Reporting on pedestrian life in the D.C. area

A pox on Washington, D.C.'s Beltway speed demons (video)

October 10, 2011 - 03:32 PM
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The law of the road. (Photo: flickr/PatHawks)

Oh, you reckless, speeding, law-breaking drivers ... what motivates you? Who's going to stop you?

Those questions drive the mind of at least one D.C. resident who takes his vehicle onto the Washington, D.C. Beltway with a certain level of trepidation. He takes umbrage at the notion that anyone will break the speed limit of 55 miles/hour. Who are all these speed demons? This driver is named Ken Chaison, and in his experience, they comprise virtually everyone on the road.

Watch this video that Chaison shot from his car this past Sunday afternoon at 1 p.m.:

See how everyone's passing Chaison's vehicle? He's going 55 miles/hour, he says ... which is the speed limit posted on the side of the highway.

Ken Chaison has some questions for these drivers passing him by.

He uploaded the video onto YouTube from his account Filmsification with the following comments:

I am driving 55 miles per hour and every single car passed me. No one goes the speed limit anymore. Why are we in such a hurry? Do we want to kill ourselves and our children? Why don't we care anymore?

The faster we go, the less miles per gallon that we get. Note the one car at the end that pulled around from behind and passed me, only to get off at the same exit.

Where are the police officers? Seems like a lot of much needed money in fines could be made here for the county.

Is Chaison right? Should there be better, slower instincts from drivers and better enforcement from police? Are people safe on the highway?

The question of automotive safety has been an ongoing one for much for the 20th century. I've talked before about how all people who navigate our transit seem to break the rules in one way or another — whether drivers, bicyclists, pedestrians, or any others who occupy our roads and public spaces.

Chaison's video may seem a bit curmudgeonly but he makes an astute point. No one follows the law. Why make a law if no one follows it? There's the quiet understanding from many drivers that cops will get you for going over the speed limit but not if it's just five to 10 miles over. On a busy highway, you might get away with going 15 over, if the limit is 55 miles/hour. You put yourself in greater danger if you ever break 80 miles/hour. Personally, I'm amazed people manage to speed much on D.C. roads. In my experience, they're often too congested to really drive all that fast for too long. In Missouri, I encountered people who would drive at 80, 90, and for brief times, 100 miles/hour or more, but you'd need a truly clear road to permit that here. Would anyone ever be able to speed like that on 295 heading up to Baltimore? Doubtful, in my opinion. Perhaps in the middle of the day. What lends the most support to Chaison are the statistics on automotive safety — more than 40,000 U.S. residents died on the road in 2009, according to a World Health Organization ranking

In any case, no one has greater urgency than our roads' drivers, especially in the nation's capital. Why such a hurry, D.C.?

Update, October 11, 9:25 a.m.: Just to clarify — although I've spotlighted Chaison's point here, I myself don't necessarily think speed limits should always be 55 miles/hour, that it's natural for drivers to adhere to them quite so intensely, or that automotive deaths are a direct result of speeding (although that's a question I'd like to explore further in another post). My own driving typically falls a few miles over the posted speed limit. But as a D.C. driver with a strong opinions, Chaison should be heard. 

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