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Why We Can't Drive Faster ...

• By Eric Peters Eric Peters Autos

Almost everything about cars has changed over the past 50 years – except for how fast we're allowed to drive them.

In 1970, you could legally drive 70-75 MPH on most highways – in cars with drum brakes, without ABS and not even one air bag. There was no Lane Keep Assist or Automated Emergency Braking and the headlights were pitiful things by the standards of the 1990s.

But we can't legally drive faster today in cars with more technology – and capability – than the race cars of 1970.

What then is the point of all the technology?

Yes, I know. Saaaaaaaaafety. The accident (and fatality) rate has declined as all this stuff got glued to cars. But surely it's safer to drive a 2018 model year car faster than 1970s speeds? If it isn't it sure seems like a lot of bother for not much gain.

The problem, of course, isn't the cars or the technology or even the speed laws. It is the low and declining quality of the average driver, which is a function of the fact that not much is expected of drivers in terms of skill or judgment. They are expected to Follow The Rules, whatever those rules may be and no matter how silly it may be to follow them in a given context. Think, for example, of the drones – and that's just the right word – who will not budge at red lights that never change; who will remain in place even after multiple cycling of the light which never gives them the green.

Because it's The Law.

An image of naked savages prostrating themselves before a grimacing totem pole comes to mind.

Drivers have been habituated and browbeaten into a state of near-paralytic deference to Rules (no matter how silly) hypercaution, torpidity and passivity. They are nearsighted old ladies – by the standards of 1970.

It's ironic.

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