Save lives by limiting cars to 35 mph?

Following up on Why do we care about COVID-19 deaths more than driving-related deaths? (March 26, 2020) … by shutting down for a year we’ve spent way more per life-year in our attempt to reduce coronaplague deaths than I ever could have imagined. If we infer from this how much saving a life-year is worth to us, it would be rational to limit cars and tracks, nearly all of which are electronically controlled, to 35 mph. Consider that most people who die in car accidents had many decades of life expectancy in front of them, unlike the typical 82-year-old victim of COVID-19.

An SUV-driving suburban Bostonite who runs his own law practice (representing workers’ compensation plaintiffs who aren’t typically expert computer users and who therefore prefer to meet in person): “I go to work every day at 80 miles per hour.”

Obviously setting the speed limit to 35 mph and relying on police enforcement wouldn’t work. For one thing, our heroic law enforcement officers don’t want to interact with potential COVID carriers (all who want to be vaccinated have been vaccinated, but many refused the experimental (“investigational”) vaccines and it is unknown whether the vaccines work against variants).

Most states have annual inspection requirements. How about insisting that engine control software be updated in order to get an inspection sticker? The update will prevent the car from exceeding 35 mph. New cars, obviously, can be limited via regulation.

How can Presidents Biden and Harris sell this to the American people? “You were happy to sit at home for a year when we told you it might save lives. You can wait an extra 10 minutes to get to Walmart.”

A potential #resistance household in Key West:

And these two in Miami may need a long spell in the re-education camp:

21 thoughts on “Save lives by limiting cars to 35 mph?

  1. Reductio ad absurdum is an ineffective strategy when so many embrace the absurd.

    The world is really just a globe resting on the shell of a giant turtle. What does the turtle stand on? — Another turtle. It’s turtles all the way down.

  2. We must continue decreasing the speed limit until we reach the goal of zero deaths due to car accidents. This is the stated goal of this organization: https://nsc.org/road/resources/road-to-zero/call-on-president-biden-to-end-traffic-fatalities

    Government leaders have touted zero covid deaths as a reasonable goal, so zero car accident deaths certainly would be too. Actually it seems more reasonable since, as you note, we have much more direct levers for controlling car accident deaths than covid deaths. No way to permanently install a mask governor on people’s faces… yet!

    (The best part of the link above is where they point out that People of Color are disproportionately involved in fatal car-on-person accidents. So if you oppose lowering the speed limit to stop accidents, not only are you selfish, you’re also a racist!)

  3. > Obviously setting the speed limit to 35 mph and relying on police enforcement wouldn’t work.

    Yes it would. I got stopped by a cop yesterday for having a blown tailight bulb. They’ll pull you over, they’re not afraid of you.

  4. Moreover, most of the people in this country readily surrendered their important civil rights almost a year ago because of an airborne respiratory virus that nobody can control. But they actually believed the government could control it, so they said: “How far do you want me to bend over?” After this, everything is easy. The Biden Administration has the easiest job that any Presidency has ever faced. If the MIT Technology Review and the rest of the media says we should all slow down to 35 MPH, it will be DONE. There is absolutely no amount of obedience that cannot be extracted from the American people, we’ve proven that conclusively!

    • Alex, you are right about the obedience.

      What Phil’s post misses is that the 35-mph speed limit will be sold to the public as a needed reopening strategy for the economy after the Great Climate Lockdowns of 2030 or so.

      Two weeks to restablize the power grid!

      At that point, all new cars will have cloud hosted software, so there will be no need for law enforcement. Simply push a software update via executive order, and voila! Pedal-to-the-metal maxes out the cars at 35 mph. If you dare complain about it, your social media accounts will be instantly deleted for insurrection.

    • @Steve: I think we are already de facto in the Great Climate Lockdowns. The level of control over people, businesses, and individual survival and future prospects – including students – is far too wonderful for them to roll back or surrender. We’re never going Back to Normal.

      MIT Technology Review is the most prophetic publication in the Western World.

      “This isn’t a temporary disruption. It’s the start of a completely different way of life.”

      It was clear to me when I read it that it was the usual MIT style of understatement, as in: “A 100 megaton nuclear explosion is a big firecracker.”

      https://www.technologyreview.com/2020/03/17/905264/coronavirus-pandemic-social-distancing-18-months/

      They didn’t say: “We’re not going back to normal….for a while.”
      They didn’t say: “We’re not going back to normal…until we achieve herd immunity.”
      They didn’t say: “We’re not going back to normal…except once everyone is vaccinated.”

