Motor Vehicles and Speed Limits in the United States

1440 Words6 Pages
Since the first gasoline powered vehicle was invented, automobile technology has advanced at a rapid pace to bring us faster, safer vehicles (Managing Speed). Roads have improved from dirt and gravel to asphalt and concrete, and the number of vehicles on the road has increased exponentially. The motor vehicle has become the backbone of today’s society. Speed limits in the United States are at the highest they have ever been, yet vehicles today are powerful enough to easily exceed those posted speed limits. There are two very different groups of people advocating for what a reasonable speed limit is: a group lobbying for extreme safety and a group lobbying for faster travel times. Driving is an inherently risky undertaking no matter what the speed limit is, thus a compromise is tried to be met by increasing safety while allowing for practical travel times. There have been various methodologies theorized in setting speed limits, but which one is the best for today’s technologies and environments? Speed limits in the state of Virginia are set using the Operating Speed Method. The Operating Speed method, or 85th percentile method, uses the speed that 85 percent of free flowing traffic is at or below. The 85th percentile method relies on driver judgment and collects the vast majority of motorists traveling on the roadway. If the speed limit was set 5 MPH below the 85th percentile speed, more than 50% of drivers would be illegally speeding, but if the speed limit was increased 5
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