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« Keynes versus Hayek --- Round 78! | Main | Which Monetary Policy Rule Suffers from the Fatal Conceit? »


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In my high school valedictorian speech, I ended by saying that people should drive faster and then used the number of days the average american spends driving and the average speed limit to say that driving 10 miles per hour over the speed limit would save you X days worth of time over the course of your life. Basically, unless the value of your time is very very low, or you get enough speeding tickets to actually lose your license (or face other repercussions beyond the financial burden of tickets and minor time commitment of paying tickets), driving fast and getting tickets is a fairly large net positive.

Wes, Steve, apply that to commuting in general!

In my view you should aim to spend none of your life doing that.

@Wes -- I used to have the same theory about speeding, during a period of life when I endured a one hour commute for work each way.

Empirical testing showed me that the theory was wrong, though. Over a period of months, I tried driving every possible route multiple times at the fastest speed I could get away with (sometimes 30 miles over), and an equal number of days where I drove *exactly* the speed limit the entire way.

What I found is that speeding allowed me to arrive on average 3 minutes earlier, and upper bounded to less than a 6 minute gain. That was 20 years ago, and I've conducted the experiment multiple times as I've moved to new places and switched jobs.

So I began driving *exactly* the speed limit everywhere, which lowers my stress dramatically, gives me entertainment at distraught (and stupid) drivers behind me, and allowed me to consume many excellent non-fiction books on tape.

Of course, speeding *does* give a great advantage when driving road trips on the interstate, as I have proven many times. The first one or two times I take a long route (like Vegas to L.A.), I will drive the speed limit to take in the sights and enjoy them. But afterward, speeding can save significant amounts of time. So my point isn't that speeding doesn't pay -- I'm just arguing that it is incorrect and flawed to use the "accrued time saved over a lifetime" theory for things like daily commutes.

"If it feels like everything is under control, you're going too slow" --Enzo Ferrari

I am hoping you are being facetious when you offer these kinds of views and are not taking yourselves seriously.

I put your theory to the numbers and built a quick model to test out your idea. I assumed a positive payback coming out of saving time and the monetary value of the extra-time. Assuming a commute time of an hour every-day, let's make the assumption that you can save 10 mins. Let us also make that you can monetize every 10 mins you save. (Very unlikely as you can only make money with the time if it is a substantially large portion of an hour. But lets assume you did.) At $75/ hr and assuming you did this for 40 years and for 300 days a year(driving this way past 60 is going to be a big problem for you), you can make about $150,000. If one assumes that you can monetize only about 65% of the time you save (especially if the time comes in small chunks), one is talking about a saving of $100,000.

If all you are worried about is the cost of tickets, it will be a net positive. But when you add the higher cost of insurance premiums, the benefit shrinks. Now let's include the cost of higher chance of accidents.

Even at one accident in a year, where you need to forego about $2000 of money (medical expenses, insurance deductibles, loss of pay because of medical reasons), the economics of speeding pretty much get eliminated. I am not even counting the cost of possibly permanent disability, loss of a near and dear one, which is very much possible if you have an accident a year. I don't even know how to put a value to that.

I understand you are an economist and/or a high-school valedictorian. But please also try and be realistic.

Speeding in and of itself does not mean one is driving recklessly or significantly increasing one's chance of being in an accident. I've never had a moving violation other than a speeding ticket, nor have I ever been in any sort of accident beyond a fender bender. You are right that the risks of higher insurance premiums need to be accounted for of course. But speeding alone isn't that risky, certainly not if you're within 10-15% of the limit.

BTW, if you have a clean record and haven't had a speeding ticket for a number of years, you can often plead tickets down to less serious violations (assuming you weren't, again, driving recklessly, on the phone, or no seatbelt etc).

Current: Speeding doesn't make commutes harsh.

Driving poorly does, especially driving too aggressively and not leaving enough space between cars (which is emphatically not the same as speeding).

@Sigivald - You are committing a logical fallacy. Driving dangerously is not the same as speeding, but speeding is more dangerous than driving at or below the speed limit.

Speeding implies, for example, passing other cars. Or timing traffic lights when you're in front. Both activities require significant concentration and attention, and make it more difficult, for example, to focus on an educational lecture playing on your CD player.

Driving exactly the speed limit, on the other hand, implies having people pass you. That is not at all stressful. But you will notice that it is stressful for them. They will hit their horns or make obscene gestures. They might even throw beer bottles at your car. This is not too stressful, because you can shrug your shoulders apologetically and pretend your car is broken (or just put on the hazard lights), and they will leave you alone. And then you can laugh maniacally when they are out of eyesight.

Drive to stay in a hole in traffic. Do whatever you must to keep a front-door, back-door, and side-door open. Most drivers have no idea how to use their brakes, nor what to do if you use yours. They've never slid or spun a car.


If the 10 mph increase was associated with a real increased risk of having an accident, then your analysis would be more valid. Of course a blanket rule of 10 mph isn't optimal (5 mph is probably more appropriate on a 30 mpg limit and 15 might be better on a 75 mpg limit where most drivers are in the 80-85 range already). I am assuming that the increase in speed is not an increase in recklessness.

Data suggests that most people drive at a "safe" speed regardless of the limit, and that in general, speed limits are too low ( ). The modest 10 mpg increase generally puts people where the real speed limit should be.

Also, I consider the monetization of my saved time to be largely irrelevant. Happiness studies have shown me that daily commute is deceptively important. Time that I don't have to spend driving is time I can spend to do other things that I value. I'm paying speeding tickets so I can spend more time replying to interesting blog posts.

If driving the speed limit reduces stress in your case, then it definitely makes sense to do that instead of increasing your speed.

However, we know that most people drive based on a safe speed, regardless of the posted limit, so I would be surprised if most people were stressed by a moderate increase beyond the posted limit. I'm personally more stressed when I'm getting passed by the "flow" of traffic than when I'm roughly matching or slightly exceeding the average speed.

And for some people I know (my mom), driving is much more enjoyable at a speed that results in more passing than being passed.

Krish, do you really think driving 10mph over the speed limit will realistically lead to one accident per year, every year, for 50 years, for the average driver? I submit that's the most insanely wrong thing I've read on the Internet this month.

If it were just a matter of paying the fines, I'd find this argument more persuasive, but (as others have noted upthread) it's not - it's also the massive increase in insurance premiums. And pleading down doesn't help. My last speeding ticket was about 11 years ago, and I did plead it down to a minor "5 over" type offense, so my fine was minimal, but my rates went up significantly for the next five years. That's no bargain.

My rates haven't changed perceptibly after either the last ticket I got in 02 or my wife's in 06. If they had, that would certainly change the analysis.

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Democracy is a political form of government where governing power is derived from the people, either by direct referendum (direct democracy) or by means of elected representatives of the people (representative democracy).

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