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Nevada Gubernatorial Candidate Proposes State-Issued Speeding Pass

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On: Fri, Sep 10, 2010 at 4:33PM | By: Chris Weiss

Nevada Gubernatorial Candidate Proposes State-Issued Speeding Pass

Think about Nevada (not Las Vegas, but the state of Nevada) and you'll likely think of a large desert featuring scattered population centers and tons of remote, open space in between. While this might be a simplification, Nevada has a greater percentage of public land than any other state in the country outside of Alaska. Such a flat, open canvas is all but begging for some painting by high-performance tires powered by bulky, grunting engines. And under a new plan proposed by independent gubernatorial candidate Eugene DiSimone, Nevadans would be able to push their tires on up to 90 mph by applying for a state-issued permit being called the Go Fast Pass.

DiSimone calls his idea the Free Limit Plan, and it is designed to raise money for the state while opening higher speeds up to drivers. Drivers wishing to take advantage of the speeding privilege would need to pay a fee of $25 per day and get an annual vehicle inspection. They would then get an electronic beacon that would automatically convey their pass status to highway patrol officers. Under DiSimone's proposal, out-of-state drivers (say those looking to make the trip from LA to Vegas in a hurry) would be able to pull over at a state line inspection station, get inspected and purchase a pass.

According to maximum speed limit numbers from the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety, Nevada would be the only state to have a speed limit as high as 90 mph. Currently the highest maximum speed limit of any state is 80 mph, and that limit is restricted to certain stretches of road in Texas and Utah. Nevada's maximum is currently 75 mph.

DiSimone's campaign estimates that the program could bring in $1.3 billion to the state each year. His analysis assumes that 10 percent of in-state drivers would take advantage of the Go Fast Pass. Taking tourist traffic from neighboring California into account, DiSimone boosts his estimate up to $2 billion per year. And despite the 10 percent figure used to provide the in-state estimate, DiSimone is confident that more people would opt in.

He's quoted in the New York Times as explaining: "A year ago, when I put this plan together, every time I saw a highway patrol by the roadside, I’d pull over and ask them about it. I stopped counting around 27 or 28 conversations, and based on what they told me, I estimate about 30 to 40 percent of drivers would be interested in doing it.”

The money garnered from the program would be put toward education and road construction. In-state auto, construction and tech industries would also get an economic boost by the infrastructure needed to support the program.

It certainly sounds intriguing, but I'd have to question if it would ever work. After all, people don't exactly need permission to speed. And the $25 per day is a rather steep charge for 15 mph of leeway. We're talking over $9,000 if you want to have unrestricted access to speeding throughout the year. That's pretty heavy.

DiSimone's plan does call for stricter ticketing to help to persuade people to buy the pass and dissuade non-pass holders from speeding.

In a press release that reads more like a journal entry, DiSimone explains why he thinks that people will fall in line with the plan:

"After some initial period, drivers will become more regulated because of the penalty structure. Who wants to risk such fines when they can just purchase the privilege? Clearly, not everyone will buy everyday. Most drivers will just keep it under the limit andstay in the right lane(s) keeping the left speed lane relatively free.The plan, by virtue of its fee structure will actually better regulate the traffic.That is asubstantial improvement overwhat we have today and will be the natural result of the plan --by the people themselves.Indeed, people will begin to keep the left lane open for the paying speeders."

To me this reeks of inequity, essentially setting up two classes of drivers while blatantly disregarding the potential hazards of having some drivers able to speed while other drivers cannot. Some people simply won't be able to afford this luxury and will be left to obey the "free" speed limit or pay steep fines. Those that can afford it will be left to drive as fast as they want (up to 90 mph), which is likely to put stress on the roadways. I don't see people quietly and humbly falling into line as DiSimone suggests. In order to really make this work, I think they'd need to institute dedicated lanes for the increased limit, something that DiSimone alludes to, but only after revenue is generated from the plan.

As to non-permit drivers obeying the speed limits: people speed everyday, sometimes doubling the limit, despite the potential consequences. How is seeing other people speeding 90 mph past them going to change that? And when given the chance of paying for something (on a daily basis nonetheless) and going through an official government process or not paying, taking a risk and simply hitting a gas pedal, many, perhaps most, people will choose the latter. Unless they're going to spend all the money they make on bolstering highway patrol, I don't think that that many people will buy into this permit.

Since DiSimone is an independent and polls don't even include a hint of his name, it's probably a moot point. But it's certainly an interesting debate.


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