The Need for Speed

There are two philosophies regarding speed limits. One holds that they are speed LIMITS — that is, the absolute maximum you should drive, and you’re probably better off going a little slower. The other holds that the first group needs to get out of the way.

Utah newspapers often print letters to the editor from people who are from the first camp. These letters usually go like this:

“I have lived everywhere in the world, and have also done some interplanetary travel, and I know that Utah drivers are the worst ANYWHERE! Everyone drives so fast! Why, just the other day, I was out driving, and someone passed me going well over 1,000 mph! People, let’s take time to stop and smell the roses! What’s your hurry? Is getting to your destination two minutes faster worth the risk of killing every person in the world with your deadly vehicle? Let’s slow down, enjoy a leisurely pace, and sit on the porch and sip lemonade until our time runs out.”

Here is what’s clear from reading letters like these:

1. This person is fantastically old.

2. This person drives too slow.

In case you haven’t guessed, I subscribe to the second school of thought, the one that says hurry up, and if you’re not going to hurry up, then at least get out of my way, and if you’re not going to get out of my way, then at least die. And so I am glad to read the recent news that Orem is considering raising the speed limits on some heavily traveled streets throughout the city.

One of the thoroughfares is 1200 West, where the speed limit is currently 25 mph. This road goes past my house, so I drive it every day, except for the days when crippling agoraphobia prevents me from getting out of bed. Since I have frequently seen cops sitting around, waiting for people to speed — because 25 feels way too slow on this street — I have learned not to go more than 30. But closer to 40 would feel a lot more natural, and 50, while not natural, would certainly feel very exciting. I get goose bumps just thinking about 60.

According to the committee appointed by the City Council to study this issue, most people already drive about 35 on the roads in question, hence the recommendation to increase the speed limit. It delights me to no end that the city is actually using the logic I would use: Everyone’s breaking the law, so let’s change the law. If everyone would band together and stop paying income tax — and we’d really have to be united here — maybe the government would do away with that, too. In Los Angeles, common practice has already made it so that shooting a stranger is only a Class C misdemeanor, and not a crime at all if the stranger is Carrot Top.

The Orem Police Department is in favor of the increased speed limits, too. Lt. Doug Edwards, public information office for OPD, said last week that if the speed limit is closer to what people are already actually driving, then that means fewer tickets that have to be written. I’m not sure how writing fewer tickets is a GOOD thing for the police department — what else are they going to do all day in Orem? — but I’m certainly in favor of fewer of them being written to me.

Discussion question: If the speed limit is changed to 35, will people keep driving 35, or will they go even faster?

Answer: I will go faster. I hope they do raise it to 35, because then I can drive 45. I always drive 10 mph above the speed limit. If the speed limit were infinity, I would find a way to drive 10 more than infinity — and yes, I’m aware that would destroy all current mathematical theories. That’s how important speeding is to me.

But according to Orem transportation engineer Chris Tschirki, I am in the minority, not just in my disregard for physics, but in my philosophy toward speeding. He told the Daily Herald that most people drive at speeds they’re comfortable with, regardless of the speed limit. So if they’re currently comfortable with 35, they’ll continue to be once the limit changes. All that will change is that they won’t be speeding anymore.

The city has scheduled an open house for April 24 to discuss the possible speed limit increases. Here residents can voice their opinions in a logical manner and then yell angrily at one another for disagreeing. Religion will probably get dragged into it, too. (“Why is everyone speeding when they purport to believe in obeying the law of the land?” “What about the scripture that says to go about your business ‘quickly and efficiently’?” “Why are you making up scriptures?”) The meeting, unfortunately, is being held at the Orem Senior Friendship Center — you’ll notice the words “senior center” there, which means the deck is stacked against the speed limit being increased, unless lead-foots like me show up and outnumber them. Allow ample travel time, because you never know who you’ll get stuck behind on the way.

My version of fact-checking is asking my friends what they think. Mike the Lawyer had to tell me what the lowest level of misdemeanor was (I was thinking "second-class misdemeanor"), and I asked a few people what would happen, theoretically, if something went faster than infinity. Randy pointed out that the closer you get to the speed of light, the heavier you get, which led to some jokes about how he's not putting on weight lately, he's just going really fast. But, alas, no way to work that into the column.

In the initial drafts, it was crippling depression that sometimes kept me from getting out of bed, rather than agoraphobia. But I decided depression was a common enough problem that some readers might think it was true in my case, so I changed it to agoraphobia, which is an actual thing, of course, but not as a) common or b) sad.