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What is the speed limit?

01/10/2008

By John Lynch

I have a simple question for fellow drivers: What is the speed limit? Is it a number? Is it being enforced simply to make a few bucks for the town?

No. The speed limit can be defined as what is a safe and reasonable speed for us to be going, given the traffic, the weather, and the many changing road conditions out there -- THAT is the "speed limit."

Sometimes even 30 mph is way too fast.

Please ask yourselves, should I be on the cell phone, do I have good snow tires, are there high snow banks blocking everyone's vision at intersections, is the road clear, is it night or day or dusk, is the sun in my eyes, am I sharing my space with bikers, walkers, children? Am I tailgating? Does my car have "funny colored plates" or am I following a car with the same? Am I patient with other drivers who are less experienced? Older? Not familiar with this area or its weather or its challenging conditions? When was the last time I filled my windshield washer reservoir? Bought new wiper blades? Cleaned off my headlights?

And parking lots! We drivers are sharing them with pedestrians, especially children, who are at high risk if hit by us. How tall is a child? Are a lot of people backing up? Do SUV's hide more obstacles? Can you go too slow in a parking lot? No.

There would be hundreds of collisions daily, even in a rural state like Vermont, if all of us did not make it our business to drive defensively.

I am appalled at the speeds people go on Route 100, especially in our villages, with the sight lines being radically affected by the high snow banks. Do not blame the road crews or the state. Be responsible and slow down. Be responsible for your safety and the safety of others. We all share the roads.

At any given intersection, no one is guaranteed the right of way. Someone has to stop or yield for the other driver to proceed. We must drive for others' mistakes. We all are human and must look out for each other. Driving is a privilege and a responsibility -- and 43,000 of us die every year doing it.

I also would like to go on the record as supporting the work of law enforcement as they protect us from ourselves. There is no excuse for anyone speeding past a village school or in a congested area or faster than conditions warrant. Speed kills.

All I ask is that each of us be paying full attention to our driving, especially in difficult weather and road conditions, and drive like your life depends on it. My life depends on it too.

Thanks for listening, buckle up, and oh yeah, check that washer fluid.

John Lynch lives in Moretown
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