies.  We were already putting repeat offenders in jail for life; we were just doing it on the installment plan.  We were giving the scum a new trial (at tremendous expense) every three to five years instead of just three times. Government insisted on ignoring the obvious:  Criminals can’t commit more crimes when they are locked up, and 80% of the crime is done by 20% of the criminals.  More crime is good for the police; more crime means bigger budgets.  Unfortunately over zealous prosecutors have used three strikes and War on Drugs hysteria to over fill the jails with basically harmless citizens. More crime is good for politics; it gives lots of speech material.  More crime sells newspapers and increases television viewing too.  Everyone benefits from more crime, except the citizens, but who looks out for them? Of course never willing to let a sleeping dog lie, governments started charging everything as a violent felony and simple possession of marijuana earned a life sentence.
Several states have passed laws allowing any honest citizen to obtain a concealed weapon permit.  Politicians predicted carnage and tell anecdotes about individual incidents.  Homicides went down in those states (39 states at last count). Governments lie.
We all expect politicians to lie to get elected, why do we think they will stop once in office.  It’s a lot easier to find or make up a problem to make a speech about, than it is to actually solve a real problem.  Government lies.
 “The whole aim of practical politics is to keep the populace alarmed (and hence clamorous to be led to safety) by menacing it with an endless series of hobgoblins, all of them imaginary.”   (H.L. Mencken) 

The more frightening and less real the hobgoblin, the better.

Sometimes the government avoids lying by simply distorting language to the point where it is unrecognizable.  A fire becomes “rapid oxidation” (accelerated rusting?).  Airplanes don’t crash they “experience rapid energetic disassembly due to uncontrolled flight into terrain resulting from pilot induced instability.”  War is not war; it is “armed conflict.”  This becomes such a habit that it carries over into non-controversial items.  A shovel becomes a”combat emplacement evacuation device.”

Why do governments lie?  They lie because government is about governance, the exercise of power.
 “Government is not reason or eloquence, it is force...” (George Washington)

Those in power do whatever it takes to stay in power and increase that power.  So since lying is the easy way, lying is what they do.  When the liar is a foreign power, we call it propaganda.  When the liar is a dead religious leader we call it miracles.  When the liar is one of our beloved politicians we call it business as usual.
Governments rise to make laws, once empowered they become addicted and cannot stop themselves.  Laws appear for no visible reason except that someone has the power to make laws and makes a law that benefits him, or those who can in turn benefit him in one situation with no regard for how it affects everyone else.
The love of power causes all social organizations (governments, corporations, churches, and families) to deteriorate to a feudal structure; the most power hungry, ambitious, ruthless, s.o.b. rises to the top, those next in line suck up, and so on down the line.  Democracy merely tempers the way that people accrue power, so the succession is more orderly, and less bloody.  We get elected instead of assassinating the incumbent.  Nevertheless power still accrues, not to those best able to serve mankind, but to those best able to grab it, the glibbest liars.  This is why we have a class of politicians.  Their talent is not their ability, just their elect-ability.  Why, for example, would we assume that someone who makes a good legislator, if there is such a critter, would make a good governor?  This makes only a little more sense than the old notion that the best warrior made the best king.

Today most politicians in America favor gun control. Why?  Because, an armed populace reduces government’s power.   The second amendment is about the people’s right to arm themselves in order to protect themselves.  Protect themselves from whom you ask.  Well, from rapists, robbers, muggers, murderers, looters, child molesters, gang bangers and all the other criminals that the police would like us to think they protect us from, but admit they cannot.  It is also about the people’s right to protect themselves from overzealous police officers who break down the wrong door and overzealous government in general.  Did you ever notice that while police chiefs (politicians) are consistently in favor of “gun control” police officers will often advise those with legitimate fear to “Get a gun, and learn how to use it”?
The first thing any dictator does upon seizing power is take over the broadcast stations, smash the printing presses and then go house to house confiscating guns.  The scary part is it’s happening here.  The Campaign Finance Reform act among other things puts a muzzle on independent publications. Do you think that is for the peoples benefit?   No, the thing that all politicians, especially dictators fear is dilution of their power.  All politicians are power motivated, and fear more than anything else, including foreign invasion, an empowered populace, whether the empowerment comes from guns, or truth. 
Ironically the ballistophobic pundits, almost universally in favor of “gun control”, are encouraging would be dictators to do it in the reverse order.  First they came for the guns, but I was not a gun owner, so I did not speak out.  Then they came for the transmitters, but I was not a transmitter owner, so I did not speak out.  Then the came for the printing presses, but I was not a printing press owner, so I did not speak out....
It’s the same way with cars.  Henry Ford did more for the common man than all the political “leaders”' in history put together.  He gave us personal mobility, the ability to “vote with our feet.” at 35 mph, and bring along the family.  Politicians on the other hand feel compelled to restrict the use of cars, or add absurd requirements like arbitrary speed limits, bike lanes at the expense of traffic lanes, or zero emissions.  Why?  Because a man with a car, like a man with a gun, is a free man; he can go where he wants, when he wants, without the government’s permission, and politicians, no matter how they achieved their position of power cannot stand that.