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Northwest Voices

Seattle Times letters to the editor

June 11, 2009 at 4:24 PM

Speed limits

Variable speed signs only a distraction

Does anyone know what those fancy new variable speed limit signs on Interstate 90 westbound cost us? All this talk of a bad economy and reduced tax collections by the state must not be real if we can afford cool stuff like this. Or perhaps this was funded with the borrowed Chinese money that the Feds have been spending by the bucketload as if we’ll never have to pay it back.

The premise is apparently that they will provide drivers with more warning if there is a traffic situation ahead of them. Here’s how they work in real life. They almost always say 60 mph like a regular cheap metal sign would say, but because they’re brightly lit they’re a distraction that slows traffic down until drivers learn to ignore them. But they do work. One day I noticed that the signs were set to 45. Of course at the time traffic was creeping along at more like 25.

Here’s the thing. In the real world, when drivers see brake lights ahead of them, or obstructions, or bad road conditions, most are smart enough to slow down to a safe speed all on their own without the “nanny state” telling them what to do. The ones who can’t figure it out are probably due for some natural selection anyway.

— Les Iwamasa, Seattle

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