Road rage

2012-10-02

I'm no angel on the road. Not a danger or anything, but I like to floor it where I can. In Holland the max speed limit used to be 120 km/h. Now it's 130 km/h, although for most of the roads it's still 120km/h. This is something that changed recently and still confuses most drivers today.

So even though I like to floor it, I do abide the speed limit. Okay, I might edge it most of the time, but you won't see me going 120 km/h where I can go 100 km/h, on purpose. In fact, I've never had a speed ticket so far (knock on wood). So it's quite annoying when somebody drives by at 120 km/h, or more.

And you know what? It could be easily prevented. They've got the trajectory checks for a long time now and they've proven to be very efficient. The principle behind it is also much more fair than the simple single point radar checks; they measure the time that went by between you passing point A and B. They know the distance and so they know your average speed. This is fine with me. But why not introduce this everywhere and get rid of those speedy BMW's?

I'll tell you why; cash cows. A cab driver named it speed-tax today. And that's what it is. If you can afford it, you're allowed to speed. Within a certain limit of course... (In Holland you lose your drivers license, and potentially your car, if they catch you speeding by a ridiculous amount).

The government in turn is basing it's financial estimates on the income of tickets. So yes, they could easily introduce better speeding checks. And it would pay for itself immediately, even turn a profit for a little while. But after you get one or two tickets, I'm pretty sure you'll start watching your speed. You might be fine paying a 100 euro fine once every two weeks. But it becomes a bit of an expensive trip to do so every day. Not worth it.

So let's take a look at the reasons for speed limits. In Holland we have crazy looking speed limits. We always have, but recently they've become even crazier. There's little support from the public for them because the government doesn't spend any effort in clarifying why there are speed limits in the first place.

When you drive outside the big city area (Amsterdam, Rotterdam, Den Haag, Utrecht), which is like the west-center part of Holland, you'll meet crazy limits. Outside of these areas, most freeways have their regular 130 or even 120 km/h speedlimits. When you move closer to the center, you'll start to encounter 100 km/h roads. I realize that many countries actually have 90 or 100 km/h as their speed limit, but it's just not the same when you know you can go 120 km/h.

When you actually get near the cities it gets even worse. Around Amsterdam the limit used to be 80 km/h (still freeway..). Recently that changed to the silly rule of "Between 6am and 7pm you can go 100 km/h, between 7pm and 6am you can go 80 km/h". Totally counter intuitive. Limiting the speed is about reducing traffic accidents during high traffic thus creating more safety, right? A bit. But it's also about environment and audio levels. Most cars produce more noise when they go faster. So they want to try to reduce the amount of noise created during the evening/night in urbal areas.

But apparently you can buy your way out of that. And for the right (though random) amount, neither traffic safety, environmental issues, nor the noise will matter anymore. That's just hypocritical. And it's quite frustrating to see somebody pass you by fast when you're already perfectly on the speed limit.

If they would just introduce those trajectory checks, and do away with silly rules in traffic, driving would be so much more relaxed.

Another example are so called congestion lanes. This will usually be a two lane freeway where a third lane will open up only during rush hour. What's the point? Why not open them all the time? It's not like there'll be less cars this way, or that traffic flow is better outside of rush hour times.

A worse example is the new concept in Holland where they don't use the left-most lane for these congestion lanes, but the right-most (normally unused, where you go when your car breaks down) lanes. So during rush hour you're actually _supposed_ to cross a solid line. Till this gimmick appeared a solid line was a very solid rule meaning that you were not allowed to cross the line. And they are actually surprised very few people use that extra lane! Come on...

I think traffic would be better of when at least some of these seemingly random decisions or reasonings would be explicitly put on signs or something. Like "You can only go 80 here because kids are trying to sleep" or "Going 100 during rush hour makes dense traffic safer". This might actually persuade people to stick to the limits. And otherwise trajectory checks certainly would. But oh, the money.

Sigh.