Three Cheers for Road Humps

Thursday, May 12, 2016

When we were house-hunting around Baltimore back in the fall, I kept encountering something I remember hating when I first encountered it about twenty years ago: speed humps. Unlike speed bumps, which are often easily avoided or sped over with little consequence. Speed humps will make you bottom out if you drive over them above the posted speed. That, and my failure back then to consider why it can be good to have drivers slow down, would explain the hatred. Having kids, and being justifiably annoyed with some capricious "speeding" tickets since then have helped me gain better perspective on my second-favorite new traffic control device. (I like the improved version of the traffic circle that has been proliferating over the past few years even more.)

So, why do I, who frequently grouse about speed limits being set too low, like speed humps? Because they are the opposite of almost everything I despise about government abuse of traffic law. Here are the main reasons: Unlike twenty-mile-per-hour speed limits, speed humps don't suddenly pop up on highways designed for speeds of forty-five or more. Speed humps do a better job of keeping children safe than cops who may or may not be around to catch speeders. Conversely, speed humps don't use passing motorists as a source of loot through selective enforcement. In short, governments install speed humps for a good reason, the devices are effective, and they don't lend themselves to abuse.

It is good to see the government do something that bears a reasonable approximation to its proper purpose -- and to see something that would exist in a truly free society. That's why I like speed humps.

-- CAV

P.S. I think roads should be privately owned and the rules for their use set by their owners. That said, so long as the government is running roads, I think it should set rules that balance safety and convenience as well as possible and enforce the rules fairly.


Anonymous said...

If you're a lead foot and haven't already been warned: MD, in my experience, is one of the most speed-enforcing states. It's rare to travel I-270 or I-95 without seeing a state trooper in the median. I've also heard, but haven't confirmed, that GEICO (the largest insurer of MD residents) provided the LIDAR guns to the state troopers years ago.

Gus Van Horn said...


Thanks for the warning, but I have indeed noticed the presence of troopers even on state highways -- and even county police on back roads.

I have developed the habit of noticing the speed limit, getting a smidgen above it, and setting cruise control -- even for posted limits as low as 30. I don't need effectively higher taxes or, worse, the constant distraction (on top of kids) of having to stare at my speedometer when there are a road and other drivers to watch.