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DRIVETIME MAHATMA: Cars going overly fast? Stay tuned

by Frank Fellone | July 11, 2020 at 7:49 a.m.

I am not going to call you any fancy-schmancy name just to get my letter in the newspaper. My question is simple. Interstate 630 is complete yet people pay no attention to the speed limit. All across town people run stop lights, stop signs and turn left when their light is red. Why can't police enforce these infractions. Do they not care at all? Is it because they don't want to go to court? -- No Excuse

Dear Reader: Our advice is to hold onto your hat, because drivers are fixing to drive even faster, especially on interstate highways in Arkansas, thanks to an increase in speed limits recently enacted.

To summarize: The Arkansas Highway Commission has approved an increase in speed for some highways, most notably rural interstates. That speed limit will go from 70 mph to 75. Some urban interstates and four-lane rural highways will go from 60 to 65. The process of removing the old speed limit signs and putting in the new ones is a work in progress.

The rural interstates in question are parts of Interstates 40, 30, 49, 55, 555 and 530. Toss in U.S. 67.

What will be the result? Perhaps a bump up in fatalities. They were already up in the first six months of 2020, although any six-month period is a snapshot in time.

The solution, dear reader -- if there actually is a solution -- is more vigorous enforcement. Which is a fine line, to be sure. More enforcement inevitably leads to public resistance.

May we offer some weak insight, partly based on personal experience?

First, that some years ago in pursuit of knowledge for this column, we examined a copy of every ticket issued over one month by Troop A of the Arkansas State Police. Troop A covers Pulaski, Saline, Faulkner and Lonoke counties. We found that most speeding tickets were issued when drivers went 10 or more miles over the speed limit. Meaning, as a practical matter, there was wiggle room. Soon the wiggle starts at 75 mph in some places.

Second, that traffic fatalities are trending down. There were 516 fatalities in Arkansas in 2018; 552 in 2008. This trend is nationwide, in spite of a growing population with more drivers.

Third, that while in the market recently for a vehicle, we were impressed by new safety features. The most remarkable is a cruise control system that brakes a vehicle to prevent a rear-end collision. Fantastic.

Fourth, that police do enforce traffic laws, although with more than 500 separate police agencies in the state, it's impossible to draw a universal conclusion about how vigorously.

We asked the Arkansas State Police about speeding tickets. Turns out troopers across the state issued 69,590 speeding tickets in 2019. That's 190 a day. For only the state police.

Is it enough? To paraphrase the poet, enough is in the eye of he who holds the ticket.

Vanity plate: GAPEACH.


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