extropians: Faster driving saves lives

Faster driving saves lives

Alexander 'Sasha' Chislenko (sasha1@netcom.com)
Thu, 14 Jan 1999 20:26:25 -0500

CNN just published a report "Higher speed limits mean more deaths" ( http://www.cnn.com/US/9901/14/speeding.deaths.ap/ ) from the studies conducted by National Highway Traffic Safety Administration and insurance companies.

The studies conclude that in the states that raised speed limits, highway death rates increased by 12 to 15%.

General statistics: "people drove a little more than 2.5 trillion miles in 1997, and the death rate was 1.6 per 100 million miles traveled - an all-time low."

I am always suspicious reading statistics from agencies that are financially interested in the results - in this case, collecting speeding fines and carrying the price of insurance.

In this case, they seem to forget to take into account that some of the victims of deadly crashes would, at a slightly lower speed, get "only" severely maimed, or that there may be something special about the states that increased the speed limit - like, increasingly congested traffic, or that some people may now choose to drive through a state that has higher speed limits, etc.

But I would like to suggest a different statistic. Let's assume that the death rate rises linearly with speed limit (looks like the case now). So 10% increase in speed limit would raise death rates by 0.16 per 100 million miles traveled. So on average, a person would lose half of their life's worth of waking time per each incident = 35 years * 365 days * 16 hours * 0.16 = roughly, 33,000 hours per 100 million miles traveled.

But then, the same speed increase would save people time for productive and pleasant activities, with the savings: 100 million miles / (average) 50 miles per hour * 10% = 200,000 waking life hours. Which is six times as much.

Note that these hours are current, unlike the hours that will not be lived in the future, and any reasonable person would consider younger-age time now more valuable than old-age time later.

As driving is a stressful activity, time saved from it will likely reduce mortality from other reasons.

Add to this the unaccounted factors mentioned in the beginning of this message, and also considerations that reliance upon police instead of common sense is not good for personal development, that it takes more human life time to pay police expenses for enforcing speed limits, that people who save time are usually more careful and more productive than people who speed unreasonably (and don't have to suffer for their stupidity) - and you will see that *higher speed limits save lives*.

The only problem, they don't save money to insurance companies.

Alexander Chislenko <http://www.lucifer.com/~sasha/home.html> <sasha1@netcom.com> <sasha@media.mit.edu>