Opinion: Why do we keep letting speed limits get absurd?

Nobody wants to talk speed limits, which are getting lower even though cars and roads are getting safer

Opinion Letting Speed Limits Get Absurd Jpg

We find ourselves in all the fastest new cars at MOTOR.

Machines with wide tyres, humongous brakes and prodigious power, designed to scythe through the air at incredible speeds. And we often drive these cars on racetracks and in closed environments where it’s highly inadvisable and sometimes not possible to check the speed. So obviously, very often we drive these cars on the road and think to ourselves, god, the speed limit is low.

Now, we’re a magazine about high performance vehicles that doesn’t need to push its readers to become better drivers – you lot need no encouragement, allocating a great deal of time and money, by way of driver training and track days, to improving your skills. All of us are going to think many speed limits are too low.

Personally, up until this point, I will confess to never really thinking much about speed limits, other than when I get a letter in the mail about the one I exceeded.

Yes, I live in Victoria – which, at its current rate, will in 15 years pass a law requiring you to wear outdoors a hard hat with a spinning orange light on top of it – but whenever a speed limit felt too low, I just wrote that off to myself driving some sort of car that made 80km/h feel like a crawl.

I also had thought to myself, well, most of the population will be in autonomous cars before too long so why would any pollie put their head above the parapet by proposing we bump the antiquated 110km/h motorway limit to 130km/h? Think of the children, etc.

What I was most wrong about, however, was that I resigned myself to the idea that speed limits had to fit every member of the population from Jamie Whincup in a McLaren 720S to Aunty Dot in her KB Laser.

But then I remembered, it’s a speed limit. If a motorist does not feel comfortable at the limit, then go slower in the correct lane. Other motorists may wait until the next overtaking lane, which graciously there are more of than ever.

As I wondered if we’re all getting the speed limit wool pulled over our eyes, I turned to the internet for some clarity. Researching online, as with most things online, left me with more questions than answers, with data and studies stacked to the ceiling for and against raising speed limits.

Some academics advocate a 30km/h limit in built-up areas, presumably to protect against road-crossing daydreamers becoming Darwin award nominees. Elsewhere, municipalities all around the world have raised motorway speed limits with no impact to the road toll.

As ever with these things, in a sea of information and opinions, common sense finds a buoyancy.

Recently, I found myself in a new ZB Holden Calais on the Monash Freeway at 11.30pm on a weeknight, pasted to the 80km/h limit for fear of the plod hiding in some bushes. I was almost the only car within eyesight on this four-lane freeway which runs into the heart of Melbourne. It felt as if I could get out and run faster.

This does not make sense. Neither does 110km/h on the Hume Highway and yes, I’m aware of another magazine’s campaign to increase the limit to 130km/h, that didn’t get very far.

It seems that there are countless entities pushing for lower speed limits despite a majority of the population – not just car enthusiasts – groaning every time a limit is lowered in the face of safer cars, safer roads – and common sense.

So why do we all just keep rolling over and letting it happen?


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