• Apr 11th 2011 at 5:00PM
  • 120
Ever since automobiles first appeared over 100 years ago, every automaker has tried to make them go faster. And they succeeded. Nearly every year, cars became more powerful with higher top-end speeds. But then, in the mid-1950s, we hit a plateau. The national speed limit was set at 70 miles per hour, and we've been stuck at that rate ever since. As a result, the automobile has made absolutely no progress as a transportation device in over half a century.

Speed itself is not a safety hazard. It's the difference in speeds between cars that lead to accidents.
Actually, in 1974, it got worse. The national speed limit was lowered to 55 mph, ostensibly to save fuel and lives (it did neither). Such an agonizingly slow rate of travel proved too much to take for most Americans. We demanded that the limit be raised, and we got it back to 70 mph. Now it's time to demand another raise.

I'm not talking about some sort of modest increase to, say, 85 mph. We need to put a comprehensive plan in place to gradually move the limit up, over the next couple of decades, to 150 miles an hour. And we need to do that with no sacrifice in fuel economy or safety.

Continue reading Opinion: Time to raise the speed limit, how does 150 MPH sound?...

[Image: Getty]

We're literally on the verge of making it almost impossible for cars to crash into one another.
People tell me it's impossible or crazy to design passenger cars to go 150 mph. But do you want to know why German luxury cars are so good? Because they're designed to go 150. In fact, most of them have speed limiters on them. Otherwise, they'd go faster.

Speed itself is not a safety hazard. It's the difference in speeds between cars that lead to accidents. Somebody driving 50 mph while all the cars around them are flashing past at 70 mph or greater is creating a hazard. But if everyone is going the same speed, the situation is a lot safer – even at much higher speeds.

Just like today's Autobahn, some sections of highway would have lower limits, while others would be set at the maximum. The speed limit could also vary depending on the time of day and traffic load.

Before this decade is out we're going to see big strides in vehicle-to-vehicle communication, using radio frequencies and GPS. We've already got adaptive cruise control and radar-controlled braking. Put it all together and we're literally on the verge of making it almost impossible for cars to crash into one another, even if the driver fails to act. In the next decade, we're going to see the first commercialization of autonomous technology, where cars can literally drive themselves. That opens up the door to a 150-mph speed limit on national highways.

A 150-mph speed limit would transform automotive transportation. I daresay no one would ever again take an airplane ride of 500 miles or less.
This technology also creates the opportunity to use what the transportation experts call "platooning." Cars could travel in packs, or platoons, in a nose-to-tail file not unlike the NASCAR guys drafting each other. But in this case the cars would be electronically linked together. And that kind of drafting would produce significant gains in fuel economy.

A 150-mph speed limit would transform automotive transportation. I daresay no one would ever again take an airplane ride of 500 miles or less. It would be so much faster and convenient to drive – no more pat downs from the friendly TSA agents!

Setting this kind of stretch goal would unleash a frenzy of R&D activity, create new companies, grow new jobs, and produce an economic boom much like building the Intestate Highway System did. It's just a matter of getting our heads around the idea.

Back in the 19th Century, Queen Victoria stipulated that any time she travel by train it was prohibited from going more than 40 miles an hour. The thinking was that going any faster than that was harmful to one's health. We laugh at that concept today, just as, later in this century, they'll laugh at us for thinking that driving 150 mph was dangerous.

