When Speeding Won’t Get You There Any Faster

If you drive, you almost certainly treat the posted speed limit as more of a suggestion than as an actual rule. Putting worst-case scenarios and accidents aside, we do so at the risk of getting a pricey speeding ticket and an increase in our auto insurance rates. But that outcome requires getting pulled over by a police officer and in most places, that’s exceedingly rare. So, people speed.

We don’t typically do so out for fun or for lack of anything better to do, though; we speed for the same reason we get into the car in the first place — we want to go somewhere, and quickly. The faster the car goes, the quicker we get to wherever we’re off to, right? But what if that weren’t true? What if, if you blew past the speed limit, you actually arrived at your destination later?

Impossible? Hardly. That’s exactly what Estonia is giving a try — by putting speeders in time out.

In general, Estonia has a 50 km/hr (about 30 mph) speed limit on city streets and a 90 km/hr (55 mph) one on highways or in rural areas. But like everywhere else, people tend to drive a bit faster — and it’s become an increasingly large problem. As Jalopnik notes, “Estonia has been struck by a sharp increase in road fatalities between 2017 and 2018,” and desperate times call for creative measures. While Estonia issues tickets just like most places do, that hasn’t seemed to be effective. So about a week or so ago, the government announced they’d be giving speeders a way to get out of their fines, for free — if they just wait a bit. 

According to Estonian Public Broadcasting, first-time offenders will be given a choice when they’re pulled over. Instead of facing a fine for speeding, these rule-breakers can take a break from driving, right then and there. Per the public broadcaster, “drivers exceeding the speed limit by 20 km/h must wait 45 minutes in a parking area next to the road and 60 minutes if they drove between 21 and 40 km/h over the allowed limit.” In effect, if you’re caught speeding and don’t want to pay a fine, you get to your final destination about 30 minutes later than you would have had you just driven at the speed limit in the first place. (The math here is a rough, rough estimate, but you get the idea.)

For now, the pay-or-wait program is being offered in only a small area as Estonia tests the idea’s efficacy. The hope is that either the idea curbs speeding itself, or in the very least, that it gives insights into other ways to accomplish that goal. A government advisor, Elari Kasemets, told Estonia Public Broadcasting that many drivers who accept the time out will spend some of their idle time talking with police officers, and hopefully provide authorities insight into why people speed in the first place. So even if the time out doesn’t reduce speeding directly, perhaps the police can come up with new ideas to combat the issue.

If you drive, you almost certainly treat the posted speed limit as more of a suggestion than as an actual rule. Putting worst-case scenarios and accidents aside, when we speed, we do so at the risk of getting a pricey speeding ticket and an increase in our auto insurance rates. But that outcomes requires getting pulled over by a police officer and in most places, that’s exceedingly rare. So, people just hit the gas.

We don’t typically do so out of fun or for lack of anything better to do, though; we speed for the same reason we get into the car in the first place — we want to go somewhere, and quickly. The faster the car goes, the quicker we get to wherever we’re off to, right? But what if that weren’t true? What if, if you blew past the speed limit, you actually arrived at your destination later?

Impossible? Hardly. That’s exactly what Estonia is giving a try — by putting speeders in time out.

In general, Estonia has a 50 km/hr (about 30 mph) speed limit on city streets and a 90 km/hr (55 mph) one on highways or in rural areas. But like everywhere else, people tend to drive a bit faster — and for Estonia, that’s become an increasingly large problem. As Jalopnik notes, “Estonia has been struck by a sharp increase in road fatalities between 2017 and 2018,” so while Estonia issues tickets just as most places do, that hasn’t seemed to be effective. Other ideas are needed and, about a week or so ago, the government announced they’d be giving speeders a way to get out of their fines, for free — if they just wait a bit. 

According to Estonian Public Broadcasting, first-time offenders will be given a choice when they’re pulled over. Instead of facing a fine for speeding, these rule-breakers can take a break from driving, right then and there, and just hang out with the police officers who pulled them over. Per the public broadcaster, “drivers exceeding the speed limit by 20 km/h must wait 45 minutes in a parking area next to the road and 60 minutes if they drove between 21 and 40 km/h over the allowed limit.” In effect, if you’re caught speeding and don’t want to pay a fine, you get to your final destination about 30 minutes later than you would have had you just driven at the speed limit in the first place. (The math here is a rough, rough estimate, but you get the idea.)

For now, the pay-or-wait program is being offered in only a small area as Estonia tests the idea’s efficacy. The hope is that either the idea curbs speeding itself, or in the very least, that it gives insights into other ways to accomplish that goal. A government advisor, Elari Kasemets, told Estonia Public Broadcasting that many drivers who accept the time out will spend some of their idle time talking with police officers, and hopefully provide authorities insight into why people speed in the first place. So even if the time out doesn’t reduce speeding directly, perhaps the police can come up with new ideas to combat the issue.

 

Bonus fact: Another creative way to encourage people to drive the speed limit? Singing roadways. A section of highway Route 66 near Albuquerque, New Mexico, has a unique road sign, advising drivers to “reduce speed to 45 mph” — with music notes all around it, as seen here. Why? Because the road is outfitted with special grooves which play “America the Beautiful” when car tires pass over them at that speed. (If you speed, the sound is just noise.) You can give it a listen here.

From the Archives: Slow and Steady Wins the Lottery: Another fun way to slow down speeders.