I have been requested to post something positive.
In light of that request, I am putting a positive spin on what I was going to write anyway.
While I am generally good at pointing out problems and at complaining, I don’t generally offer much by way of solutions.
This time I have a very concrete solution, which is within easy reach
of ordinary Americans, with no risk, no cost, and a negligible amount
It is something you, the reader, can implement.
But first, a short history lesson:
October of 1973 a group of nations got sick of the US “foreign policy”
of military intervention, and, knowing we had developed a lifestyle
totally dependent on oil, they agreed not to sell us any.
This caused massive and immediate affects throughout the US economy.
Buying fuel, at any price, meant waiting in long lines – on those days
you were even allowed to buy gas at all (hmm, so maybe Soviet era lines
for goods were not caused by the distribution system of communism, but
by a plain lack of resources…)
The government took steps to encourage conservation, which (unlike
sourcing new oil) could be done immediately, such as banning Christmas
Another major step they took was to enact a national speed limit of 55mph.
The reason for this is that at higher speeds air resistance
increases exponentially* relative to speed. Going twice as fast
requires 4 times the energy. This is as true of modern vehicles as it
was in 1973. All vehicles, small or large, gas or alternative fuel,
use more energy at speeds above 60mph. In fact, going from 55 to 70mph
typically uses between 20% and 25% more fuel to go the same distance.**
Next, a physics lesson:
Similar to the relationship between wind resistance and speed, momentum varies with the square of speed.
means that if you are going twice as fast, it will take 4 times as much
force to stop – and therefor 4 times the braking distance in an
It also means that if you do end up in a crash, at twice the speed you
will have 4 times the impact. At 4 times the impact, crumple zones and
airbags can’t stop your organs from hitting your ribs hard enough to
I realize (from the almost universal comment I get when I mention I
have a motorcycle) that people actually believe they are safe when they
are driving a car.
number one cause of death of youth in the US in car crashes. It causes
more deaths among young people than murder, suicide, cancer, and heart
disease combined. It is the number one cause of death up until age 40, at which point it is still in the top 3.
We don’t hear about it much in the news precisely because it is so
common. There are roughly 16,500 accidents significant enough to be
reported in the U.S. EVERY DAY.
Of these, roughly 1/3 result in permanent injuries. Every 12 minutes,
an American dies in a car crash. Every time you get into a car, you
The number one factor in causing all of these deaths and injuries?
It isn’t alcohol. It isn’t young drivers or cell phones. Its speeding.
Speeding is the single largest factor in injury and fatality
collisions. Contrary to popular belief, driving slower is safer even
when other cars around you are speeding.****
Note a couple studies on the issue:
“risk of involvement in a casualty crash, relative to the risk for a
car traveling at 60 km/h, increased at an exponential rate for free
traveling speeds above 60 km/h [37mph]”**
“First, the probability of a crash is approximately proportional to the
square of the travel speed. Second, in a crash, injury risk is
approximately proportional to the impact forces on a person, which in
turn are proportional to the square of the impact speed. These two
effects can be summarized in a general rule of thumb: When travel speed
increases by 1%, the injury crash rate increases by about 2%, the
serious injury crash rate increases by about 3%, and the fatal crash
rate increases by about 4% “**
is, of course, an obvious drawback to driving slower: it takes more
time to get somewhere. If you do the math, you discover that slowing
down from 75mph to 65mph means it will take you an additional 7 seconds
to go a mile. (Slowing down to 55 will cost another 10 seconds)
What all this means is, over a 10 mile commute, you will waste 25%
more gas (which also means you spend 25% more money), and increase your
risk of death by 160%, all to save 2 minutes.
I am not asking you to give up your car and rely solely on bicycles and public transportation.
am not asking you to buy an experimental electric or alternative fuel
car, an expensive new hybrid, or even a smaller more efficient car.
I am not suggesting you go to the lengths I do and remove your power
steering pump and alternator, or drive 45mph on the freeway.
All I am asking is that you slow down.
If you value your own money.
If you value the environment.
If you value national security and energy independence.
If you value the lives of those around you.
If you value your own life.
You don’t even have to care about all of those things. Any one of them of them is reason enough.
Leave the house 2 minutes sooner, and slow down.
This will not, all by itself, save the world. But it will make a difference.
“No one can cut you off if you choose to slow down and let them in”
for math and physics people: I know, technically the curve is
parabolic, not exponential, but if I used that term no one would know
what I was talking about
**You don’t have to take my word for it: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fuel_economy_in_automobiles#Speed_and_fuel_economy_studies http://www.fueleconomy.gov/feg/driveHabits.shtml http://eartheasy.com/live_fuel_efficient_driving.htm http://www.lawcore.com/car-accident/statistics.html
***Mass mean the weight of the car. Velocity means speed
chance of a fender bender may be higher if you go slower than traffic
around you, but the chance of a crash which causes injury or death is