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      • 4 Months Ago

      Among the traffic laws, speeding is the most unnatural while careless driving, and its derivative, reckless driving, the former monetarily equal to the first speed-exceeding subdivision, are the most subjective, hence all three of them the most abused and profitable.  Except for “Failure to inspect,” and its fallouts, and “Failure to wear seatbelt [sic],” the remainder of the offenses listed in “Penalty Schedule on Reverse” from the obverse referential line are objective and reasonable, the regulations they stem from being functional.  A traffic light, for example, would make no sense if the green stayed all the time on and in all the directions.  It is the speeding law which is most out of joint with reality and out of the context, and as such the trickiest, the most lucrative, the most abusive, and the most commonly charged offense.  The set of the subdivided speed excesses is printed on the ticket in bold face not because it is one of the “commonly charged offenses,” or to give a misleading impression of the most serious offense.  One just needs to parallel the outcome of “Failure to stop or yield” and the outcome of “Speeding-Exceeding the speed limit by.”  A crash, or euphemistically an accident, compared to the arriving at one’s destination ten minutes, or any other time value, quicker, presupposing, of course, no cop’s interference.  The set is printed in bold face because it is the most “commonly charged offense,” and as such it needs to be the easiest to find in the “Penalty Schedule on Reverse.”  But since it is, therefore, also the most profitable, it must be subdivided to allow plea-bargaining, for it is the least justified and the most irrational offense from the practical point of view.  Incidentally, the motoring public are trusted with staying in the narrow confinement of their respective lanes, the lanes’ width indicated merely by a paint job, or in other words, no physical barriers to prevent a deviation from, but not with their speed to travel within.  On a multiple-lane road, an arrangement potentially a lot more dangerous and harmful than speeding, hence the supposition illogical, the drivers are totally entrusted with the task to stay within their lanes by the same self-anointed guardians of the road users, those same guardians who do not deem them trustworthy enough to similarly handle their speeds.  It is because the idea of speeding is based on one of the most idiotic premises, or assumptions, ever conceived.  Should the phrasing be offensive, suffice it to say “based on a false premise,” which is, that people drive to kill and to get killed, thus they must be protected from themselves.  Protected from themselves by whom though?  By the same human beings like the protected, and who, off-duty, are in the same need of protection from themselves as those whom they were hired to protect from themselves, being the same human beings like the protected who must be protected from themselves because they are the people who drive to kill and to get killed.  Yet the original idea of a car, or a horse, for that matter, domesticated to be put to use as a means to make us faster than the nature endowed us with and built us for, was, and still is, to get us from point A to point B at the fastest and the safest speed, since what would be the purpose of to grow up only to seat oneself behind a wheel and as soon as the contrivance starts to move, to bring it to its highest speed and to aim it at something or somebody else in order to kill oneself or somebody else in the process of killing oneself?  How many people would do that or would want to grow up only to do that?  There’ll be always some, an infinitesimal number, the suicidal aberrations, but these are and will be here with or without the unrealistic speed limits and their ostentatious enforcement.  Take it or leave it.  The world is not perfect, the human invented laws notwithstanding.  Were the world perfect, no car would have been invented, either, or the other than natural laws conceived.  It is this inherent imperfection, to a point though, that allows for innovations and improvement of our lot, so to speak, and that tolerates aberrations, to a degree, as well.  One can go only that far in his suicidal tendencies until he reaches the point of no return.  But there is no law, particularly one invented by another man that will stamp out the true criminal elements, not even as much as to curb them.  The problem is that the manmade laws, and the more removed from reality the more so, increase, not reduce, their numbers.  Don’t we all know that the laws other than natural were, and are, invented to be broken so that the parasites have something to feed on, or to cash upon?  That a person like Carter should order to lower the speed limit, regardless of his good intentions to save our money by lowering our gas consumption, is of no concern to him, since being the President, it does not apply to him, there always being an excuse not to abide by it.  And not that an excuse is indeed needed, anyway, being the President.  It is the otherwise law-abiding citizen who pays.  The fact is not lost on the parasitic system.  And the misconception?  Very well known to the system and taken a shameless advantage of by presenting it as a necessary evil in need of constant correction.

