By Stan Erickson

A pronouncement by GEICO, the Government Employees Insurance Company, was covered in the NMA News back in January/February 1991. In it, a GEICO executive stated that he thought it was obvious that the 55 mph speed limitation was critical to lowering the casualty rate on our freeways and highways and that was why GEICO was lobbying for laws against radar detectors. He explained that the faster the speed, the greater the likelihood of more severe damage and injury.

Like most errors, this sounds great and has an element of truth in it. It means that if I am out on the freeway, and I am driving toward a concrete abutment, it is more likely that I will be killed if I am going at higher speed than lower speed. Like the man from GEICO said, this is just physics.

Just exactly how did I wind up driving at that abutment anyway? I gave up playing chicken with concrete some years ago, long before I had a car. It's not going to jump in front of me, very few of them fall over, and I can't remember the last time someone dropped a concrete abutment in front of my car from a helicopter. Something is missing in GEICO's arguments.

They have forgotten that drivers are not physics objects. They are people. They don't aim at concrete abutments or at other vehicles or even drive off the side of the freeway, voluntarily. These incidents happen as accidents, largely human-related. What GEICO doesn't take into account is that higher speeds are more challenging and keep people more alert. Yes, faster accidents can be more severe. However, if a driver's speed is high enough to keep his attention on the road, he doesn't have any accident to endure. Being more alert beats less momentum as a cure for freeway accidents. GEICO is wrong.

What GEICO needs to do is to attack both sides of the problem, both the cause of the accident driver error and the result of the accident auto impact. The first is cured by allowing drivers to drive at their self-chosen speeds (assuming adequate experience, vehicle maintenance, and personal condition), and the second is cured by building safer roads and safer cars. GEICO is doing well on the second half of the problem, but they are making the first half worse. Let's all call on them to put their incredible lobbying money behind solutions to the complete problem of highway accidents and stop publishing their confused set of half- truths.

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