5 Things You Probably Didn’t Know About California’s Speed Limits. #4 Will Shock You!

5 Things You Probably Didn’t Know About California’s Speed Limits. #4 Will Shock You!
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Public Domain: What Made Sammy Speed? (1957) Acknowledgement to Rick Prelinger

#1: The Premise

California’s speed limits are based upon the brilliantly conceived premise that “…a reasonable speed limit is one that conforms to the actual behavior of the majority of drivers.”


Fortunately, this has proven to be a very solid premise upon which to base much of California’s traffic safety and enforcement because it’s well-known that California’s drivers are the best in the nation, always yield the right-of-way to others, are always law-abiding, always obey all speed limits, and always go out of their way to be extra polite.

Rafał Klisowski: Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Unported license

In fact, California drivers are even more polite than Canadian drivers, despite how Canadian drivers are so well practiced at diffusing your road rage by calming you with disarmingly folksy words such as “aboot” and “eh?”

#2: The Typical California Driver

If you’re like the typical California driver you unfailingly conform to all traffic laws (see #1, above), obeying every speed limit and warning sign...


...especially in residence areas with all of those pesky kids and dogs and the occasional wild turkey scampering across the road without first looking in both directions.

Self Credited Photo

Also, you’d never, ever allow yourself to become distracted from driving — even momentarily — by doing such things as tweeting into the latest trending hashtag games or texting while steering with your knees...


...or plucking your unibrow until it is on fleek...


...or grooming your ironic hipster mustache...

Boobies4Manny69: licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 4.0 International license.

...or waxing your junk while racing to a hastily-swiped Tinder rendezvous.

PUBLIC DOMAIN -- and that's an armpit in the photo, not actual junk, just in case you're wondering ;)

#3: The Posted Speed Limit

If a road’s speed limit is posted as 35 MPH, but its engineering and traffic speed study has not been updated in the last 5-10 years, then the speed limit’s enforceability has very likely lapsed and, if so, you can now legally drive 55 MPH in that posted 35 MPH zone without worrying about seeing a bar of cherries and blueberries in your rear view mirror flashing at you to pull over.


#4: The 85th Percentile

Remember that pathetic 85th percentile score you got on the Writing and Language portion of your high school SAT test because you blazed a fat old fatty in the parking lot before you went into the testing site, and then you completely zoned out for three hours on how to structure an outline for composing a simple 500-word essay?

Public Domain by Author: KF

No? Hmmm…

Okay, well... how about this?

Remember how that 85th percentile Writing and Language score was barely good enough to even get you admitted to your loathsome, bleak, in-state safety school that your parents forced you to go to after your SAT debacle, and then you had to live in a loud and smelly dormitory with two dozen classmates, and then you ended up dropping out of college for good after just one semester... but you’re still paying off your student loan?


Is any of this coming back to you now?

Okay, good!

Now remember how that really sucked and ruined your life and all of your future prospects for happiness and prosperity?

Okay, then... here’s some shocking news for you!

That level of mediocrity actually places you in excellent 85th percentile company!

Public Domain: Manual on Uniform Traffic Control Devices

California’s speed limits are established using what is known as the “85th percentile speed.”

What this means is that 100 vehicles could each be driving 10 or 20 MPH faster than a posted 35 MPH speed limit, and the speed of that 85th fastest vehicle becomes the new posted and enforceable speed limit.

Be sure to get all of your friends, family, and neighbors to always drive at least 20 MPH over the posted speed limit on all roads, especially in densely populated residence areas where you’d like to see the speed limit significantly increased.

You’ll have to trust me on this, and keep on speeding every day for perhaps as long as the next 5-10 years while waiting for the current speed study on that section of road to lapse.

Just remember to always be sure to watch out for the POPO.


#5: The Top 15th Percentile Speeders Club

The “Top 15th Percentile Speeders Club” needs committed, aggressive drivers such as yourself.

Dunord at Swedish Wikipedia: Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Unported license

If the speed limit is posted at 35 MPH in any residence area you’re driving through, and the posted speed limit abruptly jumps to 55 MPH a few hundred feet ahead without any transition zone, the 85th percentile speed strongly encourages you to ignore all posted 35 MPH speed limit signs and just mash on your pedal right now so you can already be traveling at least 60 MPH by the time you reach the 55 MPH sign.

The folks in these residence areas don’t mind the rumbling of your vehicle’s exhaust, or the 105 decibel thrumming of your tires on the crumbling asphalt, or your engine’s vibration causing their bedroom windows to rattle as you blast by their driveways at 20 MPH over the speed limit while straddling the faded double yellow line, trying to cheat the laws of physics on that blind curve coming up just ahead.

Public Domain: Creative Commons Public Domain Dedication

They’ll be perfectly understanding that you’re unable to control your vehicle and hold it in your narrow lane at that high rate of speed because centrifugal force has now exerted overwhelming control upon your vehicle, tugging it ever closer to the edge of the pavement where it will soon fling over a barbed-wire fence...

Joy Engelman: Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Unported license

...hurtling into a lovely green pasture that is being peacefully grazed by a herd of sheep diligently watched over by two large, overprotective bulls with very pointy thingies growing out of the sides of their heads.

Penny Mayes | Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 2.0 Generic license

They look like they know how to use those head thingies.

Good luck with that now, eh?


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