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« Political Correctness | Main | Amsterdam Infographic »

Driving the limit

Driving my car yesterday I saw a bumper sticker that made me chuckle; it said, “I’m retired: Just go around me.”

The reason I could relate is because I am also retired and I want a bumper sticker that says, “I drive the speed limit: Deal with it.”

I started driving the speed limit a few years ago when gas prices started to go sky high. I used to follow the herd and drive 5 mph over the limit; then one day I realized how ridiculous that was. I was retied, so why was I in a hurry to get anywhere?

By driving the speed limit I am not only saving on gas, I am saving on wear and tear on my vehicle; my brakes, my tires, all saving me money. By driving the speed limit I am relaxed; I don’t have to be constantly looking in my rear view mirror for a cop car.

Even if another driver does something stupid, because I am driving slower I have more chance of stopping and avoiding an accident.

When it rains I often drive under the speed limit, and I increase the distance between myself and the car ahead of me. This is defensive driving 101; yet it drives other’s crazy. They tailgate me constantly, they try to intimidate me, but I refuse to be bullied.  

I’m retired; can’t you see I’ve got white hair to prove it? Deal with it.

What makes ‘em really mad is when a traffic light turns orange and I can safely stop, so I do. Quite often the driver behind will lay on the horn, and throw his hands in the air in frustration.

How crazy is that? Think about it; an orange light is a warning that the light is about to turn red. It is a signal to stop if there is a safe distance to do so; it is not a signal to speed up and get through before it turns red. People are honking at me because I am being a safe driver and using a traffic signal in the way it is intended.

Close to 100 people die in auto accidents every day in the US. Most could be avoided; they are caused by people driving too fast and driving aggressively. Why? It is unnecessary. Just leave home with enough time to get to where you need to be, and drive in a relaxed, safe and sane manner.

Driving fast is only a habit. I am now in the habit of driving the speed limit and it has become second nature. I also drive the speed limit because I am a cyclist. When I am riding my bike I am sometimes harassed and even placed in danger because of car drivers who are just simply impatient.

If a cyclist complains about drivers who honk at them, or squeeze by too close when it is not really safe to do so; then they jump in their car and drive in the exact same aggressive manner, they are hypocrites and they have no cause to complain about the behavior of others.

If someone owns a car that can do 0 to 60 in 4 seconds, it doesn’t mean they have to. If a cyclist is fitter than the average person and can ride faster than most, doesn’t mean they should at all times. It is unlikely that a cyclist will exceed the speed limit; however, a cyclist can often be riding too fast for certain conditions.

It annoys me when cyclists collide with pedestrians; it doesn’t happen all that often but it should never happen. I began riding a bike over 60 years ago, and I don’t recall ever running into a pedestrian.

It annoys me even more when cars run into cyclists. I always say, “If you can’t drive down a road without running into a cyclist, maybe you should not be driving a car.”

By the same rule if you are riding a bike in a crowded city or on a bike/walk path where there are pedestrians a cyclist needs to slow down.

Forget that the pedestrians may be deep in conversation that they don’t hear your call of, “On the left.” Or that they are listening to music, or talking on a cell phone; people have annoying shortcomings.

If I have learned one thing in my old age, it is that life is simpler and more pleasant if you forgive others their transgressions. No one is perfect, many less perfect than others; but it doesn’t help matters by retaliating either verbally or by aggressive driving or riding.

The person driving behind me and getting angry because I am driving the speed limit would be better off just relaxing and just following along; he will still get to where he needs to be. Of course he can’t see that, but by the same rule, am I any better if when riding my bike I get angry because a pedestrian slows me on the bike path.

Being an ass doesn’t make the assholes go away, it only adds to the asshole count. Ignore them and in time they cease to exist.



Reader Comments (19)

You would really like Tom Vanderbilt's "Traffic: Why We Drive the Way We Do (and what it says about us)".

