Wednesday, July 10, 2013

I Hate This Commercial

Laws exist, for the most part, to keep us safe.  Sure, there are some strange ones out there (it’s illegal to boo at a sporting event in Louisiana), but most exist to keep people safe from other people.  As a society, we generally accept this, and we accept that there are punishments for breaking the law.  If you rob a bank or murder somebody, then you are going to go to jail.  Most of us have no problem with this.  There are, however, a few laws that most people view differently:  traffic laws, particularly speed limits.

Ask anyone about their most recent speeding ticket.  It will go something along the lines of “I was only going like five miles an hour over the speed limit” or “I was really in a hurry, and it’s not like I was going that fast.”  They will probably even go so far as to blame the cop for the ticket, as if he is somehow being a jerk for upholding law and order.  In fact, Americans will even go to great lengths to help other drivers avoid cops, by posting speed traps and DUI checkpoints on Facebook or by flashing lights at oncoming drivers to alert them to a police officer’s presence.

Compare this to any other crime, and the behavior seems ludicrous.  Imagine coming home to find a neighbor’s house being burglarized; now, imagine that rather than call the police, as most would do, you offer to stand lookout for the thief while he pilfers your neighbor’s DVD collection.  Or, imagine you are caught robbing a bank, and you testify in court that you “only stole a few hundred dollars, what’s the big deal?”

Of course, the difference between these crimes is that one set of crimes is seen as victimless, while the other crimes have a clear victim.  Americans view speeding laws as an inconvenience at the least and as a government money grab at the most.  No one seems to understand that speed limits are not an arbitrary number selected to cause the most trouble on your commute to work, but are instead the maximum recommended speed to safely navigate the roadway in ideal conditions.  It is not the slowest speed you should be going.   

Car manufacturers play into this fetish for speeding, by continuing to create street vehicles that can more than double most highway speed limits.  Cadillac markets its CTS-V as the “Fastest production sedan in the world,” as if that’s something to be proud of.  In the commercial posted above, Mercedes essentially proposes that it’s reasonable to drive like a jackass just for the sake of keeping your daughter’s ice cream from melting.  Seriously?  There’s not an ice cream shop closer to your house, you lead-footed suburban twit?

Let’s pretend, for the sake of the argument, that speeding is not dangerous, it’s just an inconvenience.  How much of an inconvenience is it, really?  How much time is lost or saved by a 5, 10, or even 15 mph difference?

Trip Time at This Speed (MPH)
Trip Distance (Miles)

(times in minutes)

So, for a twenty mile trip, about as long a distance as you’d likely travel in an urban environment (as a reference, north Bossier City to Southern Trace is about twenty miles), you’d have to average fifteen miles per hour faster in order to save ten minutes.  At five miles, you save two and a half minutes by going fifteen miles per hour faster.  Have we really reached a point where ten minutes is that important?  Could you not wake up ten minutes earlier to save that time, rather than endanger the lives of fellow citizens?

Disclaimer:  For the record, I’m referring to driving on surface streets here, those streets with driveways, intersections, stop signs, sidewalks, pedestrians, and lots of other traffic.  I’m not discussing interstate highways and other limited access highways.  On these roads, with little to hit, speed limits could be raised or abolished altogether, except in construction zones and busier sections (such as through cities).

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