Wednesday, May 17, 2006

80 MPH Speed Limit


Texas Legislators are considering a bill to raise the state speed limit on certain highways to 80 mph. I love it. In part because, well, I am adolescent enough to really enjoy driving fast. But, let's look at this realistically. Here are a few reasons why this is a good idea, and a way to debunk the detractors.

1) Average Horsepower Increase
The average horsepower for vehicle in 1980 was around 100. By 1995 the average had increased to an average of 150 hp. By 2004 the average had increased to 227 hp! Most people realize the huge jump in power and thus the jump in fuel efficiency at high speed. Let's put it this way... engine rpm's are usually the best indicator of fuel economy. If you were constantly running your 6-cylinder engine at 4500 rpm, it probably would not get great gas mileage. That's likely what would happen with a V6 sedan at 80 mph circa 1985. However, most V6 sedans produced within the last 10 years probably see between 2000 and 3000 rpm at 80 mph. Test it out. With cruise control on 80 mph, your car probably gets 90-95% of its optimum gas mileage. The average vehicle is also much more aerodynamically sound than those of 20 years ago. Have you seen a mid-80's Buick recently? Yikes.

2) Brakes
The brakes in the average vehicle have improved by leaps and bounds over the last 20 years. Newer cars even have sensors that auto-detect rapid approach to slow your car should you have a lapse of attention or whatnot. We can brake from speed at
much shorter distances than we have ever been able to before.

3) Airbags and Overall Safety Equipment
Better headlights, better seatbelts, "smart" airbags, side airbags, better bumpers. Our cars are the safest they have ever been by a
huge margin. Volvo doesn't even bother to advertise it's safety standards anymore because they aren't significant anymore. Every carmaker has caught up. Even GM.

There are lots of arguments to be had here, from the increased use of cell phones and the vast array of entertainment features that distract drivers as negatives, to the above positives. Are people not already routinely averaging 75-85 mph on most highways? All I am saying is that the excuse "I had no idea I was going that fast" is more valid now than ever. With the quiet, power, and safety of our vehicles, going 80 mph is just the beginning of where our speed limits should go. Now, if we can just forego cars altogether and focus on high-speed rail travel.


At 5/17/2006 10:27:00 AM, Blogger said...

bigger font = mui bueno


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