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If the speed limits aren't enforced on a regular basis, most drivers are going to ignore the new signs. I'm not agreeing with that behavior and attitude. Just pointing out the sad reality.

@Michael H,

I think generally drivers tend to go up to about 10mph over the speed limit on surface streets, since it's fairly common knowledge that cops won't pull you over until you're doing 12 over or so...so the effective speed limit reduction in a zone that is now 35, would be from 45 down to 40. Your larger point still stands, however, but I think the reduction will still bring speeds down (although it won't reduce speeding in general).

Bottom line: Speeding is a minimal factor in accidents. Distracted driving, especially the use of phones, is way more dangerous than driving 10-15 mph over the speed limit. Studies show that most drivers using a phone are driving slower than other drivers, but are involved in more injury accidents.

RE Kolo: "Speeding is a minimal factor in accidents". Really? I don't think so. Speeding is certainly a factor in the severity of incidents, and also a major factor in the frequency. Not to mention, fast moving vehicles are a major factor in preventing more people from biking in the first place.

@Kolo--speeding may be a minimal factor as a _cause_ of crashes, but it is a major factor in the _severity_ of crashes. So, IMO, there's no such thing as harmless speeding.

@Kolo, even if your assertion is true (which I do not believe is the case), excessive speed and distracted driving are not mutually exclusive. Distracted drivers attempt to keep up with traffic while focusing on their distractions, so they move at the speed of traffic around them.

From the NY Times: "Talking on the cellphone while driving isn’t just a safety risk. It also slows down traffic.
Motorists talking on the phone drive about two miles per hour more slowly than people who aren’t on the phone, according to a new study by researchers at the University of Utah. And while hands-free devices often are touted as safer alternatives, the scientists found that people using them also putter along, which suggests that it’s the talking, not the cellphone, that distracts the brain." (http://www.psych.utah.edu/lab/appliedcognition/)

From GHSA (Government Highway Safety Association): "Drivers in some experimental studies attempted to compensate for cell phone distractions by slowing down or increasing their headway from the vehicle they were following" (McCartt et al., 2006)

From the NHTSA: According to the final report, “traveling too fast” was the “critical pre-crash event” in only five percent of the 6,949 cases studied. In fact, in 12.2 percent of crashes, the vehicle was “stopped.” (http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/wp-content/uploads/2008/12/8110571.pdf)

While I have no doubt that driving slower would lessen the incidence and severity of accidents, dropping a posted speed limit by 5 mph will do little or nothing to slow drivers. (for more information on that, google '85th Percentile Speed') If slowing drivers is the goal, then present roads need to be redesigned and future road construction needs to have limiting speed as a part of their initial design. This costs money, but it has a real effect, unlike the usual panacea of putting up new signs with lower limits.

Make distracted driving, especially cell phone use, a real crime with real consequences. Design cars so that phones cannot be used while the vehicle is in motion. Think about it: Would you rather that car coming up behind you was going 30 mph with little or no likelihood of the driver texting, or would you rather the car was going 25 mph while the driver is frantically talking or texting on the phone??

@Kolo--speeding and distraction are obviously both bad. One thing even highly-focused speeders don't seem to realize (or care about) is that speeding is a selfish activity that robs other people of the safe, legal and comfortable use of roads. If drivers routinely go 40mph on a 30mph road, I, as a cyclist, won't even want to try riding on that road.

@Kolo

Given that passengers (especially children) are shown to be as distracting as cell phones, until you require all the mini-van moms to have NYC taxi style plexi walls between them and their children, you still have a hugely elevated risk of accidents.

We all know that speeding = bad. But arbitrarily reducing the speed limit without keeping up (or stepping up) traffic enforcement does little to change speeds...in fact, some empirical studies (being at sea, don't have access to them...too big to get) suggest it further reduces driver adherence to speed limits.

The only sure-fire way to reduce speeds is to reengineer the street to a lower speed limit.

How about we do a trade? The 25 mph limit on Route 7 in Falls Church is ridiculous. (I've never been ticketed there, but I think it is poor policy.)

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