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Old 05-21-2008, 08:07 PM   #1 (permalink)
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Should we lower back to 55MPH to save gas and the planet?

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View: With Gas Prices Rising and the Planet Warming, Is It Time To Drive 55 Again?
Source: Wired
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With Gas Prices Rising and the Planet Warming, Is It Time To Drive 55 Again?
With Gas Prices Rising and the Planet Warming, Is It Time To Drive 55 Again?

By Doug Newcomb May 21, 2008 | 2:49:07 PM
Categories: Emissions, Fuel Economy

Congress adopted a nationwide 55 mph speed limit law during the oil embargo of the 1970s and threatened to withhold highway funding for any state that didn't comply. It repealed the law 13 years ago, when oil was cheap and gas plentiful. But with prices going through the roof and everyone worried about global warming, there are increasing calls for Congress to bring back the double-nickel speed limit.

Advocacy groups like drive55.org say rolling the speed limit back to 55 will save fuel, reduce pollution and save lives. It seems logical, but not everyone is convinced slower speeds bring any real benefit, and the debate is heating up.

"Sheer physics tell you lower speeds equal better fuel economy, fewer injuries and lower emissions," said Justin McNaull, director of state relations for AAA. "But what happens when you change the speed limit is a little less clear."

It depends upon who you want to believe.

Connecticut adopted the nation's first vehicular speed limit 107 years ago today - setting the maximum speed at 12 in the city and 15 in the country - and people have been ignoring them ever since. Congress set the limit at 55 mph under the National Maximum Speed Law of 1974. The law was repealed 19 years later and the states allowed to set their own limits. Most of them bumped it up to 65 mph, although some went to 75 mph and there are stretches of highway in west Texas where you can cruise at 80.

The U.S. Department of Energy says gas mileage plummets above 60 mph and says every 5 mph above that speed is akin to paying an additional $0.20 per gallon for gas. But the American Heritage Foundation claims 12 years of 55 mph speed limits cut fuel consumption by just 1 percent. After Congress repealed the National Maximum Speed Law and 33 states raised their speed limits, the Cato Institute said traffic deaths dropped to a record low.

More than fuel economy and traffic deaths are at stake now. "Emissions increase pretty appreciably above 55," McNaull says. drive55.org claims Washington state would cut CO2 emissions by 10 percent if it cut its 70 mph speed limit by 15 mph. But even here, the evidence is debated. The Automobile Association in England claims reducing the speed limit from 30 mph to 20 on residential roads would increase CO2 emission by more than 10%.

drive55.org also says the average speed people travel on the highway has been rising for 20 years. McNaull notes that advances in vehicle deign, such as better windows and sound proofing have changed peoples' sense of how fast they're going, which is one reason people regularly exceed the posted speed limit. "Doing 60 mph in a 2008 vehicle feels a lot different than in the vehicles our grandparents drove."
cue up the Hagar... I can't drive 55!!!!

I can drive 55, I can drive whatever the posted limits are. Because I don't agree with them, generally the traffic is flowing faster than posted, I judge based on how I learned to drive in California.

I haven't looked around to see what the graphs are or data is about how much fuel comsumption raises when driving over 60MPH. "As a rule of thumb, you can assume that each 5 mph you drive over 60 mph is like paying an additional $0.20 per gallon for gas." I don't buy that....

So what do you think? If we reduce the national speed limit back to 55MPH will we save more gas? Will there be a direct benefit from doing so?
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Old 05-21-2008, 08:50 PM   #2 (permalink)
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I live in New Jersey and no one here pays any kind of attention to the speed limit. They can set it at whatever speed they want but people will still go as fast as they want to go.
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Old 05-21-2008, 09:39 PM   #3 (permalink)
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NJ drivers must be a lot like MI drivers, then. Man, these motherfuckers are CRAZY. I can drive 85mph through the middle of town and be one of the slower ones on the road.

