The Need for Speed

As you read this, I’m on my way to the Transportation Bonanza in Lansing. I’ll be attempting updates on Facebook and Twitter throughout – see my contact info at the end of the post!


We passed two speed traps on the expressway last week, on our way to drop the girls off with their aunt and uncle for the weekend (yayyyy!). And it got me thinking: I see speed traps all the time on the expressway, but very, very rarely in town. In fact, I’m not sure I’ve ever seen a speed trap in a residential neighborhood (with the notable exception of East Grand Rapids, the only place I’ve ever been pulled over).

And yet… It’s on highways, where drivers don’t face pedestrians, cyclists, turning traffic, or trees that we see speed traps. Really, the only major hazards are deer and other vehicles (and tanks, if you’re in Russia). High speeds are dangerous, but how much does the risk increase between 75 and 85 mph, or even 90? I couldn’t find good data on this – it seems to be up for debate. After all, the road is designed for it.

But we know that there is a dramatic safety difference in going from 20 mph to 40 mph, especially for people trying to live around the cars (i.e., pedestrians and cyclists). So why don’t we see serious speed enforcement on our small residential roadways – the areas where ten miles per hour makes the biggest difference? Is our need for speed just too strong?

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