Published 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.