I highly doubt that there is enough law enforcement present in the gas-guzzling, speed-addicted USA to enforce such a drastic change in our driving habits. I don't think it would do much at all, honestly.
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Old 05-21-2008, 09:45 PM   #4 (permalink)
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I support it whole-heartedly. There is a parabola of efficiency in all vehicles. Very few cars are efficient over maybe 63 mph. Mine is around 61 mph for it's most efficient. The faster I go over 61, the less efficient I am. By the time I'm at 130, I might as well be driving in second gear.

Moreover, money from those caught going over the speed limit should go towards paying for solar cells for the city. Cover bus stations, city buildings, etc. with solar cells that will help to offset the fuel burned creating electricity.
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Old 05-21-2008, 09:51 PM   #5 (permalink)
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Why not just make engines over a certain size outlawed? It would give you the same result and probably be easier to police. (Obviously if you *need* a hummer, there will be opportunities for exemptions)
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Old 05-21-2008, 10:11 PM   #6 (permalink)
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Maybe we spend more time/money teaching people how to drive better. Just because you know how to parallel park and pull away from the curb doesn't mean you are a good driver.
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Old 05-22-2008, 02:00 AM   #7 (permalink)
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Put everyone in a diesel, thats a more realistic alternative to 55mph, or actually develop some fuel efficiency in those yankie battleships of yours.
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Old 05-22-2008, 02:01 AM   #8 (permalink)
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Quote:
Originally Posted by spindles
Why not just make engines over a certain size outlawed? It would give you the same result and probably be easier to police. (Obviously if you *need* a hummer, there will be opportunities for exemptions)
If you need a Hummer, you should have your tubes tied/have a vasectomy. We don't need those genes moving on.
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Old 05-22-2008, 03:06 AM   #9 (permalink)
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If It didn't take 35-40 minutes to drive to work when going 75mph on the highway I'd be more in favor of going slower.

I remember my dad.. then sister... then grandpa.. then my dad again having a 1989ish Chevy Sprint.. Had 400,000 miles on it and got 52mpg. It was a stick shift but it had an air conditioner and cassette player. Now, We have Hybrid Gas/electric that are getting more milage than anything else on the road.. yet.. They're stilling only pushing 35-40mpg on a good day. Tell me why we can't bring back some of these light-on-features automobiles. We could easily make them more stylish and they don't HAVE to be hatch-backs..
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Old 05-22-2008, 03:54 AM   #10 (permalink)
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Tell me why we can't bring back some of these light-on-features automobiles.
Because we are a fat, sassy society that thinks our vehicle has to have more bells and whistles than the next guy?
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Old 05-22-2008, 04:00 AM   #11 (permalink)
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Originally Posted by Fotzlid
Maybe we spend more time/money teaching people how to drive better. Just because you know how to parallel park and pull away from the curb doesn't mean you are a good driver.
I was taught how to be a good driver, but I still know from my physics class: that the faster I go, the quicker I get to work. Being taught something doesn't work when one is indifferent to those Red on the Road videos.


I support this but enforcing it would be a bitch I think. Outlawing engines over a certain size would be much easier to standardize in automobiles.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Willravel
Moreover, money from those caught going over the speed limit should go towards paying for solar cells for the city. Cover bus stations, city buildings, etc. with solar cells that will help to offset the fuel burned creating electricity.
Why not start off putting this money towards public transportation composed of hydrogen buses, first. Then once enough are in place, start it towards city wide solar energy.
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Old 05-22-2008, 04:26 AM   #12 (permalink)
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My car gets 40mpg going 55mph.

My car gets 32mpg going 70mph.

On my 300 mile trip home, it will take me 4 hours and 15 minutes at 70mph, it will take 5 hours and 25 minutes at 55 mph. So, is it worth saving 1.875 gallons ($7 now) if it takes 1 hour and 10 minutes longer (7.5 gallons vs 9.375 gallons)? It is a 20% reduction in the amount of gas I would need. Will this cause everybody to be on the road longer meaning more traffic jams (which use more gas, my car gets 24 mpg in city driving or stop & go)

