Speed limits may have safety oriented intentions, but they are definitely arbitrary.
If you disagree just look around as you drive to work. How many people do you see speeding compared to obeying the law? The non-speeders are vastly outnumbered as they move to the slow lane to let speeders fly by.
I have a unique experience with this topic because I am a recently rehabbed speeder. Before I had been a chronic speeder and almost never followed the speed limit. No one seemed to have a problem with this except the police officer that pulled me over.
Since my rehab in S.T.O.P. class I have decided to try an experiment and not to speed, at all. Over the last two months it has been confirmed that my law abiding ways are in the minority. To prove my point further I am not only a loner as a non-speeder, I am also faced with angry drivers almost daily. People become frustrated after following me, driving the speed limit, and take the earliest opportunity to pass and speed angrily away, often shooting me a dirty look on their way by.
More likely, speed limits are set for financial reasons. At the start of the fall semester in 2008 the speed limit of old highway 275 through Valley, Nebraska was 55 mph. By the end of the semester the speed limit was reduced to 40 mph. During these few months there were no crashes, accidents or incidents. No increase in pedestrian traffic or vehicle traffic occurred. What did happen in this time was a recession and the speed limit in this small town was lowered to cope with the economic climate. Following old highway 275 towards Fremont, there are dozens of little towns along the way who have taken the same actions in hopes of increasing revenue. Often a sudden, drastic drop in the speed limit occurs around the city limits, areas which are frequently patrolled by local police. If the speed limit was actually safety oriented then accidents would be the reason to lower the speed limits. Unfortunately, politics even finds its way into the work of traffic safety engineers.
Not only are speed limits largely arbitrary, people following these limits actually upset many drivers. The fact that the majority of drivers does not follow the speed limits and still arrive safely at their destination makes them arbitrary. Even if the traffic safety engineers’ intentions were pure, politics and money are still the controlling factors for speed limits.