Many years ago, in a newspaper column on “the real speed limit,” the humorist Dave Barry lamented that a state police officer he knew would tell him the actual speed at which police issue a ticket only if he promised “I wouldn’t reveal his name, or his state or, above all, the speed limit itself.”
Because speed enforcement is so varied from day to day and region to region, Barry suggested states generate income by eliminating speed limits altogether and instead set up “little roadside stands where you could stop your car and pay $5, and a state employee would whisper the speed limit for that day into your ear.”
Ha, ha, ha. What a laugh, right? Any driver on Chicago expressways can relate. If you drive the legal limit of 55 mph on the Tri-State, Kennedy, Eisenhower, Reagan or any other expressway around Chicago, you’ll find yourself in a small minority. And that doesn’t just apply to expressways; drivers on state highways and local roads also seem to generally assume that posted limits are little more than adorable suggestions.
If that’s your philosophy, local and state police throughout a six-state area including and around Illinois are likely to have something akin to Barry’s idea waiting for you today, but you may not find it quite so funny.
Law enforcement officers throughout the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration’s Region 5 - comprising Illinois, Indiana, Michigan, Minnesota, Ohio and Wisconsin - are conducting a special Speed Awareness Day campaign to emphasize the risks and human costs that speeding imposes.
Among them, according to the NTHSA:
• Excessive speed is involved in about a third of all fatal traffic crashes.
• Since the COVID crisis began, traffic deaths have continually increased, with statistical projects for 2021 showing a 10.5% increase, or 42,915 deaths, over 2020 (the highest annual percentage increase the system has ever recorded).
• Fatalities occur most often between June and September.
• Speeding increases the potential for drivers to lose control of their vehicle.
• Crashes involving speeding cause greater property damage and more severe injuries to passengers.
Keep these things in mind as you drive. Speeding is not a victimless crime; it endangers you and every other driver on the road around you.
And if you do have any question about the “real” speed limit, it’s actually not that hard. It’s printed in large letters on signs you can’t miss all along your journey.
Of course, if you prefer, you can always wait for a state or local employee to invite you a little roadside stop where he or she will be glad to whisper it in your ear - along with a bill for considerably more than five bucks.
The Daily Herald