The best bet would be to mandate every car sold sin 2010 has to be a hybrid. This would help with fuel use wasted in traffic and short trips around town.
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Old 05-22-2008, 05:37 AM   #13 (permalink)
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(Obviously if you *need* a hummer, there will be opportunities for exemptions)
Damn, I totally need a hummer right now... I haven't had any in a few days. A Hummer, however, I have no need for.
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Old 05-22-2008, 05:54 AM   #14 (permalink)
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Legislating this kind of thing just totally twists me the wrong way. Set speed limits where you want them to be, enforce as required, use fines for any good cause you see fit, and then leave me the hell alone.
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Old 05-22-2008, 06:01 AM   #15 (permalink)
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This sounds like another band-aid solution. Congress needs to start looking at initiatives that will actually have an impact, such as funding (or more funding) for:
  • Biofuel production and distribution
  • Energy efficiency technology
  • Public transportation infrastructure improvements (both local and intercity)
  • Urban planning and redevelopment

This speed-limit thing sounds a lot like that daylight savings shift we got pulled into, which is also questionable.
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Old 05-22-2008, 07:25 AM   #16 (permalink)
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Originally Posted by Hain
Why not start off putting this money towards public transportation composed of hydrogen buses, first. Then once enough are in place, start it towards city wide solar energy.
Being in San Jose, a place that tried using hydrogen busses, I know it's not worth it yet. The tech isn't cheap enough yet. We spent a lot of money on those damn things only to have them cost twice what everyone was expecting.
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Old 05-22-2008, 07:39 AM   #17 (permalink)
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Being in San Jose, a place that tried using hydrogen busses, I know it's not worth it yet. The tech isn't cheap enough yet. We spent a lot of money on those damn things only to have them cost twice what everyone was expecting.
I wonder if this economic interpretation includes the benefits of how clean these burn, and the global economic impact of higher emission vehicles, or is this initial cost only? Also, somebody has to pay for the R & D or it'll never get more economical, so the higher initial costs include that.
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Old 05-22-2008, 07:50 AM   #18 (permalink)
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They burned perfectly clean, but there were only a few of them (SJ has hundreds). I was at the "town hall" meeting and strongly suggested investing in solar power to convert water to hydrogen, but I was ignored.
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Old 05-22-2008, 08:24 AM   #19 (permalink)
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Should we lower back to 55MPH to save and the planet?
Sure, why not. I like to drive fast but when we're talkin about savin a whole planet? I can slow down. Will it help? I don't know, but if its thought it might do some good why not? Again, a whole planet. In the meantime, checking out alternatives to buy and developing others is the way to go dont you think?
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Old 05-22-2008, 09:56 AM   #20 (permalink)
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Sheeeit, how about we just do away with dumbass automobile racing like NASCAR?

It would save more gasoline than trying to enforce something we already have that doesn't work: A 55 MPH speed limit which means "do 64" and a 65 MPH speed limit which means "don't-do-faster-than-85-its-reckless."

Example: Virginia and New Jersey's $1000 speeding tickets and yet... I still get zoomed on the highway by some guy in an Eclipse doing 85.
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Old 05-22-2008, 09:58 AM   #21 (permalink)
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Originally Posted by Crompsin
Example: Virginia and New Jersey's $1000 speeding tickets and yet... I still get zoomed on the highway by some guy in an Eclipse doing 85.
Oh, uh, sorry about that. At least I signal when I change lanes!
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Old 05-22-2008, 10:43 AM   #22 (permalink)
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Old 05-22-2008, 11:43 AM   #23 (permalink)
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Should we lower back to 55MPH to save gas and the planet?

I'm more worried about the onslaught of misguided social conditioning rather than saving gas or the planet for that matter.
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Old 05-22-2008, 11:59 AM   #24 (permalink)
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The only benefit that comes from 55 mph speed limits is the truckloads of revenue local municipalities would collect. All in the name of saving the kids.

Of course, what gets me is how the automobile is seen as the root of carbon evils even though it doesn't even account for 25-percent of greenhouse emissions.

Whatever benefit there might be from this reduction will simply be offset by the increase in the construction of coal plants elsewhere.

Why not target all sources instead of just going after the low hanging fruit?

