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A Quick History of Speed Limits

Nowadays, that little white sign reading ’45 mph’ is barely more than a blur outside the car window, something we notice in passing. As much as those pesky little speed limit signs may irk us at times, (particularly when we’ve been pulled over), speed limits are an integral part of our society that help keep us safe. The prospect of driving without them is unthinkable. However, there was certainly a time when speed limits didn’t exist, and we have come a long way since then.

The first speed limits in The U.S. were not imposed on motor vehicles, but on wagons and horse-drawn carriages in New York in 1652. The maximum speed limit was ‘no faster than a gallop.’ Similarly in Boston in 1757, it was decreed that no one could drive their horses faster than a walking pace or they would be fined 10 shillings.

The first speed limit imposed on motor vehicles was in the U.K. in 1865, with a whopping limit of 2 mph in cities and 4 mph elsewhere. In addition, it was mandated that all …
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Road Rage, Aggressive Driving, and How to Stay Safe

In light of the recent road rage incident in Las Vegas that resulted in the death of a woman, it is important to address the topic of road rage. While this particular case is more extreme than most, many of us have encountered road rage or aggressive driving more than a few times in our lives. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration makes the distinction between the two , stating that road rage “involves a criminal act of violence, whereas aggressive driving can range from tailgating to speeding to running red lights”. However, aggressive driving is also extremely dangerous and is much more common. It manifests itself in many ways. Perhaps someone was angrily riding your bumper as you try to safely navigate a well-worn road. Perhaps you sat in the passenger’s seat, trying to calm a driver down after they were cut off. Or, perhaps, that guy in the Prius who skipped the traffic in the exit has your blood boiling, so you’re sure not going to let him over. Whatever the case may be, raised tensions on the …
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The Proposed Cap on Traffic Fines: Why It Won’t Work

In Jefferson City, MO on January 21 of this year, Senator Eric Schmitt sponsored a bill which seeks to lower the amount of revenue that cities can raise from traffic fines, from 30% to 10%. Schmitt said that, “We have created, in many ways, through these abusive traffic schemes and court fees… modern day debtor prisons,” when people are sent to prison for being unable to pay their fines. This is particularly notable in St. Louis County, where he says that 50% of the state’s traffic tickets are distributed, although only 22% of the state’s population resides there. While on the outset this bill appears to be a step in the direction of equality, it is not the solution that will best serve the citizens of this state.

To understand why this solution will not lead to equality, we must address the initial reasons behind this discrepancy.

Many tickets are written in municipalities in poorer areas because of the sheer cost of owning and maintaining a motor vehicle. While personal property tax and registration fees are minimal, insurance costs are …
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St. Louis, Traffic Tickets, & the Broken Windows Theory

Consider a building with a few broken windows. If the windows are not repaired, the tendency is for vandals to break a few more windows. Eventually, they may even break into the building, and if it’s unoccupied, perhaps become squatters or light fires inside. Or consider a sidewalk. Some litter accumulates. Soon, more litter accumulates. Eventually, people even start leaving bags of trash from take-out restaurants there or even break into cars.

-George L. Kelling and James Q. Wilson (1982)

The broken windows theory is one that has been pondered inconclusively for years. The crux of the theory is that when the police crack down on seemingly insignificant, smaller crimes, the rate of larger and more serious crimes will be reduced. While obviously there may be many factors that push an individual to commit a crime, the broken windows theory suggests that one major factor is apathy from both the citizens and the governing body. A small amount of disorder, such as one broken window, will theoretically lead to another, because in the mind of a potential perpetrator, why not? In St. Louis County, the police force …
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