Longtime readers will remember these posts on traffic laws. I've got another post coming down the pipe on traffic circles soon, and am also planning a post or two on the (mis)use of statistics and probability by political figures. However, this morning I was also reminded that statistics can be used for good by this post:
Where am I going with all these numbers? Over 100,000 people a day (about 112 thousand) receive a speeding ticket in the United States. That’s just speeding tickets – no parking tickets, no DUIs, just speeding. Now granted some of those tickets are going to be for driving crazy fast and doing stupid things, but at some point they start calling that behavior “reckless driving” which, again, isn’t part of the above statistic....
The 112,000 or so tickets given each day add up to over 41 million tickets per year – that’s 19.5% of the populous! Between 1 in 5 and 1 in 6 American citizens will be ticketed for speeding this year, and that’s not accounting for children or those who otherwise don’t drive. About 20% of the U.S. is below legal driving age so even if we say that ALL of the remaining 80% (166,996,430 approximately) of Americans drive a car regularly (they don’t) then that means 24.5% of Americans of driving age are ticketed every year.
The whole thing is recommended. I agree with the point that calling a behavior that is commonly engaged in by a substantial minority or even the majority of a population criminal is silly. This is because, in my view, the law should be a clarifier of expectations. Speed limits no longer (if they ever did) accurately express the expectations of most people that you won't speed. Instead, most people recognize that 5-10 miles per hour above the limit is the commonly expected speed, at least in urban and suburban areas where going the speed limit can actually be dangerously slow.
On the other hand, I will point out that if cities and states lose the revenue from speeding tickets they will probably seek to make up for it elsewhere. Since it's harder to raise taxes than to enforce ridiculous laws, this would probably lead to even more ridiculous practices. I've got a hypothesis in the back of my mind that much of government is about hiding costs--but that is the subject of another post.