A Cynical Look at Speeding Tickets and Speed Limits

Ahh, the familiar flashing lights and irritating siren. What did you do this time?

-Reckless Driving?
-Armed Robbery?
-Possession of Illegal Materials?
-Throwing pennies at other moving vehicles?
-Fishing for Whales in Nebraska?
-Speaking English in Illinois? "The State recognized language is actually written as (American)"

How about driving ten in a five mile an hour zone?
Although it sounds ridiculous, it is perfectly legal for cops to issue tickets on charges like these, and they do all the time. I don't know about you, but I find it extremely difficult to get my car to travel at a constant five miles per hour.

Because people drive machines instead of machines driving people, it is not really possible or reasonable to impose a speed limit of five miles per hour. That is why in most cases you can get a ticket like this dismissed by the judge. There is one problem however, and it is a problem most cops issue tickets knowing full well: Time. (Opportunity Cost in Economic terms)

Alleged Speeder: "This ticket is unreasonable!"

Policeman: "Maybe, but is it really worth your time to do anything about it?"

Even though many are being charged an unreasonable amount, court cases are often scheduled while they are at work or out of town. Although the case can be rescheduled, in most cases it requires the defendant to appear before the judge just to petition for a different date. There is also the fact that they may be better off just working that day, because they make can make more working in the time it would take to get rid of the ticket than the ticket is actually worth. All for driving five miles over the speed limit!

The thing is, it costs the government more money to lower a speed limit. Especially in residential areas. In other words, it costs YOU more money whenever you see a speed limit sign lower than the default residential limit of Twenty-five, regardless of you adhering to these speed limits or not. The only thing that is physically changed are some numbers on a sheet of paper, and all the old signs are switched out for new ones. The problem is that there is so much legislation and bureaucracy involved in changing a speed limit, that the costs of actually doing it are enormous.

In this case a city paid $250 to re-post the couple of signs adjacent to a school from 25 to 20mph.

This problem presents itself not only in America. An example is be this case where citizens wanted to lower the speed limit from 50km/h to 40km/h and that it would cost $500,000. They later opted to simply "remove the old signs and not replace them" because that was a much cheaper alternative.

Some would argue that it is worth the cost, because it forces people to go slower and somehow overall saves money. However, this argument contains a logical fallacy: It assumes that all people will obey the posted speed limit to the letter. Studies show (this is a government site) that changing the speed limit not only does not affect the speed at which most people drive, but distances the legal speed from the speed that 85% of people travel. This causes more accidents because there is a greater variance in the speeds that people are traveling at.

In the endgame, whenever somebody lowers the speed limit the citizens not only get more tickets, but pay more to give out the tickets. This is at a theoretical gain with little evidence to support it.

I'm Sam, and I am not driving 5 miles per hour.

1 comment:

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