Apodaca: Join me in the Go Slow Campaign

January 21, 2011|By Patrice Apodaca

I was dismayed by the Newport Beach City Council's recent vote to raise speed limits on several streets, including a portion of East Coast Highway.

Council members said they were compelled by state law, which dictates that speed limits are set to the speed at or below which 85% of traffic moves.

A few days after the council's decision, a 10-car pileup on West Coast Highway near Riverside Avenue resulted in three deaths. The cause of the crash is still under investigation, but it's clear that excessive speed played a part.


While the council's decision and the accident are in no way related, it seemed a tragic irony that we should be so quickly reminded of the dangers inherent in our custom of hurtling around in metal boxes. Going faster raises the risks. It's as simple as that.

Increasing speed limits makes me think of a psychology experiment I was involved with during college. Subjects were asked to look at a series of boxes and rate them by size, from 1 to 9. They weren't told, however, that there were only seven sizes of boxes.

As you may guess, the study participants ranked the boxes as if there were nine sizes anyway. The point of the experiment was to show that our minds adjust to a perceived reality, based on the information we are given.

So it is, I believe, with speed limits. Drivers will automatically adjust to the new, higher speed limits, using them as a benchmark for how fast they should go — even if prudence and good judgment dictate otherwise. And let's face it, most of us use speed limits as a minimum rather than as a maximum.

So I am proposing an experiment of my own.

I pledge that for the next month I will not exceed the speed limit.

Ever. Anywhere. For any reason.

If my son is late to school, I will not speed. If the movie started five minutes ago — and I hate, hate, hate missing the start of a film — I will not speed. If the guy behind me gives me the finger, I will not speed.

Join me.

I am asking — no, challenging — everyone reading this to take the pledge. For the next month, do your best to drive no faster than the speed limit.

I know it won't be easy. You might be late to work one day, and the temptation will be great. You might be the only one on the road, and you'll feel the urge to cheat. You might simply forget, or convince yourself that if other cars are going faster that it really isn't safe to stay within the limit. I'm routinely guilty of all the above.

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