A Market for Speed (Not the Drug)

One thing that you notice when driving today is that there are a lot more cops on the road.  Like many other jobs out there highway patrolmen are compensated in one way or another based on their ability to be generate fame and fortune for their company – in this case the state police.   Since there is a fixed budget that they have to work on, in times like this, when the economy is down they have to be bigger producers.  The other day while going through an E-Z Pass, I thought to myself, what is the point of these highway patrolmen?    Most of them are there to issue speeding tickets, but E-Z Pass can calculate our speed very easily since it knows the time it took us between two points, the distance between those points, and (hopefully) some elementary physics.  This is when I got the idea for a market for speed.

What if at every “checkpoint” (because thats what an toll booth really is) we could assess a tax on the speed that a driver took?  A driver who is going 75 mph would pay a higher toll than the person going 55 mph.  You could even set it to reward the flow of traffic so perhaps at certain times faster speeds would even have discounted “tolls”.  No more rubbernecking when there is money to be saved by getting to the next checkpoint in a certain amount of time.

Some people who I have bounced this idea off of have come up with a few objections, which I will address:

1.  It’s too “Big Brother” – I understand this obvious objection, but its already happening.  In fact I think as assualt on civil liberties go, the current situation in much worse.  Right now speed limits are below the “market clearing” level on most roads.   Therefore almost everybody on the road is breaking the law.   Thus there is nothing stopping an officer to pull your car over at pretty much any time and proceed to violate your fourth amendment rights.  I’d much rather have it the other way around.

2. “It would be more dangerous” – I doubt that.  There would still be laws and limits, and the Speed Limit itself would be what it is a LIMIT.  It could be much higher, say 100 mph.  If you got to a checkpoint at 100 mph you are immediately arrested.  The taxes could increase exponentially as you reach such a limit thus creating an incentive around a particular speed which optimizes both safety and traffic flow.  I think in the end such a system would be more safe.

Anyways, just an idea I had the other day and figured I would bounce off some of the ZB readers.  Let me know what you think by commenting.

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