Taking the good with the batty

Noted lefty-loon Michael Dresser actually looked like he was starting out with something interesting and sensible this morning:

Tom Hicks knows almost everything there is to know about Maryland highways. He’s 75, and has been the State Highway Administration’s chief traffic safety engineer for 40 years. He’s as frisky and energetic as a new recruit and isn’t planning to retire “till I get it right.”

Hicks is a passionate advocate of safer roads but not a by-the-book devotee of current posted speed limits. In fact, he’s all for raising the speed limit on some Maryland highways.

“We’re really somewhat fraudulent in our speed limits – like on the Beltway,” Hicks said during a recent extended chat at the highway administration’s safety office near BWI.

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OK, that’s a good start. What was next?

Hicks said that on limited-access highways, it’s safest for drivers to go with the flow rather than stick to the legal limit. Based on years of study of driver behavior, he has a high degree of confidence in the judgment of most folks on the road. Except for a stubbornly fast 10 to 15 percent, he said, drivers tend to choose a sensible rate of speed – regardless of the posted limit.

“The motorist is setting a pace based on conditions at the time, no matter what the signs are,” Hicks said. What matters most to safety, he said, is “relative speed.” That is, the less difference between thee and me and all the others on the road, the better.

Hey, it looks like somebody is finally starting to make sense when it comes to traffic policy, speed limits, and law enforcement. And of course, it is a traffic engineer. It’s nice to see that somebody who has the experience and the background on speed limits and traffic flow is speaking out so publicly about how bad state policy is in setting speed limits on limited-access highways.

Of course, never one to actually make a lick of sense, Dresser pipes in with his own poppycock:

My suggestion, for which Hicks is blameless: Increase the prevailing speed limit on roads such as the beltways, Route 32 and Route 100, but couple that with stiffer enforcement, including the use of cameras. Cut the unofficial police zone of tolerance, now 10 to 15 mph, roughly in half.

Next, establish 80 mph – or 20 over the limit – as the Line of Doom for Maryland roads. Mandatory court date for reckless driving. No probation. Big insurance bills. Big billboard campaign.

Yes, this is no less crazy than when Dresser floated such nonsense on Christmas Morning 2006. Of course, this is completely insane assuming that the highest threshold would be 85 MPH on a posted 65 MPH roadway. One can easily and safely negotiate most highways in the region that are outside of the immediate metropolitan areas at speeds of 85 or higher. Artificially limiting speeds at 85 will do nothing but exacerbate the existing problems. It still takes the judgment away from the driver and the police officer and immediately creates a crime that may or may not be happening at the time.

Dresser’s cockamamie plan will accomplish nothing but higher court fees, higher administrative costs and, somewhat ironically, fewer cops on the street to enforce his silly idea.


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