             Speeding causes accidents.  Yet it is not the excess of speed per se, for the excess is determined by comparison to a speed arbitrarily proclaimed to be legal and in disregard to the nature of the business of driving, i.e., that people do not drive to get killed, that people drive to get from point A to point B the fastest while the safest, which, of course, means not the fastest per se, the safest being its limiter, the limiter being abused by the system in their arbitrary speed limits, but it is the incessant checking out with one’s speedometer and the incessant looking around for a cop to be somewhere in hiding to nail him for an infraction which is not natural, since it must be continually monitored in order not to allow it to creep in on its own because that is exactly the speed that particular road can take the fastest and the safest at the given time and under the existing circumstances, whether the posted speed limit matches it or not being irrelevant, instead of paying full attention to his task at hand.  A dense fog enwraps a highway with a speed limit of 65.  One can hardly see 20 feet ahead.  Regardless the posted speed limit, nobody drives 65, for the existing circumstance does not permit it.  People drive 25 or less.  Does that mean they will get fined for not abiding by the speed limit?  Yet the concept is applied only the other way around.  Besides, if the speed limit is far below what the road can take and kept to, it induces boredom, blunting the senses and dulling the natural curiosity, a precondition of attention.  This forced fractionalization of one’s attention among the speedometer, a potential cop, and the road, it is the road that suffers the real loss.  Taken into account its multilayered activities and its numerous physical variables, people driving slow, fast, and in-between; people passing, leaving, or entering the lanes or the road itself; small, big, in-between, and over-size vehicles, which let one see or not see past them; unexpected obstacles, like pieces of exploded tires, and other creatures, like deer or moose; and especially the annoying conditioned habit of hitting the brakes abruptly and hard when a cop is noticed before one gets a chance to notice, although doing the exact speed limit so painstakingly adhered to, those critical fractions of a second lost on the monitoring processes many times mean the difference between an accident and its prevention, between death and life ultimately, despite the monitoring has kept one within the bounds of a prescribed speed limit.  Besides making an uncomfortable full sense, just compare the accident statistics within a few weeks before and within a few weeks after the speed limit was raised from 55 to 65.  But, then again, there is always another cause that can be attributed to it, like a slippery road condition (What?  You didn’t know?), which the driver did not pay enough attention to, and hence “Careless driving.”  $85.00.  A speed limit and a cause?  What are you nuts?  Of course, there are some accidents, a decimal percentage, truly caused by speeding proper.  The world is not perfect.  Nor is the fact, once again, lost on the system, though, once again, pounced upon as its justification and touted as its true concern.

             Nor is a fact that people generally “speed” a maximum of 20 miles above a mandated speed limit, for even though it is not the natural speed limit they speed in excess of  by, they feel obligated to follow the law which deviates from its foundation, which is the speed the road can take as the fastest and the safest, allowing themselves just this little liberty to get closer to it, since it is the more natural, and therefore more comfortable, speed, particularly in a group setting, for even the speed they travel in excess of the mandated speed limit is still not the natural speed the road can take as the fastest and the safest.  Nor, again, is the fact lost on the system.  The speed limit the system mandates is artificially kept far below what the road can comfortably accommodate, in order to tease and tempt the nature, its human rendition, into breaking the manmade barrier.  But since 20 miles is what an otherwise law-abiding citizen will challenge, naturally, the speed mandated by the system to the most, the system gradates its speeding invention by degrees of 5 miles to give plea-bargaining its necessary base and to supply it with an ostensible leverage.

             An aside is no more avoidable and is imperatively called for.  The system is not a dead wood, but living people, and it is the living people who turn it into a dead wood, figuratively that is, and figuratively only.  Under the name of whom or of what the system came into existence, it matters not.  The system was put together by living people exclusively, for living people exclusively, and of living people exclusively, since only living people can follow, might follow, and are to follow it.  And it is only living people who can affect, only living people who can change, and only living people who can eliminate it, if they choose so.  But there is nothing fixed about the system, or self-maintaining and self-propelling.  Without living people to run it and without living people to be run over by it, there is no system.  The system is not an immaterial entity but a composition of living individuals willing to abuse other living individuals, yet since the object of their abuse, though a living entity, is an incoherent group, and therefore looked down upon, the system is sold to them as superior because of its own coherence.  Oh, and the gun.  Plus being so profitable.  Still, the general public is supposed, and generally accepts and, since not knowing better, agrees, to take it for a Franz Kafka's The Castle.


