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Driver Safety at Risk in Virginia From Proposals to Raise Speed Limits, Allow Radar Detectors

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Virginia (VA) took a step toward making its roads less safe and more deadly on Feb. 2, 2010, when members of the state House and Senate voted to pass bills that would allow the Virginia Department of Transportation to increase the legal speed limit on many divided highways from 65 mph to 70 mph. Legislators seem poised to take another step toward turning Commonwealth’s interstate highways into racetracks by lifting Virginia’s 48-year-old ban on radar and laser detectors in cars and trucks and on motorcycles.

HB 674, the detector ban repeal bill, advanced out the House Committee on Transportation and to the full chamber on Feb. 4. The Virginian-Pilot reported that state police, insurance companies and sheriffs want the ban kept in place. The paper also noted that delegates are likely to send the repeal to the Senate.

I have written elsewhere about the dangers posed by increasing speed limits. Briefly, faster cars, trucks and motrcycles have worse accidents–drivers, passengers and pedestrians are all at greater risks for suffering major injuries or being killed when vehicles collide at higher speeds. Radar detectors exist solely to permit car, truck and motorcycle drivers to exceed posted speed limits. A tagline on this radar and laser detector product review Web site baldly states, "Don’t Slow Down. You’ve Got Options." Maybe Virginia’s new governor is hoping to make this a new state slogan!

Having practiced injury law for more than 20 years and having seen too often how decisions to not slow down and drive recklessly have resulted in horrific accidents, serious disabilities and deaths, it boggles my mind why Virginia lawmakers would go out their way to make it easier for drivers to speed. When I think about a new governor’s first 30-day priority list, I have to wonder: Are making highway driving less safe by raising speed limits and allowing radar detectors issues Virginians considered important when casting their ballots last November? I think not. How about focusing on our economy, jobs and laws and regulations that make us safer?

I can only hope the delegates act in their constituents’ best interest by keeping the radar and laser detector ban in place. I do not think interstate driver’s are going to detour around Virginia on this issue, but I am wondering how this rose to the top of the Virginia governor’s priority list.

About the Editors: The Shapiro, Cooper, Lewis & Appleton personal injury law firm, whose attorneys work out of offices in Virginia (VA) and North Carolina (NC), edits the injury law blogs Virginia Beach Injuryboard, Norfolk Injuryboard, and Northeast North Carolina Injuryboard as pro bono services.

EJL

1 Comment

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  1. Henry says:
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    Low speed limits and radar detector bans do not enhance safety. The fact is that overall fatality rates dropped more quickly in states that raised their speed limits to 70 mph or greater while they stayed higher in states keeping 65 mph. In the state of Montana, where there was no posted speed limit from 1996-1999, the number of fatalities doubled on affected roads. It is called the Montana paradox.

    Having surveyed the traffic scene for thirty years, I understand why some lawyers want low speed limits – cash flow. Low speed limits do nothing to reduce the volume of accidents, therefore trial lawyers continue to get rich, and will increase the number of tickets issued, which is good for lawyers handling speeding tickets.

    Americans are pretty stupid, but are getting smarter by the day. We are beginning to recognize the money and control racket that this entire ticket based traffic regulation has become.

    As for me, personally, I will continue to avoid driving in states that post speed limits below 70 mph. I will not continue adding to their bottom line. As for the radar detector ban, the same thing can be said.