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55-M.P.H. Speed Limit

November 20, 1986

When people connected with the insurance business make noises that the 55-m.p.h. speed limit saves lives, one is inclined to listen simply because they have an ax to grind. Therefore, the letter by O'Neill caught my attention.

In opposition to raising the speed limit on rural Interstates, he claims 500 lives per year would be lost, and to drive home the point he moves over to the airlines with " . . . if authorities found a way to save air travel time but the price was two extra airline disasters a year, would we do it?" This suggests the obverse. If reducing the speed limit to 45 m.p.h. would save 500 lives each year would we do it?

The crux of the problem is that taking statistics and translating them into personal terms ignores the fact that humans, as a matter of course, voluntarily expose themselves to risks on the basis that they see the trade-offs as more positive than negative.

At zero speed we could save 50,000 lives each year, but no one is suggesting that we eliminate automobiles--so, at what point do we want to draw the line?

Incidentally, the accident statistics for Germany, where there is no speed limit on the Autobahn, are just about the same as ours with the 55-m.p.h. limit.

GEORGE W. SIOLES

Rancho Pals Verdes

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