Unhealthful News 102 – The opportunity to arrive ten minutes sooner, or never

I already wrote a UN-style post today, at the Tobacco Harm Reduction blog, so I will call that UN102a.

As a brief UN102b:  I noticed that Texas is talking about raising its rural highway speed limit to 85 mile per hour (137 kph).  This takes a trend toward higher speed limits in many parts of the U.S. one step further than anyone else has.  Are they insane?  There are few people skilled at driving safely at that speed if anything goes wrong, and they practice it wearing a five-point harness, fireproof armor, and a roll cage.  The news articles about this change often reported at some length how much extra fuel driving that fast consumes (a lot).  They really downplayed how many people this is going to kill.  I am not sure whether there are great estimates, which is probably why.  If someone threw together a “study” and predicted 67.4 extra deaths every year due to this change, that would probably be reported in every article.


Nah – not my thing.

Anyway, whatever the number, it is clear that this will kill people, including innocent bystanders who would prefer that the speed limit remain sane, and are driving at a reasonable speed, but are killed by someone driving over 85 mph (you have to figure that anyone who would be willing to drive that fast would not strictly obey the limit).  A commentator in the above-linked article offered a disingenuous assurance about safety, pointing out that no one was obliged to drive that fast.  But those driving extremely fast put others at risk, and having cars moving at very different speeds is a substantial hazard in itself.  I would bet that those external risks (i.e., risk to people other than the one creating the risk) are higher than those caused by someone driving just over the legal limit for alcohol.  There is no doubt that it is greater than that caused by exposing innocent bystanders to second-hand smoke.  But those other externalities are increasingly prohibited, while this one is being increasingly allowed.  Why is driving so sacred as to be immune from “health promotion” nannyism?

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