I’ve been gifted with a terrible superpower.
One that is at my beck and call for all hours, day or night; one that fuels me forward as an unstoppable being. I’m talking, unfortunately, of road rage.
I’ve written of this before (in my first-ever editor’s note for Moonshine Ink, teehee), about how as a driving teenager I considered myself invincible in a car. While my feelings of invincibility and my use of unsafe tactics have dropped considerably, I still find myself literally and figuratively shaking my fist at other drivers who minorly inconvenience me on the road. That includes, again unfortunately, people choosing to drive at the speed limit instead of the 5 to 10 miles over the speed limit at which many more are cruising along. (My fist-shaking does not apply to school zones or residential areas, in which I stay honest and keep my irritation in check.)
It got me thinking: Why is it that human beings are — why am I — so intent on going faster and faster all the time in our vehicles?
Let’s lay some groundwork (ahem, roadwork). Many streets within the Town of Truckee and North Tahoe, as an example, are marked with a speed limit of 25 miles per hour. Those that are marked higher are done so based on the 85th percentile speed, per the Federal Highway Administration. Basically, this is the average speed that 85% of vehicles are traveling at or below.
According to a 2021 AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety study, in recent years, some U.S. states and cities have increased speed limits due to rising average travel speeds — that 85th percentile, ladies and gents. It’s not surprising, this upward trend, as cars have become considerably safer and more smooth-riding each year. We drive faster because it’s easier to do so.
But a 2019 Insurance Institute for Highway Safety report revealed that increasing speed limits has resulted in the loss of 37,000 lives over 25 years.
Meanwhile, lowering speed limits has proved in at least one case to decrease tragedy. In July 2016, the city of Edinburgh in Scotland launched a project to lower speed limits on 66 roads to 20 miles per hour. The findings included a 38% drop in annual road traffic collision rates, average speed dipping by 1.34 mph, and throughout all of the city streets marked at 20 to 30 mph — a reduction of 371 collisions per year.
With summer sunshine warm on our skin and snow melted from our roadways, it’s easier to feel invincible behind the wheel — as my 16-year-old self once did — to zoom around our streets and get places faster, faster, faster. But at what cost? Moonshine’s newest reporter, Kyra Mattson, is looking at speeding trends around the Truckee/North Tahoe region. I urge you to keep an eye out for the story, coming soon, by signing up for our enews. We send two to three emails a week, keeping you informed of local goings-on. Sign up at moonshineink.com.
In the meantime, replace rage with respect: Dare to go the speed limit.