             It is these people who generally “speed” maximum of 20 miles above a mandated speed limit who are those otherwise law-abiding citizens, and because otherwise law abiding, the milk cow of the system.  It is this law-abiding citizen who is the target of the speeding law, for it is only he who has an income and hence can be legally robbed of his legally earned money.  “Where do you work, sir?”  With today’s Gestapo and NKVD/KGB approaches to governing, a very much superfluous question, inasmuch as the fact is known to the system the moment a person is hired, only needed to be tapped into, being the part of a profile the most acutely anticipated and looked for.  Besides the bank account information, on tap and needless to say, “needless,” of course, unsubstantiated, considering the government’s well-honed propaganda machine.  Asides aside, the criminal proper has no money to steal from, only time, which he has a plenty of and does not care about, and since he does not care about the time, it is no fun to steal it, or more accurately, it is not even stolen, for it is not valued, there only to be somehow filled, which the system is not interested in, for time is money, but money is not time, and time can buy nothing, only money can, at least as far as the material world goes, the system’s representatives’, and its movers and shakers’, singular concern.  The action against a true criminal is always marginal and a nuisance to the system.  The effective speed limit, or roughly ten miles above a posted speed limit, is not tacitly accepted as permissible, it is a face-saver.  You cannot pretend to be a good-hearted, a benevolent Uncle Sam who is forced into taking an action, and your money, because of your foolish breaking of the law he wrote for your own protection, unless you construct the law to allow you for plea-bargaining.  Bingo!  Tier it, and you take the edge of its non-justification as well.  One swing of a swatter takes care of two flies.  You see, his servant didn’t want to pull you over, you made him, you gave him no other choice.  He would have let you be within ten miles over the posted speed limit, but you pushed it still further, luckily, and gave him no other choice but to pull you over.  But why was the same road, within the same residential area, limited to 25 mph before and to 35 mph after the traffic light?  That’s beside the point.  You’re not supposed to question the rules, you have no qualifications for it, being only its user, you’re strictly supposed to follow them.  And if you really want to know why, check the names of its sections.  Are they the same?  No?  It’s not the same road, they are two different roads.  O.K.  So you truly, but truly, want to know?  The genie’s out of the bottle, fulfilling your wish.  Because the officials of this municipality deemed it fit and wise to determine that one part of the road, the 25-mph part, belonged under the grouping of “any business or residential district,” its other, the 35-mph part, to “any suburban business or residential district.”  There you have it, numbskull.  It was for your own good that you were pulled over, to protect you from yourself.  Uncle Sam is watching over you, and he’s compassionate.  He knows you didn’t really mean it.  The court is not as dastardly as the cop.  The prosecutor will... 

      Verbatim excerpt from Perspective (A Driver's Tale) by Peter Kerestur   pp. 120-125

      • 4 Years Ago
      I'm just curious. How do you propose to go 150mph with no impact on fuel economy? Our Toyota Matrix at 70mph gets 28mpg. At 90 it drops to 24.

      Not to mention we don't have perfect roads here in the US. At 150mph ALL cars become much more difficult to control, with defects, dips, slopes and bumps pulling your car side to side. One of the Veyron SS test drivers once made a comment about how at 200mph, he didn't drive the car, the road did. Granted, 150 isn't 200, but not everyone is a professional driver.

      I'd settle for ~100 mph in the more open/rural areas of freeway, and possibly a 10-15mph leeway depending on traffic/weather/visibility conditions on slower areas.
      • 4 Years Ago
      Is this a joke?! If you slam into a tree at 50mph, you can walk away with a couple of scratches. If you slam into a tree at 150mph, both you and the tree are DEAD! WTF AUTOBLOG! SLOWER SPEEDS SAVES LIVES!
      • 4 Years Ago
      To the genius who wrote this blog and suggest that the speed limit should be 150mph, have yo thought about:

      Fuel economy? Okay, you can say we’ll drive electric or whatever.
      Cars entering the freeway from the ramp?
      Emergency responses during driving? Let’s say you look down to pick up your French fries and 1 second later when you look up you see a car or a brick or a bird right in front of you? With my bad math, at 150mph, the car would be going 220 feet per second, so how fast car you response and how far can you see?
      How long it takes to slow down a car going at 150mph, especially at that speed down to a dead stop such as when you are driving and the free got jammed up with traffic in front of you? Or when you have to take the off ramp? Or emergency braking such as when there is an accident in front or when there is a block of wood or a refrigerator on the road?
      The things that can happen to your car accidentally at that speed, such as a tire blow out, lost to steering and braking?
      Can you effectively swerve from danger at 150mph?
      Do you realize how much worst a flying rock is to your car at 150mph versus at 85mph? You think yoru paint for chip now, wait until the speed double. Even if cars can recognize other cars, can car recognize other things around them? I doubt not.
      And do you realize how much safer and better a car have to be to be traveling at that speed all the time and still be drivable for the many years to come? You’re looking at a car doing +4000rpm constantly.
      Have you ever driven above 100mph on a public road?

      I know that you can argue successfully against all of my questions since there are exceptions to them. And some of the things I say repeated itself. But over all, suggesting that the speed limit should be 150mph is absurd.

