Wednesday, January 6, 2016

Logic that makes left-lane travel a bad idea applies to speed limiters, too

A joint rulemaking on mandatory speed limiters for heavy vehicles is parked at the White House Office of Management and Budget for review, so now is a good time to remind everyone that this so-called “safety” measure is actually likely to be a net loss when it comes to reducing traffic crashes.

Last May, Vox Media’s Joseph Stromberg wrote an article explaining the dangers of motorists who tool along in the left lane rather than using it exclusively to pass.

The arguments made by those in the “move the heck over” crowd are the same arguments that should be made for the abolishment of speed limiters. It comes down to safety. Slow-moving vehicles lead to buildups of traffic and raise the chance of accidents.

Taking it a step further, say a trucker in a speed-limited vehicle is trying to get around some Sunday driver who’s cruising at less than the posted speed limit. The driver entering the left lane to pass runs the risk of creating a buildup as he tries to get around the slowpoke in the right lane.

The article cites a 2012 study of road usage patterns that showed traffic jams result “from a surprisingly small number of slow cars obstructing traffic, with their effects rippling outward.”

Every state has some law on the books restricting access to the hammer lane, even for four-wheeled vehicles, because the dangers of clogging the lane are clear.

Research from the Wisconsin Traffic Operations and Safety Laboratory (also cited in the article), again points to something that OOIDA has been saying for years when challenging the efficacy of speed limiters: Variance from the average speed of traffic has a greater chance of causing an accident than speeding in general.

The differential caused by a truck that is restricted from going with the flow of traffic around it (or at least having a fighting chance of keeping up and, when necessary, being able to pass slower-moving vehicles) creates a situation where the rest of the traffic has to slow down and weave back and forth to pass.

Saddling truckers with speed limiters is only going to create those same obstructions and lead to more lane maneuvering and potentially dangerous driving scenarios. 

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