* One thing's for sure: our system of roads, speeds, the mutual infringement of pedestrians, pedal power, locomotives and other vehicular traffic --perhaps separated by painted white lines --is nuts.
* It's my expectation that overlaying our crumbling transportation infrastructure with "self driving" cars will prove to be a Donnybrook. From watching a Ford car commercial (5/22/2017) I gather that we already have self parking cars. We apprehensively wait upon news of the first grisly accident, a drawn out court battle over who was responsible, finding the (deep pockets) manufacturer at fault, a bigga recall, and handing the reigns back to people.
* Considering our unwillingness to maintain bridges and roadbeds,
recalling the recent Amtrack accidents in which engineers failed to slow
down for curves, it's hard to imagine our (USA) culture operating European
and Asian style "bullet" trains. However: why not simply run trains at
modest speeds such that derailments are not fatal?
* The single most effective factor in traffic safety is speed. How very cheap and simple it is to save lives and reduce injuries: reduce speed.
Since the kinetic energy of a collision is proportional to the square of miles per hour, an accident at 30mph is 4 times worse than at 15mph. At 45mph, it's (3 squared =) 9 times worse.
* Should you be enamored of "extreme sports", the "need for speed", the thrill of risk taking --then this page is probably not for you. It's a gentler crowd that I encourage to seek out and build alternative ("intentional", "gated"/CC&Rs) communities and lifestyles. I quite discourage vain attempts to impose the rather pastoral ideas which follow upon thrill/stimulous seeking mainstream America.)
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Let's start with some extreme "counter-culture" notions.
* Travel, change, "growth" and even "progress" -- are not inherently "good things". This is a hard argument to make, since we live in a culture/society that's so desperately in need of fundamental changes.
Glimmerings of such understanding are among us. Recall the familiar:
"happiness is in your own back yard", along with the old fashioned admonition
against "change for change sake". (Yes: we all feel needs, both practical
and recreational, to venture some distance away from home. We're talking
matters of degree and range --of course.)
* Perhaps the first argument I hear against drastically reducing our speed limits is: "we don't have the highway capacity". However, being mindful of those public service announcements that we should count a second's worth of travel between vehicles (or a car length between for each 10mph --about the same), a capacity of something like 86% as many cars should pass a given point along a highway at (say) 30mph as at 60mph. (The math here is for 16 foot long cars.)
* Dissent #2 (and maybe #1) is: "it would take twice as long to get there". However: that there "there" --the destination, is pretty arbitrary, is it not? So just why did you decide to build and drive to your cabin on "the lake" for the weekend --instead of somewhere (say) nearer to Canada? Answer: you picked a nice destination that was do-able --at 60/whatever MPH. But then: why not 120mph? With more investment in highways, vehicles and fuel, is that so unreasonable? Would Canada then be reachable from your home?
General Motors' futurecasters at the 1939 World's Fair thought that super highways and 100mph would be routine by the 1960s.
The Panama-California International Exposition of 1915-16 introduced Clyde Osborn's "Electriquettes":
Obviously, if it had been a "given"(and accepted) that the
highway speed limit is (say) 35mph^, then you'd have
simply built a cabin on a lake that was nearer to home --and maybe commuted
to work for a company at about half the distance you now travel, plus:
you'd stand a much better chance of driving to those destinations and
living to a ripe old age --with lower life and car insurance premiums along
the way. (I'm originally from Minnesota, which has lakes, lakes, lakes,
Let's look at a statistically valid reality check: speed versus fatalities. The following tables come from a British study: the "Relationship between Speed and Risk of Fatal Injury: Pedestrians and Car Occupants", by the Transport Research Laboratory, London, using data sets gathered between years 2000 and 2010. (Copyright: The Crown --accurate, attributed, non-commercial use okay.)
Below 50mph, the profile and streamlining of a vehicle is much less important, so boxy, slower vehicles could be designed for comfort (shoulder/hip room, luggage capacity, rain shedding visors over the windows), as well as having more usable interior volume and engine accessibility, due to needing a much smaller engine and radiator. (Perhaps you could pull an engine block by hand.)
* At "parkway speed" (35mph^ and below), air flow over a car ceases to be so turbulent. Open your windows. Listen to nature's birds and crickets. (Hey: try that sometime. It's very pleasant on a warm summer evening.)
At 35mph and below, wild creatures stand a fair chance of getting out of the way, so road kill goes way down --and ain't that nice.
* Not only could engines be significantly smaller at modest speeds, the whole drive train, wheels, tires, and chassis weight gets sharply reduced, so cars become more affordable to build and to purchase.
^** Surprise(!) --it's already been
done! In May of 1942 a national speed limit of 35 MPH was decreed
in support of the war effort to conserve tire rubber and gasoline. The
State of Utah kept track of the results: auto accidents decreased by 35%,
traffic deaths were cut in half, and this was despite a 5% increase of
vehicles on their roads and highways over the same period of time (1941
** And I've somehow gotten this far along without mentioning fuel/battery economy! Fuel consumption goes down with speed, and the more so if a car is designed for the targeted speed range, since it also goes down with the reduced vehicle weight (a factor which dominates at speeds below 50 MPH).
More "car talk" *here*.
^^ Portraits of American Presidents - copyright NBC News/Questar - 1992