      And all you have to do now is change the word “coronavirus” in the first paragraph to “coronavirus, and increasingly climate change” or just: “our existential crises.”

  5. The technological answers are simple. There are already speed-control measures in force in most European cities. Just ask Mike Bloomberg! He’s already on top of it, waiting for the rollout.

    • No need for bubble wrap, just a 5-point harness (we already do this for babies who can’t object) and a HANS device.

    • @Philg, @Paul A. Sand, et. al.: The HANS device has a very interesting history with NASCAR. The NHRA (drag racing) adopted it in 1996, but didn’t make it mandatory until 2004. In NASCAR, the biggest catalyst was the death of Dale Earnhardt at Daytona in Feb. 2001, in a string of other fatalities: “Earnhardt was the fourth NASCAR driver killed by basilar skull fractures in an eight-month span, following Adam Petty in May 2000, Kenny Irwin, Jr. in July 2000, and Tony Roper in October 2000.”

      https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/HANS_device#History

      Still there was widespread resistance. And then: “On October 4, 2001, in an ARCA race being held in conjunction with the fall NASCAR racing weekend at the Charlotte Motor Speedway, Blaise Alexander was killed in a two-car incident while battling for the lead in the final laps of the race.[10] Coincidentally, the other driver racing for Alexander for the lead was Dale Earnhardt’s oldest son Kerry Earnhardt. The younger Earnhardt’s car flipped on its roof after Alexander went into the wall, but he was in the lead when the race was halted with four laps to go. Due to carnage of the accident, the race was never restarted, so Earnhardt was declared the winner.[10] NASCAR mandated use of the HANS device in its top three series on October 17, 2001.[11]”

      In an interesting twist, it took the input of a female NASCAR engineer to improve the device – making it easier to “unstrap” – Ashley Tilling.

      “Acceptance by drivers was helped by the addition of quick-release shackles developed and implemented by Ashley Tilling. They were sourced from the marine industry, being used on racing sailboat rigging.”

      First of all: yes, Virginia, there are “NASCAR Engineers.” And some of them are women! Second of all: Leave it to a woman to think of a better way to unstrap something useful but occasionally uncomfortable, eh?

    • This is super interesting! In the link I shared above they claim that at least some types of traffic fatalities disproportionately impact People of Color. I wonder if there is a net transfer of organs from People of Color to white people. That would put a whole different spin on the organ donation system – a Pulitzer waiting for whoever can write that one up!

    • “transfer of organs from People of Color to white people”

      I’ve read somewhere, from multiple sources, that blacks are greatly under-represented as organ donors.

      Wisconsin dad meets man who has daughter’s heart…
      https://youtu.be/LZxUKNTV3Xo

  6. The speed limit should actually be 17.5 mph.

    In NTHSA NCAP crash tests cars are driven into a barrier at 35 mph, and consequently many design decisions are based on that speed. To ensure maximum possible rider protection, the speed limit should be half of this design speed, so that relative speed in head on collision does not exceed this value.

    • Anonymous: That’s a great idea. It would protect pedestrians and cyclists to a significant extent. If we can wait an extra 10 minutes to get to Walmart we can wait an extra 20 minutes. #SaveLivesDriveSlow

      Folks in Southern California wouldn’t be slowed down much at all since their average speed on the freeways isn’t much higher than 17.5 mph.

      (The software could also be smart about using a speed of 35 mph on divided limited access highways on which the chance of a head-on collision is very small and 17.5 mph on two-lane undivided roads. See roughly 7 minutes into https://youtu.be/VOK9QW21VPo (from the movie To Live and Die in L.A.) for an exception to this general rule.)

    • I think we have gone full circle. I know our fine host Phil is being somewhat sarcastic with this post and the entire concept. Obviously it’s silly to make cars run slower to “save lives”. What Phil might not realize is that this is actually being done in Los Angeles. Our leader Eric Garcetti wants to see 0 traffic deaths by 2025 so he has been closing traffic lanes on any of our streets that do not experience grid lock.

      https://la.curbed.com/2019/3/28/18285763/eric-garcetti-vision-zero-road-diets

  7. Laugh all you want, but here in California “transportation” planners have sold local governments on “vision zero”, which, at a practical level, means constricting and snarling roadways to the point that you can’t drive more than 25mph on them, in any car. Search for “road diet” or “traffic calming” if you don’t believe me.

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