December 6, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterRachel

Dave, this reminds me of a scene from Twin Peaks (the movie):

FBI Special Agent Dale Cooper: You know why I'm whittling?
Sheriff Harry S. Truman: Okay, I'll, I'll bite again. Why are you whittling?
FBI Special Agent Dale Cooper: Because that's what you do in a town where a yellow light still means slow down, not speed up.

December 6, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterThe Tashkent Error

I'm not even retired and I find that the more I ride the slower I drive. If there aren't any cars around me "pushing" me to go faster I'll find myself going 10 below the limit.

Weirdly, distances that seem "close" to me by bike seem to take forever in a car. I used to have a 15mi each-way commute to a nearby suburb, and I rode every day as is my wont. It always took about an hour: no time at all! Then one day I had to drive for some reason and it took FOREVER. Like almost THIRTY MINUTES. Intolerable!

I've experienced the same sensation driving along routes I have toured: "ah, it only took me eight days to ride the length of the Oregon coast but it takes NINE WHOLE HOURS to drive it!"

I think the illusion of speed — always available, seldom obtained — makes driving miserable. On a bike, I can only go as fast as I can go, which is coincidentally always fast enough.

December 6, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterPaul Souders

Dave, speed limits have always been a controversial issue. Ideally, speed limits should be set using the 85th percentile rule, the speed at which 85% of the traffic would travel if not restricted. However, for political or monetary reasons, they are always set much lower. That is why most drivers go 10%, 20% or more over the limit when it's safe and comfortable to do so. Often the police themselves drive well over the limit when they choose to, not necessarily when they need to, just because they CAN. That's what happens when the foxes are guarding the hen house. If speed limits were set at a reasonable, logical number, far fewer drivers would exceed them.

Compare speed limits to the legal BAC (blood alcohol content) for driving. Where I live it's 0.08%. In some jurisdictions it's a bit more, in others a bit less. However, that is a limit that's strictly enforced and adhered to because it's based on impairment, not just politics. (Actually, here in Ontario the pressure groups have got into the act and now police will hand out a 3-day suspension and a $150 fine for just 0.05%) How would you like a 15 mph speed limit for bikes and a fine and suspension if you went over 8 mph?

December 6, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterJohn B

Paul, I just loved your post! How true.

"On a bike, I can only go as fast as I can go"

Would it not be perfect if cars had computers that would only let drivers to just go as fast as their skill, condition of the car, and road and traffic conditions safely allowed?

December 6, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterJohn B

Yes Virginia,there is a asshole count;everyone has one!But I do not think asshole rude behavior came with it! May they be wiped with the toilet paper of kind thoughts.A jack handy moment.

December 6, 2011 | Unregistered Commenterofoab

I'm confused, who is Virginia? You talking to me?

December 6, 2011 | Registered CommenterDave Moulton

Two years ago my sister Joan was visiting from England, She and her son remarked, They could not believe how SLOW we drove and how COURTEOUS drivers where? "You would NOT get away with that in ENGLAND she said" Dave like you I think I have mellowed out a bit. I have to admitt that at ONE time I did push the limits. I have to chuckle a bit when I am driving my Porsche BoxsterS top down, grey hair blowing in the wind and some young stud pulls up along side in his Honda with the BIG tail pipe rasping and I let him BLOW MY DOORS OFF when the light changes. Bet HIS ego gets a boost! as mine did a few years ago. But all seriousness aside, Slow down chaps, smell the roses,Amazing how much more you see going the limit. NOT worth the risks to get there 5 mins sooner.

December 6, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterGRUMPY Crump

Amen! I totally agree!

I'm NOT retired, but I do ride my bike more than I drive a car these days. And when I do end up behind the wheel I find myself driving slower than the posted speed limit most of the time. I've had my wife say (as we're rolling down the interstate) "The speed limit IS 65," only to look down and see I'm going 55 or 60.

I've become increasingly annoyed with people who drive like their hair's on fire all the time. There's just no sense.

December 6, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterChris

What? Slow down? Are you some kind of un-Amercan?

