The economics of speeding?
December 11, 2013
I wrote a story about my experiences stuck on the Ohio Turnpike, and the belief that there is a better way to handle some 2,000 stranded people.
You can read that story here.
In that story, I admitted that my speed was slightly less than 80 mph — it was actually 77/78.
Some people took me to task for speeding. Some went further, saying it was breaking the law.
I would rather cast it as I was traveling safely with much of the traffic, at a speed that was manageable for me, and at a speed generally accepted by authorities — unofficially accepted of course.
Rather than debate the alleged criminality of my actions (as opposed to the criminality of the Turnpike holding me against my will without any plan or concern for my well-being), I like that this reader instead shared the economics of speeding.
I love this kind of learning, and I thought I’d share it:
Thanks for the interesting article about being held prisoner on the turnpike. I am sure that quite a few motorists have similar experiences and can relate to your story. I agree that the feeling of helplessness and no information is quite frustrating. The thing that stood out to me however, was your statement about traveling "almost 80 mph". This fact bothered me on several levels, not the least of which is that you publicly admitted to violating traffic laws. One on-line comment mentioned that you would have been able to exit the turnpike at Fremont if you were traveling at the speed limit. I had not considered this angle. I am more concerned with the larger picture of Americans' perceived need for speed.
I do not know why you felt it necessary to travel at that speed, but a common response is to save time. I assume that since you were on the turnpike, maybe you were making a fairly long trip. For the sake of argument, let's say 240 miles, which makes for some simple arithmetic: the trip would take 3 hours at 80 mph. At 70 mph, the trip would take about 25 more minutes: or about 14% longer. I will not comment on whether this savings is worth the risk of a speeding ticket. I would rather balance the time savings against some other facts:
1) At 80 mph, you are using more fuel: the vehicle works hard to push the air aside. For every 5 miles per hour over the car's optimal speed, fuel efficiency decreases about 7% *. Most cars have an optimal speed of between 50 and 60 mph: at 80 mph you have decreased your fuel efficiency as much as 28% if your vehicle's optimal speed is 60 mph. This works out to over 8 mpg if your car is rated at 30 mpg.
2) Another fact is that at 80 mph, you are traveling at over 117 feet per second versus 103 feet per second at 70 mph. Both of these numbers give us another way to talk about speed. This decreases the distance available if you need to react to a situation ahead of you.
I apologize if it seems like I am preaching to you, that is not my intent. Full disclosure: I am a retired Middle School Math teacher, and these were topics which were covered in these grades. I used them as an opportunity to have the students think about speed and cars and their responsibilities as citizens. Middle school students would be driving in a few years.
On another note: I enjoy your newspaper. I feel it is an invaluable part of Mahoning Valley life. Thanks for working hard to keep our local newspaper vibrant.
Posted by NoBS (anonymous) on December 12, 2013 at 7:35 a.m.
Mr. Franko, I read the opinion that, had you been doing 70 mph versus the 10% over that which you admit to traveling, you'd have been at the Fremont exit when you hit the traffic jam. I gave a sigh, because by that same kind of reasoning, if you'd been traveling at 90 mph you could well have been past the wreck before it took place, thus you wouldn't have been delayed at all. (I too sometimes take the speed limit as a guideline rather than a rule.)
People who like to crunch numbers often fail to assign value to other, less tangible aspects of traveling, such as what one's time is worth. The first example that comes to mind is the traveling businessman, to whom time is literally money, but even for those on a vacation, if your delay causes you to get to your hotel after all the rooms have been rented, for example, the extra expense involved in finding another room and potentially paying more for that room, could more than equal the extra expense of a few miles per gallon less efficiency. And let's not forget the boredom factor of spending an unnecessarily long time behind the wheel. If you end up with "highway hypnosis" and wreck, I'd observe that the better choice would have been to have gone a little faster and been at your destination already.
But the notion that a car's optimum speed for efficiency is 50 - 60 mph is not entirely accurate. That was the reasoning for the national 55 mph speed limit in the 70s. Cars since that time are far more aerodynamic and better-engineered. Car designers now pay attention to such criteria as the car's coefficient of drag. The optimum performance speed varies from model to model, but other factors are at play, too, such as driving behind another vehicle, which increases one's fuel mileage, because the air is more turbulent, thus easier for your car to shove its way though. NASCAR fans even know that.
Other factors that contribute to a car's fuel efficiency include the brand, size, and pressure of the tires on it, and even the viscosity of the oil in the engine.
I say, make no apologies, and drive!
Posted by DontBanThisDrone (anonymous) on January 3, 2014 at 5:37 p.m.
He was probably going 80 to keep up with everyone else. Too dangerous to go the speed limit, lol.
Posted by rickking123 (anonymous) on January 4, 2014 at 12:16 a.m.
My original comment was tongue in cheek, but for those of you who think that speeding is ok and one can drive whatever speed they want because time is money I say go ahead but be prepared to suffer the consequences of your actions like Mr. Franko did.