Speed limits and The Divine Right Of Cars

Take eleven minutes to get clear insight into speed limits in a human environment

Social research is not only the province of university departments; you can do a small experiment yourself. Here’s how:

Suppose you see a post about a badass new truck. Post a comment about the blunt front of the juggernaut as it relates to pedestrian safety, and watch the Earth split open. The replies will be a parade of callous disregard for life; How very dare you!? Leftist! Communist! Liberal!

I call this example, and too many related ones, “The Divine Right of Cars.” The automobile has ascended to a human right, equal to gun ownership and any related privilege to dismiss anyone else’s existence with a wave of the middle finger. Nothing learned by engineers, social scientists, or historians can move the needle at all.

As applies to speed limits, locally, one thing that unites city planners, drivers, and law enforcement is the supposition that nothing must ever slow down cars on their way. This is true on Hershey avenue, a racetrack on which a 30 mph speed limit was posted after a car went airborne and crossed an entire creek before crashing into a retaining wall on the other side. It is true on Main Street, where a university straddles a complex street with a 30 mph speed limit.

I honestly don’t know how to crack the armor of this sense of automotive privilege. It helps to realize that streets and pedestrians are as old as the concept of villages, while automobiles have been around for just 135 years. In that time, the car has driven cracks into the fabric of human society, destroying neighborhoods and making streets into kill zones.

  • The streets I’m referring to are in Bloomington and Normal, IL
  • In the Main St. example, very high pedestrian density is seen as a problem of educating pedestrians as cars jockey for position in front of the next red light.