I have for the past probably 10 years now been driving the speed limit. It started on interior streets where there was housing. Now it is just about every where. I just set the cruise control for at or 1 MPH below. I don't worry about the police patrols life is easier and much more peaceful. The side benefit is watching just how erratic people hold a speed. The savings on the car don't matter to me the saving from tension while driving is much more important.

December 6, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterRalph

"Stay Alive, Drive 55"

Remember that? I tried driving 55 mph on Interstate 5 the other day. Fifty-five happens to be the speed limit for trucks or any vehicle hauling a trailer. I was passed like I was standing still - by both automobiles AND eighteen wheelers.

After an hour of trying to "stay alive" at 55 I got smart and speeded up to 70. But I was still passed - by everyone.

I heard the speed limit in much of Texas is now 80 mph and most folks drive 90. Gee, we really ARE in a hurry, aren't we?

December 6, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterJames Thurber

So, question for you guys. Do you only drive under the speed limit when I come up behind you, or is it an all-the-time thing?

I could swear you're doing it just to annoy me....

December 7, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterBig Mikey

Really great post, full of wisdom. Thanks!

December 7, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterCyclelogical

Its all about the LAW stupid! If the speed limit IS 55mph, Thats the MAXIUM speed. PERIOD! Going over that is a citation,( IF caught.) I have even been written up in Colorado for going UNDER the limit! Cop told me I was impeeding the flow of traffic. Figure that one out! Plus a driver going under the limit could have a reason.Drunk, drugs, illness etc? Maybe that was why he stuck his nose in my face, to smell my breath?. No one has commented of the remarks my sister Joan made. When I drove last in England a few years ago, EVERYONE drove like it was the LeMans 24hr race. Even on the M1 etc, 90-100mph was the norm. Didnt dare get out of the slow lane, Mercs Beemers Porsches etc flash light and honk it you do. Cops sitting in by paths paid little heed to them!

December 7, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterGRUMPY Crump

Boy this is a good one Dave. The best ever I'd say. Much to my appreciaton and enjoyment. Thank you for highlighting an important way of being. Happy Holidays

December 7, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterTom Knoblauch

My commute through a major city downtown improved greatly when I realized that my prime objective wasn't getting there fast but getting there alive. Seeing from one to three fender benders each day with my kids in the car made the defensive driving speech much easier. "See that? Which of those people thought they were a good driver an hour ago?"

In response to the comment above about the 85% rule determining the speed limit. Wrong. The speed limit should be dictated not by people's illusions of their driving prowess but objective factors like sight lines (straight vs. curvy), amount of likely traffic or congestion, amount of traffic entering and exiting, terrain (curves, hills), composition of traffic (trucks, buses, etc.) and the survivability of an accident if things go bad. It's an engineering problem with an engineering solution, not an opinion poll. If you doubt me, cycle on a windy country road where cars go around corners much faster than they can slow down or stop if there is an obstacle in the road - like you.

December 9, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterInAllCaps


Great thoughts; I too am retired & tend to not be in much of a hurry in the car. It's good to hear a reference to defensive driving. Regarding speed on the bike, when people get antsy about stop signs, red lights, etc., on bike rides, I ask "If you are in a hurry, why are you on a bike?"

December 11, 2011 | Unregistered Commenterdoug peterson

"Think about it; an orange light is a warning that the light is about to turn red. It is a signal to stop if there is a safe distance to do so; it is not a signal to speed up and get through before it turns red."

Contemporary Interpretation of Traffic Light Signals

Green: Go

Yellow: Go Faster

Red: Light Speed!

December 12, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterSamuel

I agree with Dave...I drive defensively rather than offensively. I also firmly believe that US drivers are some of the least trained in the world. On average they get 40 hours of basic training then are turned loose on the world with a 4000#+ weapon.

I have long supported some sort of increased driver's education as well as recurrent training. In NC where I live you can get a license at age 16 with a written test and a driving skills test, then other than a visual sign test you can drive until the day you die without ever having to take another skills test if you keep your license points free..


December 17, 2011 | Unregistered Commenter2whls3spds

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