Finally, A Case To Make Michigan's Freeways Faster

I've said it, other drivers have said it and now the police are saying it: Michigan's freeways are too slow and they need to be bumped up a notch. It's just not helping anyone.

Where I live in Detroit, I'm surrounded by 55-mph freeways. I live right by the Davison, which is 55. I also live right by the Lodge, which is 55. Most of I-94 in Detroit is 55 mph. And then there's the Southfield Freeway, which is 55 mph the whole way in and out of the 'burbs.

If you know Detroit — or really, Michigan — these are nothing but speed traps. Especially: The Woodward Avenue exit ramp off the Davison, the Southfield-Detroit border of the Lodge when it stops being Northwestern Highway, and pretty much any part of the Southfield Freeway that's not in Detroit.

So why not just drive the speed limit to avoid the ticket? you might ask. Well, because no one obeys speed laws, and you find yourself rolling the dice between keeping up with traffic at higher speeds or driving like Grandma. (Michigan's highest speed is 70 mph, which is usually what scofflaws drive on the slower routes.) No place is worse than this than the Southfield Freeway headed toward Dearborn in the morning, and the Lodge anytime at night.

Both are three-lane highways. Yes, everyone knows the left lane is the fast lane. But — and especially the Lodge — people are going about 80 or 90 in the left, and maybe 55-60 in the middle and right. So if someone switches lanes to the left — clusterfuck of epic proportions. Brakes slam. Sudden swerves. Weaving in and out of lanes happens.

Even worse is when a cop enters the freeway. Then everyone hits their brakes, and you can feel the tension rise as people drag along at 55. And you can see the cop trying not to look at everyone giving him or her the death stare. And then there's that game of chance — if the cop's doing 60, can I do 60, too? And then everyone gets confused and frustrated and full of road rage that spills out as soon as the cop leaves the freeway.

Well, it seems that cops are tired of it all, too — but not for the reasons that we have. Our friend Ronnie Schreiber at The Truth About Cars has a brief but smart piece (a must-read, by the way, regardless of what state you're in) on why highways in the mitten state are too slow from state troopers themselves:

In his capacity as the former head of the MSP's Traffic Services Section it was Lt. Megge's job to eliminate speed traps set up by local municipalities. A few years ago Megge told the Detroit News, "I've spent eight years in traffic services, and I was a crash reconstructionist for five years before that, so I've seen my share of fatal wrecks, and I can tell you: Deaths are not caused by speeding. They're caused by drinking, drugs and inattentiveness. The old adage that speed kills just isn't realistic. The safest speed is the speed that is correct for that roadway at a given time. A lot of speed limits are set artificially low."

That quote has held up, according to TTAC, and now Megge continues to make the case for higher speeds. Reason being?

In addition to the fact that they don't really do anything to promote traffic safety, Lt. Megge says that unreasonably low speed limits actually make roads less safe by diverting resources away from the kind of law enforcement that has measurable effect. Megge recommends, instead of zealous speed enforcement against drivers who are effectively safe, focusing on drunk drivers, red light runners, drivers and passengers who don't buckle up, and, an important point, enforcing realistic speed limits against the small minority of drivers who unreasonably and excessively speed.

Baby steps, I guess. We got rid of the Driver's Responsibility Fee. This has to be next.