The Speed Limit

The Speed Limit Under current federal law there is no speed limit. The federal government left the task of setting speed limits up to each individual state. The majority of state speed limits went from 55mph and 65mph to 60mph and 75mph respectively. The problem is, this isn’t fast enough. There should be no speed limit in the state of Washington.

In this day of age, people want things as fast as possible. Look at computers and cars and even TV dinners: the faster the better. The same is true on the road. People need to get to places and they want to get there fast. The majority of cars on the road today have the ability to drive much faster than the posted speed limit and many cars can double that speed. Why build cars that fast if you aren’t allowed to use them to their full potential.

It would be like having a computer able to run at 200MHz, but only allowed to run at 100MHz; what’s the point? Currently, there is no federal speed limit1,however, there is a national speed limit set on commercial vehicles.2 So, any state is allowed to set the speed limit to what they want and “any state” means Washington State. The Washington State speed limit should be lifted from all interstate and state highways. The fact is, Washington has one of the safest driving records of any state.3 Since Washington drivers have shown to be safe drivers, they should be given more freedom on the road. The speed limit is based on the 85- percentile speed, which is what speed 85% of drivers are driving at or below. 4 So, taking this into consideration, by lifting the state speed limit all together, the majority of drivers will still drive at 65 or 75 (depending on location) miles per hour.

However, no speed limit would allow those drivers in a hurry to take advantage of this privilege. But, tougher penalties should be enforced on drivers who abuse this privilege (e.g. drunk driving, reckless driving, vehicular manslaughter). The current law for commercial vehicles should be kept the same. The issue of any violation of National Ambient Air Quality Standards5 would inevitably come up. But as statistics show, the majority of people will be driving at the current speed limit, and the matter of even coming close to violating air quality standards does not come up.6 On top of this, cars today are generally built more efficient and safer, with such feature like automatic seat-belts and air bags.

The best way to make a change like this on the state level is to start local and work out. Voices make a difference, so the more support you have the more effective a request will be. Try and gather local support for a plan to lift the speed limit and then contact the regional administrator for the Department of Transportation. In the Wenatchee area its Donald Senn. From there he has contact with the Secretary of the Department of Transportation, who in turn, has close ties with the state legislature, congressional members, the Transportation Commission, and the Governor’s office.

But, just voicing an opinion to the regional administration is not enough. Persistence is the key. Go over the regional administrator’s head and go directly to the Secretary of the Department of Transportation. He can be contacted through the email address . But why stop there? Go a step farther and contact the Transportation Commission who approves all budget and policy d! ecisions for the agency and also appoints the Secretary of the State Department of Transportation. Their email address is .7 The Transportation Commission holds monthly meetings in Olympia, but if you can’t make the trip wait for a local meeting. There’s one on September 8 (my birthday), 1997 in Wenatchee where its possible to voice your opinions.8 The 23 member Legislative Transportation Committee (LTC) reviews the Department of Transportation and takes a look at some of their proposals.

An important part of all this is to have numbers and persistence. Make sure your voice is heard. If a plan like this ever succeeded, the once problem to you would now be reality. But, the chances are that a plan like this would raise a problem with someone else. Someone who is just as determined as you were to take government into your own hands and make a difference.

And so the struggle continues back and forth, but isn’t this what a democracy is all about? 1U.S. News Online, “Speed limits lifted,” [Internet – WWW, URL], http://www.usnews.com/usnews/nycu/spehigh.htm, 20 June 1995. 2Project Vote Smart, “Vote: Commercial Vehicle Speed Limits,” [Internet – WWW, URL], http://www.vote-smart.org/congress/votes/Senate/06 05party.html, 20 June 1995. 3WSDOT, “Interstate Speed Limits: Question and Answers,” [Internet – WWW, URL], http://www.wsdot.wa.gov/communications/speed/faq.h tm, 17 March 1997. 4WSDOT, “Interstate Speed Limits: Question and Answers,” [Internet – WWW, URL], http://www.wsdot.wa.gov/communications/speed/faq.h tm, 17 March 1997.

5Mrs. Usha Ghosh, “National Ambient Air Quality Standards,” [Internet – WWW, URL], http://www.nic.in/envfor/cpcb/aaq/aaq std.html, 13 October 1996. 6WSDOT, “Interstate Speed Limits: Fact Sheet,” [Internet – WWW, URL], http://www.wsdot.wa.gov/communications/speed/facts heet.htm#air quality, 7 May 1996. 7WSDOT, “WSDOT Ombudsman: Who’s Who,” [Internet – WWW, URL], http://www.wsdot.wa.gov/Communications/Ombudsman/w ho.htm, 25 March 1997. 8WSDOT, “1997 Meeting Schedule,” [Internet – WWW, URL], http://www.wsdot.wa.gov/commission/meetings/schedu le97.htm, 1 May 1997.