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Old 05-22-2008, 12:08 PM   #25 (permalink)
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Originally Posted by Baraka_Guru
This sounds like another band-aid solution.
Exactly my thought. It's beneficial effects are highly questionable.

If the speed limit is lowered, congestion increases. It's a simple formula and could be viewed as an analogue to the Bernoulli principle. So with lower speed limits you get people wasting gas by idling or going too slow instead of going too fast.The net change is likely to be very small.

That, of course, assumes that people obey the new speed limit and fails to address the social aspect. People know that cars are safe up to higher speeds these days and are likely to get frustrated with arbitrarily low limits; given that, the adherence to such a law is questionable.

Outlawing a class of engines doesn't work either, because there are a lot of people who do need bigger vehicles. Farmers and truckers, for example, both need towing power and cargo capacity. Granted nobody needs a car that goes 200 mph, but there's a very large and very profitable enthusiast community based around such vehicles, so outlawing them doesn't really work either.

Americans (and Canadians, for that matter) screwed up by making their roads too wide. If we had narrower streets nobody would buy the great big SUV's because they'd be impractical and frustrating to drive. Can't fix that now, though.

Seriously, there are better ways to save the environment. Assuming global warming is as big a deal as everyone seems to think, economic pressures will drive oil powered vehicles off the road long before the Earth turns into an EZ Bake.
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Old 05-22-2008, 12:09 PM   #26 (permalink)
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Originally Posted by Baraka_Guru
This sounds like another band-aid solution. Congress needs to start looking at initiatives that will actually have an impact, such as funding (or more funding) for:
  • Biofuel production and distribution
  • Energy efficiency technology
  • Public transportation infrastructure improvements (both local and intercity)
  • Urban planning and redevelopment

This speed-limit thing sounds a lot like that daylight savings shift we got pulled into, which is also questionable.
I agree with everything on your list with the exception of biofuel. It costs more, screws with the carbon levels and takes away from our food supplies. Plus it isn't as fuel efficient and costs more than gas. What's up??
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Old 05-22-2008, 12:45 PM   #27 (permalink)
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I'm more worried about the onslaught of misguided social conditioning rather than saving gas or the planet for that matter.
We've always been at war with East Asia, Winston...
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Old 05-22-2008, 12:55 PM   #28 (permalink)
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...screws with the carbon levels...
Could you elaborate?
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Old 05-22-2008, 01:19 PM   #29 (permalink)
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I do what I can, as far as keeping my foot off the throttle as much, just to save my pocket book. It has helped some. Mileage has increased from an average of 24mpg to 28mpg. This in a 240,000 mile and twenty year old engine.

The hot rod has been parked due to a blown engine, but with premium gas around $4.15, and a city mileage of 12mpg, and race mileage of about 3mpg, it's not so bad that it is resting. Highway mileage is in the mid 30's, though. But, average mileage is around 21mpg.
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Old 05-22-2008, 02:45 PM   #30 (permalink)
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Honestly no one really does pay attention to the speed limit. I usually go at least 10 miles faster than what is posted.
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Old 05-22-2008, 03:36 PM   #31 (permalink)
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I agree with everything on your list with the exception of biofuel. It costs more, screws with the carbon levels and takes away from our food supplies. Plus it isn't as fuel efficient and costs more than gas. What's up??
Fair enough, but I would rather use sources such as switchgrass and waste vegetable oil. They exist in abundance and could even be increased greatly. All that is left to do is find an efficient means of producing a usable fuel and distributing it. I would like to see solar power make its way into the equation as well.

Extra funding for research and development will eventually bring the prices down. It would create jobs too.
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Old 05-23-2008, 04:36 AM   #32 (permalink)
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Fair enough, but I would rather use sources such as switchgrass and waste vegetable oil. They exist in abundance and could even be increased greatly. All that is left to do is find an efficient means of producing a usable fuel and distributing it. I would like to see solar power make its way into the equation as well.

Extra funding for research and development will eventually bring the prices down. It would create jobs too.
This quote from an article in today's issue of USA TODAY titled Moviegoers eyes could pop at the price of popcorn: http://www.usatoday.com/money/indust...n-prices_N.htm

"Increased popcorn costs. Higher oil prices have increased popcorn farmers' costs, such as for fertilizer and fuel.