      There a lot of major differences between 85mph vs. 150mph. Driving 150mph on empty interstate freeways don’t sound so bad but in general it’s still a bad idea.

      May be in 50 years where car can fly and have shields against laser, photon torpedoes, and other object, we can go 150mph then

      Whoever wrote this blog should be tested for drugs and competency.
        • 4 Years Ago
        Hell not only is it problematic with how long it takes to stop at 150mph, but the skill it takes too. At those speeds it's not just mash the breaks and the car rolls to a stop.
      • 4 Years Ago
      Wow, I thought John McElroy was some crazy kid who wrote stuffs while being high. But, he’s an old man. I thought he should know better. This blog wasn’t written on April 1st either. It goes to should wisdom doesn’t always come with age.

      There are so many reasons against 16-mph speed limite, as I’ve written some of them in my previous rant. I’ve driven at 100mph to 150mph only 5 to 10 times on the interstate with no traffic, light traffic, and medium traffic, and I there is no way I would ever recommend the speed limit be at 150mph. I did it with a couple of rentals and my own cars. I even cruised at 110mph for more than 15 minutes. And at those speed, nothing can be taken lightly. A little tilt of the steering wheel and you’re about to leave the lane you are in. a bi of a wind gush and your car will feel it. The car is over worked. And braking takes forever just to even slow down to a more manageable speed like 80mph. I can’t even try to imagine making a completely dead stop at 150mph if I see like a 16 wheels tipped over within my visual range.
      • 4 Years Ago
      Terrible idea! The roads in this country are dominated by over-sized trucks and SUVs, they would become 150mph missiles, ready to destroy anyone unfortunate enough to be driving a sedan or a compact car.
      • 4 Years Ago
      I agree with your premise and objective, and think the concept that higher speed limits would lead to increased safety and fuel economy an interesting notion.

      However, I would like to see more statistics. I agree that the difference in speed is the main issue. Would a Dodge Cavalier that tops out at 120 mph not be allowed on the interstate at this point? Also, you neglect non-traffic based obstructions, like deer jumping out onto the interstate, or a wrecked vehicle just over the hill. Roads would have to be redesigned to be flatter, straighter, and have higher barricades. All feasible ... but I think an 85 mph national speedlimit is reasonable to suggest as is.
        • 4 Years Ago
        with all due respect, we need a speed limit to how SLOW cars are allowed to travel on the free way, not how fast they can go.

        for a 4 lane high way, the minimum speed should be something like 40 mph for slowest lane, 50 for middle lane, 60 for fast lane. the last lane should be used for passing only. Police should start handing tickets to drivers who aren't driving in the proper lane, or aren't supposed to drive on the high way to begin with.
        • 4 Years Ago

        >As far as poor roads are concerned, then just have the limit lower there. On a wide-open, well-paved freeway, 80 mph is safe. 70mph seems arbitrary when going down an empty straight stretch of the I-5.

        If you can convince the lawmakers to allocate additional $$$$$ towards this effort - especially given the current political climate - more power to you...

        Until then - the "When pigs fly" statement is quite realistic...
      • 4 Years Ago
      I didn't know that autoblog employees were allowed to troll.
      Lowering the speed limit saved between 3000 and 5000 american lives annually. That is MORE than the number that died on 9 11 01. We went to war over those 3000 lives, but we can't drive slower for another 3000 lives?

      As far as fuel saved 250,000 BARRELS per DAY for scale, that's about 1/2 of the largest tanker ever built saved every day http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Seawise_Giant
      • 4 Years Ago
      lets see.. my 2.4 4cyl can get 40mpg going 55

      anything above 100 and that number drops into single digits.

      we are nowhere near ready
      • 4 Years Ago
      We as a country do not teach to drive. People behind the wheel on the road are not 'drivers', they are just there for the ride. And there lies the problem. People have no sense of acceleration/braking/inertia/lane-discipline.

      Raising the speed limit to 100MPH out West on many roads would make sense, along with an intense campaign for lane discipline.
      • 4 Years Ago
      HAHA yeah right my jeep's top speed is 85mph i would be going "to slow"
      • 4 Years Ago
      I doubt this will happen. The insurance industry invests millions of dollars in lobbyists, and they'll have the last say in this...
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