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Too-low speed limits are dangerous

State Journal Register

Tuesday, July 9, 2013  |  Letter to Editor  |  Steve Doner Chicago

Transportation (91)

Concerning pending legislation to increase Illinois’ speed limits and a compromise that may leave final decisions to the counties, limits should be increased statewide, including most Chicago area expressways.

Studies have long shown that speed limits have little effect on the pace of faster traffic.

Unreasonably low limits do not slow down faster traffic but do cause several types of dysfunction which make the roads more dangerous, including:

  • Increased road rage — brought on by the points noted below.
  • Increased speed variance — slower traffic will tend to flow at the posted limit, thus increasing speed variance between the fastest and slowest traffic.
  • Distracted/impaired drivers — dumbed-down limits encourage distracting activities like texting.
  • Increased congestion — heavy traffic can only move as fast as the slowest car. Lower limits increase gridlock.
  • Punitive speeding penalties — Illinois instituted “super-speeder laws” recently. Under this law a person can go to jail for driving 85 mph in Chicagoland (30 mph over the limit). If enforced, our prisons would soon be full.
  • Loss of respect for all traffic laws — when limits are set at 55 on expressways, some will learn to disregard limits on roadways where 55 is an appropriate speed, including construction zones.

Insurers, including AAA, like low limits and speed traps because these enable them to charge safe drivers higher rates without any additional risk.

Steve Doner
Chicago