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The Irony of Excessive Speed: A Dilemma on Texas Highways

Irony of Excessive Speed

Introduction:

Irony of Excessive Speed

The Irony of excessive speed is made clear in the attitude toward speed allowed on Texas Interstate Highways. In this essay, I explore the irony and the TxDOT’s data on high-speed crashes and highway deaths that they irresponsibly choose to ignore.

Highways, often considered arteries of modern society, facilitate the smooth flow of traffic, and connect communities across vast distances. However, amidst the apparent convenience and efficiency, an ironic and troubling relationship emerges between highway deaths and the prevalence of excessive speed. The state of Texas, with its pleas for safer driving juxtaposed against high-speed limits of 80 and, in some cases, 85 miles per hour, stands as a vivid example of this paradox. Through specific instances that highlight the logic of this argument, this essay will delve into the inherent dangers posed by excessive speed on Texas highways, illuminating the urgent need for change.

The Irony of Excessive Speed: The Relationship Between Speed Limits and Highway Deaths

In Texas, the prevailing speed limits of 80 and 85 miles per hour serve as an immediate contradiction to the calls for safer driving. While speed limits are set with the intention of ensuring a balance between efficient transportation and public safety, research consistently demonstrates a clear correlation between higher speed limits and an increased likelihood of fatalities. A study conducted by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) found that each 5 mph increase in the maximum speed limit resulted in an 8.5% increase in fatalities on interstates and freeways. This statistical evidence underscores the irony of calling for safer driving while simultaneously promoting higher speed limits.

Speed-Related Crashes and Loss of Control:

Excessive speed significantly contributes to the loss of control over vehicles, often leading to catastrophic crashes. Texas Department of Transportation (TxDOT) data reveals numerous instances where excessive speed played a decisive role in fatal accidents. For example, the statistics indicate that in 2022, nearly 40% of fatal crashes on Texas highways were attributed to excessive speed. This fact highlights the alarming consequences of high-speed driving, where lives are lost due to the very behavior that the signs along the road seeking to curtail.

The Irony of Excessive Speed: Reduced Reaction Time and Increased Severity of Collisions:

Another aspect of the irony lies in the fact that higher speeds reduce the available reaction time for drivers, making it harder to avoid accidents or mitigate their severity. At higher speeds, the distance covered in the time it takes to react to a hazard becomes significantly greater. Consequently, a driver’s ability to steer, brake, or evade obstacles is compromised, leading to more severe collisions and an increased likelihood of fatalities. This reality is reinforced by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), which reports that the force of impact in a crash increases exponentially with higher speeds. Hence, the relationship between excessive speed and highway deaths becomes even more apparent.

Impact on Vulnerable Road Users:

The irony of excessive speed becomes even more pronounced when considering the impact on vulnerable road users, such as pedestrians and cyclists. While speed limits are primarily designed to regulate motor vehicle speeds, the consequences of high-speed collisions extend beyond the confines of a car. When a vehicle is traveling at excessive speeds, the likelihood of severe injuries or fatalities significantly increases in the event of an accident involving pedestrians or cyclists. The Texas Department of Transportation’s data from recent years reveals a concerning rise in pedestrian and cyclist fatalities, many of which can be attributed to speeding vehicles. This grim reality demonstrates that excessive speed not only endangers those behind the wheel but also puts vulnerable road users at an even greater risk.

The Irony of Excessive Speed: Ineffectiveness of Speed Limit Signs:

The presence of signs calling for safer driving seems to be a mere token gesture when juxtaposed against high-speed limits. Studies have shown that speed limit signs alone are often ineffective in curbing excessive speed. Drivers tend to adjust their speed based on the prevailing traffic flow and their perception of safety, rather than adhering strictly to posted limits. In the case of Texas highways, where speed limits are already set considerably high, these signs may have a limited impact on encouraging drivers to slow down. This further exacerbates the irony of promoting safer driving while allowing for high-speed travel.

Alternative Approaches to Promote Safety:

Addressing the irony of excessive speed requires a multifaceted approach. Alongside the reduction of speed limits to more reasonable and safer levels, other measures can be implemented to effectively curb highway deaths. These include enhanced enforcement of speed limits through increased police presence, utilizing automated speed cameras, implementing educational campaigns to raise awareness about the dangers of excessive speed, and improving infrastructure design to prioritize safety. For instance, the installation of physical barriers and rumble strips can help prevent cross-median crashes caused by high-speed vehicles.

Conclusion:

The irony of promoting safer driving while maintaining high-speed limits on Texas highways is a glaring contradiction that demands attention. The correlation between excessive speed and highway deaths, coupled with the impact on vulnerable road users, highlights the urgency of addressing this issue. Mere calls for safer driving through signs and pleas along the roadside are insufficient in combating the deadly consequences of high-speed travel. It is imperative for policymakers to reassess speed limits, improve enforcement measures, and invest in comprehensive strategies that prioritize safety. By doing so, Texas can break free from this irony and foster a culture of responsible and safe driving on its highways, ultimately reducing the alarming rate of deaths caused by excessive speed. Asking people to voluntarily slow down is something like offering thoughts and prayers after a mass shooting. Neither does anyone any measurable good. No, if Texas wants to reduce highway deaths, perhaps it is time to address excessive speed limits that are too often ignored anyway. But at the very least, reducing speed limits will slow down a majority of drivers and consequently reduce highway deaths.

 

By Politics-as-Usual

Roger is a retired Professor of language and literacy. Over the past 15 years since his retirement, Roger has kept busy with reading, writing, and creating landscape photographs. In this time of National crisis, as Fascist ideas and policies are being introduced to the American people and ignored by the Mainstream Press, he decided to stand up and be counted as a Progressive American with some ideas that should be shared with as many people who care to read and/or participate in discusssions of these issues. He doesn't ask anyone to agree with his point of view, but if entering the conversation he demands civility. No conspiracy theories, no wild accusations, no threats, no disrespect will be tolerated. Roger monitors all comments and email communication. That is the only rule for entering the conversation. One may persuade, argue for a different point of view, or toss out something that has not been discussed so long as the tone remains part of a civil discussion. Only then can we find common ground and meaningful democratic change.

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