And then there's the ethanol factor. Demand for field corn, used for animal feed, products such as high-fructose corn syrup and, increasingly, ethanol, has caused its price to explode. That's caused some farmers to shift from popcorn to easier-to-grow field corn, cutting supply and pushing its price higher, too."


I agree that using those other sources for biofuel would be a better idea but no one is going to have an incentive to invest while reaping the benefits from corn. Also, anything we grow still requires lots of carbon to produce. I suspect you'll see a lot of trees cut to make way for other fuel crops, like was done with palm oil, which also hurts the carbon issue since we'll be cutting down even more of nature's carbon filtration system.

I also heartily agree with solar power along with wind and nuke plants. We are so far behind the Europeans!!! I have a nephew just graduating with a degree in nuclear engineering who is having to go to France to complete an internship!!
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Old 05-23-2008, 05:49 AM   #33 (permalink)
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Honestly no one really does pay attention to the speed limit. I usually go at least 10 miles faster than what is posted.
Do you just not care if you get a ticket?
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Old 05-23-2008, 07:57 AM   #34 (permalink)
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Do you just not care if you get a ticket?
Everywhere I live they pretty much give yu 10 mph over.
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Old 05-23-2008, 08:02 AM   #35 (permalink)
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Do you just not care if you get a ticket?
Yeah, in Ontario anyway, going 10 over won't get you a ticket. The cops wait for the guy going 20 over or more as that is the bigger fine and holds up better in court.
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Old 05-23-2008, 08:19 AM   #36 (permalink)
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s'truth. I was actually going 122 on the 401, had a police car right behind me for a couple of km, keeping pace. Then he passed me and was gone. So he spotted me 22 over the limit.

I think that the police just manage the situation. Unless they are in a fishing zone. The Bloor street viaduct is a wide open 4 lane bridge that just begs for you to drive at 60, or 80 while the limit is 50. At 50, you feel like youare holding up traffic, but the cops put a radar trap at the end, and just haul out drivers for going 55 or higher. Is it a safety or awareness campaign? Not that I can see. It's a cash grab.
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Old 05-23-2008, 08:35 AM   #37 (permalink)
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The Bloor street viaduct is a wide open 4 lane bridge that just begs for you to drive at 60, or 80 while the limit is 50. At 50, you feel like youare holding up traffic, but the cops put a radar trap at the end, and just haul out drivers for going 55 or higher. Is it a safety or awareness campaign? Not that I can see. It's a cash grab.
Ugh... I hate that spot. It's such a cash grab for them. When my wife's brother was a rookie on the force, they would spend some time there collecting.
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Old 05-23-2008, 09:33 AM   #38 (permalink)
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Oregon doesn't have the manpower to enforce a 55-mph speed limit strictly. Speed limits here are 55 in urban/suburban areas and 65 on the open highway, yet they are largely unenforced because OSP is more concerned with catching reckless drivers (those driving in excess of 20 mph above the posted speed limit and those changing lanes recklessly). I don't disagree with their policy. If reducing the speed limit came with an increase in funding for state patrol, I see no problem with it; if it does not, I don't see how it can work in a state with little enforcement as is.
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Old 05-23-2008, 09:59 AM   #39 (permalink)
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Man here in NC they will give you a ticket for 10 over in a heartbeat. 15 over and you're majorly busted. I've witness 5 over tickets as well. If you pass a cop in NC going more than 5 over you're almost guaranteed a ticket.
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Old 05-23-2008, 10:22 AM   #40 (permalink)
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On the highways in the GTA, you will easily see average speeds of 75 to 80 mph (120 to 130 kph) on a 62 mph (100 kph) limit when there isn't gridlock. Any slower and you'd best stay out of the way.
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Humankind cannot bear very much reality.
—From "Burnt Norton," Four Quartets (1936), T. S. Eliot

Last edited by Baraka_Guru; 05-23-2008 at 10:24 AM..
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