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Global Skywatch

speed limits

Writer and publisher Ted Speedster1Eric Peters is A Genuine Car Guy. I know, because I am A Genuine Car Guy. We recognize our own kind. His article and video on speed limits below are spot on, inspiring me to share them and a bit more.

In my case, I held road races with my model cars on the floor in our house … amusing myself for hours, days and years … just my models and a little kid who loved cars.

Mom the librarian, concerned I didn’t read enough, brought home books on auto racing and dogs. Turns out I liked reading the good stuff just fine. In later years I was a loyal subscriber to either Road And Track or Car And Driver magazines, sometimes both and occasionally Auto Week as well.

We lived in a curvy, hilly area. Several of the neighborhood boys built wooden coasters, pushed them uphill, then raced downhill. The third prototype I built was a minimalist coaster, smaller and lighter than all others, with innovative lowering techniques, and driven as if driving was serious business. The other boys made me start on the flatter portion further uphill to neutralize my advantages.

I rode my Schwinn Varsity down the firetrails as if there were a prize for lowest elapsed time to the bottom, or I was being pursued by the angels of death.

I was a driver long before The State allowed me to have a license for driving. To this day I am still more focused on the act of driving motor vehicles than over 99% of my fellow travelers. I know. I have ridden with them. I am surrounded by them.

They like to call it “multitasking”. That is a person who is simultaneously paying little attention to a lot of things. As a passenger I won’t make eye contact with a driver who wants to watch me while chatting rather than the road ahead – my contribution to our mutual safety. I will only ride once with Larry the Lounge Lizard as driver – you know the guy: so casual he is almost asleep at the wheel.

Driving is a death-defying task. It deserves your undivided attention. It gets mine … or is at the very least far and away the highest priority when I am at the controls.

The unfocused daydreamers and lallygaggers of the highway discover me suddenly appearing in their rear-view mirror and, conditions permitting, past and out of their lives in short order. Their speed strikes them as the safest speed. I agree. For them it is. Of course if they paid attention to what they were supposed to be focused on, their safe speed would be much higher.

Safe speed is a combination of vehicle and driver. In the examples to the right, the driver/vehicle combination has a much faster safe speed than average. Hillclimbs have been popular for over a century as gravity works for the driver, making speed reductions easy and quick. With very little use, brakes don’t heat up and are always fully available. Thus uphill curves where adjustments come easy are favorites of high-performance drivers in high-performance cars.

I have spent a lot of track time with fellow car guys. Turns out I’m even more of driver than the car guys I’ve played with. I know that because when I swap my “faster car” for their slower one, theirs becomes the faster one with me at the wheel. The Speedster seemed invincible on the tracks only because I knew how to make it dance.

I have driven all manner of Detroit iron, cement trucks, motor homes, sports cars, pickups, wagons, tractors, sport bikes … I’ve owned over 80 different cars … and swapped them all for good reasons… okay, to experience something else. The 1956 Porsche Speedster top right was my love for 20 years, evolving from a rust bucket with three wheels in the grave to a race-tire-class track-record-holder at Sears Point and Laguna Seca in street trim.

My score card thus far: crashes=0, near misses caused=0, near misses dodged=numerous, total brake failures=6, including my cafe-racer, flatbed dump with 80-horse tractor on its trailer, Speedster over 100mph approaching a downhill 180-degree 35-40mph turn … again, without crashes.

I sold the Speedster to finance my escape from The People’s Republic of California, spent 16 years between sports cars until quite recently getting and de-tuning a retiring Honda CRX race car that looks very, very much like the one in the videos above right.

I just ran across an excellent Eric Peters article on speed limits that was reposted in Lew

Eric’s video to the right is a very-well articulated discussion of speed limits. It covers similar turf to the essays above and below, but enough differently that I encourage you to watch it and read his article.

I post just the first part of his written essay below. I really encourage you to go to his website to read the whole thing, see the photos he included, and peruse his very interesting car-guy website.

On This Speed Limit Business

by Eric Peters

What are speed limits, exactly?

I know … a number on a sign.


But why pay any attention to them?

I mean, assuming there isn’t a cop around?

They’re not much use as far as advisories about the maximum safe velocity for a given road. If they were, then everyone (just about) wouldn’t be driving at least that fast.

Probably, they’d be driving slower.

If speed limits meant anything substantive, that is.

Like the redline on a tachometer, for example. That is a real limit.

Most people do not run their engines at or even near redline for more than brief moments. Because the redline is the fastest you can safely spin the engine without risking engine damage.

So they don’t do it.

The idea that driving over the speed limit is risking anything (other than a ticket) is ridiculous.

If that were not the case, then most people wouldn’t “speed” as a matter of routine – because most people aren’t reckless with their own lives or the lives of others.

The fact that speed limits are almost universally ignored (by cops, too) says something about their merits.

Prohibition comes to mind. Another absurd law that was respected accordingly.

But Prohibition went away.

Speed limits are still with us.

It’d be nice if they’d go away, like Prohibition.

It would tolerable if they at least plausibly represented a speed faster than most people on a given road normally drive.

That is, in fact, how speed limits are supposed to be set. Such that most drivers would not be “speeding.” The few who did could then at least be characterized as driving faster than most other drivers and one could then at least make the claim that maybe these people are driving too fast.

But that is not good for revenue – which is what speed limits are really all about.

editor note: I contend they are about CONTROL as much, or more than revenue… to keep training us that we are not FREE; that we are always subordinate to our RULERS.

By purposely setting limits so low such that nine out of ten drivers on any given road are “speeding,” it makes it easier to catch “speeders.” Which means more revenue via tickets issued for this manufactured offense.

So, speed limits have little, if anything, to do with “safety.”

They are useless as far as informing drivers about reasonable speeds for a given (and perhaps unfamiliar) road.

They are not (for the most part) posted on the basis of traffic engineering surveys, as they are supposed to be.