June 05, 2015

Horse 1911 - The Most Ridiculous Speed Limit In The World

In some parts of Australia distances aren’t measured in kilometers but hours and days. Heck, even to get between the two biggest cities will still take you at least eight hours. Yet you’re only allowed to do 110km/h legally. Seriously. Apart from Canberra which is inland and for six months of the year in the middle of a Kelvinator, the other capital cities cling to the edge of this wide brown land for fear of all the snakes and drop bears that haunt the interior.

If you head west of the ranges and into that strange land called most of Australia, sometimes you can literally be hours between sightings of two cars. Some places on the Barrier Highway for instance, may as well be paper towns because when you get there, there’ll be a post office which was closed in 1967 and the remains of a dog called Kevin. Even on national highways which are marked with a green shield, it’s possible to be so far removed from any civilisation that even ABC Radio fails to reach you and the only indication that people were ever there is the strip of blacktop which stretches forever into the future and the past.
And yet even in conditions like this, there might be a speed camera in the middle of nowhere, trying to collect money so that someone a thousand kilometers away can pay for a bottle of Grange Hermitage on the public coin (if they haven’t forgotten that they’ve been given one).

I know I'm harping on about the Hume Highway here but other than where the expressway leaves it in the urban centres at either end, the entire of the 883km stretch from Craigieburn to the Cross Roads is either a dual carriageway or full motorway standard for the entire length. The road quality is equally as good as what they have in France and yet on the Autoroutes you can normally do 130km/h.

Cars themselves aren't the pokey little death traps that they once were. Even the cheapest car on sale in Australia comes standard with ABS brakes these days; so it's not like we're still living in the days of bench seats, no seat belts and cross-ply tyres.
Yes I understand that Australia was late to the party when it came to installing expressways and so we have almost cut and pasted British motorway regulations because they're also a country which drives down the left side of the road but when the entire of the United Kingdom could fit down its longest axis between Melbourne and Brisbane and still have loads of space to spare, then adopting their speed limit regulations whilst they might be functional, are kind of inadequate.
Just like supporting Carlton, wearing a shell suit or eating Duck à l'orange, they might have been a good idea once upon a time but better things have come along since.

To go from the Sydney Town Hall to Flinders Street Railway Station, Google Maps kindly tells me that it's going to take 8 hours and 42 minutes. If the speed limit was raised from 110km/h to 150km/h for the route then that drops to 6 hours and 44 minutes. Two hours might not sound significant but I suspect that it might actually be safer because drivers are out on the road for less time. I know that I'd be trading one risk factor for another but even the NSW Government's propaganda tells us that tiredness is one of the top three killers on NSW roads. I'm sure that there must be something like a production–possibility frontier to determine the opportunity costs of one versus the other.

Surely in the twenty-first century we should be unchained a little bit. Yes I do have a selfish motive in that I want to go faster but driving for hours can be deathly boring... deathly boring.

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