Cruisin’ Down the Street in My ’64

Matt and Ezra have latched onto a proposal from Kent Sepkowitz that triggers every libertarian impulse in me: banning cars capable of going over 75 mph.

Now, in my ideal world, not only would cars be able to go over 75 mph, they would have to. GPS technology being what it is, there’s no reason we shouldn’t start converting all cars to being self-driven. They could communicate with each other to regulate speed and the like, and travel with far shorter following distances and at much greater speeds than is currently safe. This would allow for a bootstrapping of the existing road infrastructure, unlike rail proposals, reduce traffic and idle car usage, and make driving ever so much fun.

So there’s one problem with the proposal. Getting manufacturers into a habit of not accommodating high-speed travel makes the dream of driverless cars just that much further off. It’ll mean weaker engines that can’t scale to the speeds that makes driverless cars so promising.

But more fundamentally, this is a question of liberty. This is a completely unenforceable regulation; many if not most drivers would alter their cars to go above 75 mph, not least of which will be the cops and other first-responders who need to be able to go 100+mph. More than that, though, Ezra is right to acknowledge that cruising at 90mph is a wonderful, wonderful experience:

On the other hand, what Sepkowitz calls an “adolescent thrill” is also a pretty powerful joy. Ripping up the coast at 85 is a pleasure. And It’s not like I’ve seen a tremendous number of folks pushing 140. But it would seem, like with alcohol, that there’s a middle ground here, where repeated violators — or simply unsafe drivers — have their car’s engine lock engaged, and find themselves unable to break 75. They might not like it, but if you’re a reckless driver, your car is a weapon, and your right to speed is not nearly so inalienable as to keep society from disarming it.

That’s a compromise I could live with. But I’m just not comfortable with government regulating pleasure, even reckless pleasure. Anyone who knows me knows I’m a safe, even overly cautious driver. But I still love going fifteen or twenty above the limit on empty country roads, and any driver who says they don’t is either very strange or lying. I’m not saying it’s safe. But it’s a kind of recklessness that it’s worth finding a place for our society.

3 thoughts on “Cruisin’ Down the Street in My ’64

  1. To some extent we already have such controls in place. It’s pretty hard to find a production that’ll do 170mph, no? And yet such vehicles aren’t impossible to make.
    When it comes to auto technology, I think we’d be better off were we to try and tackle the driver impairment issue (especially with respect to alcohol) instead of excessive speed. I can think of certain situations where a nice burst of speed is necessary for safety (like, when you’re trying to get by a tractor trailer on an interstate, for example). And yet I can think of no situation where driving while under the influence is necessary. The technology already exists that makes it difficult/impossible for an impaired driver to operate a car. Why not perfect it and roll it out widely?

  2. Government DOES regulate the pleasure of driving fast. You just don’t the government to be able to do it effectively. You’re not in favor of the repeal of speed limits, you just want to be able to break the law with relative impunity.
    As for 15 or 20 over the speed limit on country roads, are these roads that are posted at 55? Because if you’re driving at 75 on a road with blind curves, someday you’re going to wipe out a tractor or a kid on an ATV.

  3. “But I’m just not comfortable with government regulating pleasure, even reckless pleasure.”
    So you favor repealing ordinances against the discharge of firearms in residential areas?

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