Editorial: Speed limit 35 — everywhere

Speed kills or seriously injures, and on North Whidbey the toll keeps mounting.

Over the last weekend of February, a woman riding as a passenger in a speeding sports car was killed, and in another accident a 17-year-old driver was badly injured when his speeding car went off the road.

Each year half a dozen people are killed on Whidbey Island roads. Expand outward and the toll mounts exponentially, to some 40,000 nationwide. The worldwide total no doubt dwarfs that figure. Throw in the number of people injured and maimed and we’re dealing with a human catastrophe every day.

If terrorists killed and injured this same number of people the U.S. would come to a virtual standstill. Citizens would rise up to demand action from their government; they’d be afraid to leave their homes except, perhaps, in slow-moving convoys. Young people would never be allowed out on their own, for fear they would be injured or killed by the terrorists.

But since we’ve grown accustomed to carnage by automobile, we drive past the twisted metal with only a curious glance, or keep toll by watching the nightly news where the victims are never shown screaming and bleeding.

What would happen if society started taking death and injury on the highways seriously? Someone might make a modest proposal, such as making the maximum speed limit 35 miles per hour, everywhere.

At that speed, death and serious injury would be rare. But the vast majority of people could still commute to work in an hour or less. Small towns would get an economic boost, as it would save time to shop locally more often. Parents could let their kids go out on Friday and Saturday night without worrying they might never see them alive again.

Vast quantities of oil would be saved, slashing our dependence on Middle East dictatorships. An automobile speed limit of 35 would reinvigorate mass transit. The U.S. could build high-speed trains between cities, as people would leave their precious cars to save time. Pollution would decrease, and the number of mass transit design, construction and operating jobs would skyrocket.

As with all modest proposals, this one will not be taken seriously. It’s better to drive as fast as we want and not concern ourselves with the consequences. Until it happens to us, and then it’s too late to care.

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