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[aprssig] Star Wars..

AA3JY at Winlink.org AA3JY at Winlink.org
Wed Feb 1 16:38:50 UTC 2006


Now..does this sound familiar..?

Star Wars Speed Trap
 
GPS being used to catch speeders
By ERIC  PETERS

Like tearing off that sticker on mattresses that  warns us not to 
"under 
penalty of law," most of us don't pay much attention to  speed limits. 
Five to 10 
over is the rule, not the exception -- as any survey of  average 
traffic 
speeds will confirm. We vote with our right foot every time we  get 
behind the 
wheel, countermanding the diktats of the local bureaucrats who  erect 
limits that 
are frequently well below what large majorities (better than  85 
percent, if 
you want an actual figure based on traffic surveys) consider  
reasonable rates 
of travel.

But what if driving faster than the  posted limit became an 
impossibility?

For years, this has been “The  Dream” of safety-badger types, who 
equate any 
deviance from often  arbitrarily-set posted speed limits with mowing 
down 
small children in a  gigantic SUV with really loud mufflers, one hand 
on the 
wheel, the other  clutching a half-empty fifth of Jack Daniels. They 
pushed for 
mechanical  governors (which never flew) and even managed, briefly, to 
get a law 
passed that  required all new cars to be fitted with speedometers that 
read 
no faster than 85  mph.

Now, however, the technology exists for a great leap forward --  or 
backward, 
depending on your point of view.

The Canadians are  testing out a system that combines onboard Global 
Positioning Satellite (GPS)  technology with a digital speed limit map. 
It works very 
much like the in-car  GPS navigation systems which have become so 
common on 
late model cars -- but  with a twist. Instead of helping you find a 
destination, 
the system, prevents  you from driving any faster than the posted speed 
limit 
of the road you happen  to be on.

As in a conventional GPS-equipped car or truck, the system  knows which 
road 
you're on, as well as the direction you're traveling. This  information 
is 
continuously updating as you move. But in addition to this, the  system 
also 
acquires information about the posted speed limit on each road, as  you 
drive. 
Once your vehicle reaches that limit, the car's computer makes it  
increasingly 
difficult to go any faster.

Ten vehicles equipped with  this technology are currently being tested 
in the 
Ottowa area; if the trail is  "successful," a wider series of tests is 
planned. And it's a sure bet the entire  thing will eventually be the 
object of a 
very strong-armed push aimed at making  it mandatory equipment in every 
new car. 
"We are trying to assess the  operational acceptance issues," says 
Peter 
Burns of Transport Canada's road  safety directorate.

But is all of this really necessary -- or even a  good idea?

For one thing, if current speed limits are so sensible,  why do so many 
of us 
disobey them routinely? Are large majorities of us simply  indifferent 
to our 
own safety and that of others -- even though we seem capable  of 
behaving 
responsibly in other aspects of our lives?

Or are speed  limits often set unrealistically low?

And if they are, wouldn't it  make more sense to adjust them so that 
they 
reflect a more reasonable consensus  -- based upon how we actually 
drive -- 
rather than constantly pushing for new  ways to compel compliance with 
limits that 
most of us clearly think are too  low?

Bear in mind that for 20-plus years, we were relentlessly nagged  by 
the 
self-styled "safety lobby" (and its profiteers in the insurance 
industry)  that to 
exceed the sainted 55 mph limit was "dangerous speeding" that put  
ourselves 
and others at risk. Yet when Congress finally repealed the 55 mph  
limit in 
'95 -- and most states raised their highway limits to 65, 70, even 75  
mph in 
some cases -- highway fatality rates did not increase as predicted. In  
fact, 
just two years after the majority of states increased their maximum  
highway 
speed limits, the total national highway fatality rate reached an  
all-time 
record low of 1.64 fatalities per 100 million vehicle miles traveled  
(VMT).

This proved that driving 65 or 70-something mph on a highway  was not 
"unsafe." The big difference post-'95 was that you no longer had to  
worry about 
getting a ticket for doing it.

The same issue exists on  many secondary roads, where under-posted 
limits are 
routinely ignored by most  drivers -- but vigorously enforced by radar 
traps. 
Like the tickets issued to  people under the double nickel, the use of 
radar 
to nab motorists exceeding  these under-posted limits is justified on 
the 
basis of "safety" -- even though  most of us know that driving five or 
10 mph 
faster doesn't in and of itself  constitute unsafe driving any more 
than doing 65 
or 70-something mph did under  the old 55 mph NMSL.

And sometimes, it's necessary to accelerate  rapidly in order to avoid 
an 
accident -- even if it means momentarily exceeding  the posted limit.

But Canada's little experiment could bring a  screeching halt to all 
that -- 
literally. Dumbed-down limits -- and dumbed-down  driving -- would 
become much 
more than the law of the land.

They  would become an inescapable way of life.

Some might welcome a world  in which driving faster than whatever the 
speed 
limit happens to be is  impossibility. But it might be more 
common-sensical to 
post realistic speed  limits -- and deal with the handful of drivers 
who won't 
or can't drive  reasonably -- than to treat every driver on the road 
like the 
irresponsible  one.





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