Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Media Avoids Numbers: Now There's a Surprise

There's a quick little ditty about raising the speed limit in Texas to a whopping 85 mph in the Paper Of Record this week. It quotes some local politicos as they talk with a certain puckish pride of these new autobahn-worthy speed limits. It details that Texan spirit of just-wanna-get-there, and includes a yarn about Governor Rick Perry getting pulled over a few years ago outside Austin when he was Lieutenant Governor. It mentions the almost incomprehensible size of the state and the vast stretches of nothingness between the big cities.

Cute. But what it doesn't mention is any kind of data to indicate how dangerous such new speed limits are.

This isn't difficult in the internet age. With a couple of clicks and the right words entered into Google, one can come up with a range of popular news pieces as well as scholarly articles about the actual, known dangers of such high speed limits. There's a lot of data out there to pluck off the tree. NYT couldn't even give a nod to this? I mean, if you're going put up a postcard about a fantastic speed limit--even if it's mostly intended to be a puff piece--don't you think it might be important to consider an obvious implication of the change? And we haven't even talked about gas consumption.

Not every article has to be a grim humorless slog through public policy. But one sentence about the potential dangers (not speculation, but the objectively known data!) of moving the speed limit well above where it was one generation ago doesn't seem to me to be too much to ask.

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