Being safe at any speed

When lawmakers passed a resolution to increase the speed limit on interstates in West Virginia from 70 to 75 miles per hour in some spots, I wondered a little whether they had considered how many Mountain State drivers are probably already inching up to 75 (and beyond) on those stretches.

Maybe it was their way of helping some folks save a little on speeding tickets and insurance premiums.

But, as the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety pointed out, there is a certain segment of drivers who believe driving up to 15 mph over a speed limit is acceptable. That means there will be a decent percentage of drivers on some of these stretches of road driving 90 mph without a thought.

Don’t get me wrong, I know there are some of you out there saying to yourselves, “Well, I CAN drive safely at 90 mph.” Fine. But meanwhile there are people who shouldn’t be on the road at 55 mph … or some trying to drive 90 mph and answer a text. It’s a lot harder to adjust to those vehicles suddenly winding up in your lane when you are driving that fast, too.

I think 75 mph is appropriate for several places on West Virginia’s interstates. I’m assuming the people choosing the sections to adjust will not take the turnpike between Charleston and Beckley as one of them. I still chuckle at the squeaking sound one of my out-of-state friends made as we took a trip (mostly) obeying the speed limit.

Michigan and Maine are the only other two states east of the Mississippi (where roads are generally twisty-turnier, with more elevation change than out West), to have sections of interstate highway with 75 mph speed limits. So maybe the Mountain State is getting out in front of a trend on this one — after all, cars are getting faster and safer; and, as one lawmaker pointed out, maybe if they drive a little faster they’ll burn more fuel and have to stop for gas more often.

Think of it as economic development.

Let’s all just use our heads about this one, though. No, 75 does NOT mean 90, no matter how tempting; and coming up on a semi-truck that can’t muster up more than about 55 or 60 will be a lot more sudden if your speedometer is creeping toward 80. Giving in to distractions while driving could be even deadlier at higher speeds. Oh, and for goodness sake, if you see a sign telling you to prepare to slow down, don’t keep hammering away at 75 until you see the taillights or cones ahead of you.

It was a good move by lawmakers; one that I think makes sense. But let’s not abuse the flexibility and turn it into a bad one.

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Happy St. Patrick’s Day; and happy three-days-away-from-Spring. If you are like me and caught a glimpse of more than a week of uninterrupted not-rain/snow in the weather forecast, isn’t this wonderful? Please enjoy the wearing of the green responsibly — don’t do anything to keep those Irish eyes from smiling.

A young lady I know informed me the other day that one of her classmates had caught a leprechaun, and was going to bring it to class. No word on whether he let on to his pot of gold, however. If you notice a suddenly very wealthy second grade classroom in the near future, you’ll know what happened.

And, even if you’re driving it at 75 mph:

“May the road rise up to meet you.

May the wind be always at your back.

May the sun shine warm upon your face;

the rains fall soft upon your fields

and until we meet again,

may God hold you in the palm of His hand.”

Christina Myer is executive editor of The Parkersburg News and Sentinel. She can be reached via e-mail at cmyer@newsandsentinel.com

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