Speed Limits: Do Most People Comply?

traffic laws

Speed Limits: Do Most People Comply?

Speed Limits:

Do Most People Comply?

Richard Hollerman

There is something in the heart of humankind that rises up and causes them to rebel against proper authority. Have you noticed this? Do you also have this problem yourself?

The Scriptures call this the “flesh.” The fallen inner nature or flesh rises up to make compliance or submission to proper authority difficult.  This is the way that Paul the apostle puts it: “The mind set on the flesh is death, but the mind set on the Spirit is life and peace, because the mind set on the flesh is hostile toward God; for it does not subject itself to the law of God, for it is not even able to do so, and those who are in the flesh cannot please God” (Romans 8:6-8).

If you have not come to Christ as yet, your “flesh” will rise up in rebellion against God in one way or another. Paul says that the mind set on the flesh isn’t subject to God’s law. The result is that such people cannot please God; rather, they dwell in spiritual death!

Desire of the Flesh and Highway Speeding

Some may agree with all of this so far, but they wonder how this relates to traffic laws. How can one’s behavior on the highway and street relate to the flesh? The apostle answers this in chapter 13: “Every person is to be in subjection to the governing authorities. For there is no authority except from God, and those which exist are established by God. Therefore whoever resists authority has opposed the ordinance of God; and they who have opposed will receive condemnation upon themselves” (vv. 1-2).

This says that we must obey the governmental laws and civil authorities since God is the One who has established them over us by His own authority. Paul writes to Titus, “Remind them to be subject to rulers, to authorities, to be obedient, to be ready for every good deed” (Titus 3:1). In another place, Peter adds to this: “Submit yourselves for the Lord’s sake to every human institution, whether to a king as the one in authority, or to governors as sent by him for the punishment of evil-doers and the praise of those who do right” (1 Peter 2:13-14). We can see that our submission to these civil authorities and their laws, regulations, and statutes is so important, for as we obey these governmental authorities, we are actually obeying God Himself!

We know that there are limitations to this submission for there are limitations to this authority. Civil authorities have no right to require of the Christian anything that God would prohibit.  Nor do these earthly authorities have the right to forbid anything that God commands of His people.

If a law is enacted that is contrary to God’s law, we must respond with the same firmness and courage as Peter did when Jerusalem authorities wanted the apostles to refrain from preaching on the resurrection of Christ. What were the Christians to do? Jesus had already commanded them to proclaim Him, His death and His resurrection to local Jews and as far away as the ends of the earth (cf. Matthew 28:18-20; Mark 16:15-16; Luke 24:46-47; Acts 1:8). They couldn’t obey human authority as long as they were under God’s absolute authority! Thus, Peter responded, “We must obey God rather than men” (Acts 5:29; cf. 4:18-19). We are to obey human authority as long as doing so doesn’t conflict with divine authority—the Law of God!

Traffic laws

Speed Limits: Do Most People Comply?

Do Most People Comply with Speed Limits?

From what we have seen on the pages of Scripture, we might think that most professing Christians would understand and be willing to obey governmental laws—whether it be obtaining a driver’s license, obtaining car insurance, obtaining health insurance, having one’s car inspected, registering one’s car, paying income taxes, being honest with money earned in the form of cash, or many other governmental requirements and laws. But, as it turns out, many people refuse to obey when they can disobey secretly without consequence or they can disobey in a way that other people also disobey and some police “turn their backs” on certain matters.

One area in which most people refuse to obey governmental laws has to do with speed limit laws. All of us are familiar with them. The posted speed limits are found locally on city streets as well as on state and federal highways in the country. The speed limits are usually prominently displayed so that no one need overlook what is expected of them and even required of them. Alas, we discover that most people are willing to rebel against these highway and street restrictions!

Let’s notice one report on the number of people who break the speed limits:

Driver compliance with speed limits is poor. On average, 7 out of 10 motorists exceeded the posted speed in urban areas. Compliance ranged from 3 to 99 percent. Compliance tended to be worse on low-speed roads, better on roads with prima facie limits, or where the speed limit was based on an engineering study. Better does not mean good compliance; less than 10 percent on [sic] the sites had more than 50-percent obedience with the posted speed. (ibiblio.org/ rdu/sl-irre0. Html).

To review, seven out of ten motorists disobey the traffic speed limits. Further, less than 10 percent of highway sections had more than 50 percent compliance with the law! How shocking, but also how common is such disobedience.

Highway speeding has increased dramatically. Some decades ago, the country-wide speed limit was 55 mph and this was to result in the use less oil and save lives. But today, most states have limits of about 70, 75, or even 80 mph! It is no wonder that traffic deaths have increased. One report tells us:

Now, it seems that a speeding “storm” is brewing on the streets and highways, and the deadly forecast seems unavoidable based on recent nationwide statistics. Worldwide, speeding is a contributing factor in about 31% percent of all fatal crashes, which equates to nearly 14,000 lives per year lost in the United States alone.1 The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) estimates the economic cost to society for speeding-related crashes is $40.4 billion a year, $76,865 per minute, or $1,281 every second. (policechiefmagazine. org/magazine/index. cfm?fuseaction=print_ display&article_id =1001&issue_id=92006).

Speeding is dangerous, thus it is no wonder that states would want the traffic to “slow down,” but drivers seem to be unwilling to comply with such a reasonable and simple request—actually “demand” or “requirement.” In discussing the reason for speeding, we find the following:

The driving public has the attitude that everyone speeds from time to time-“social speeders” like the previous generation’s “social drinkers.” Automobile advertisements and the entertainment media glorify speeding, and comics joke about it. An entire generation of drivers grew up riding with parents who sported radar detectors on the dashboard and regarded speeding as a game of tag. (Ibid.)

This is another report of a study made in New Hampshire on the posted speed limits and the view of the driving public:

Most drivers who regularly travel a particular route determine for themselves what speeds they feel comfortable with under ideal conditions and tend to drive at that speed. That speed may or may not mirror the posted limit. The New Hampshire Union Leader, the largest circulation daily newspaper in New Hampshire, recently invited reader responses regarding the reasonableness of the 65-mph limit on the three interstate highways that traverse the state, with the following results from 1,077 responses:

  • a majority (42.6%) favored increasing the limit to 75 mph,
  • second choice (21.9%) was a 70-mph limit,
  • only 5.8% supported the current 65mph limit, and
  • the same amount (5.8%) favored going to an 80mph limit.

Most respondents (63%) said they feel the police are currently enforcing the speed laws fairly and reasonably.4

Motorists may feel they are driving at safe speeds based on the roadway’s width and condition, but the physics at those speeds exceed the vehicles’ safety features and the ability of today’s multitasking drivers to maintain the necessary focus and concentration. Drivers also fail to maintain the necessary safety cushion of time and distance that will enable them to react to a sudden emergency. policechiefmagazine. org/magazine/index.cfm ?fuseaction=print_ display&article _id=1001 &issue_id=92006).

We can see that most of these drivers polled decide for themselves how fast they drive and this may not reflect what is safe or non-safe. We would ask: Do these drivers really ask themselves, “How would God want me to drive on this highway or this street?”

It is safe to say that most drivers do not obey the posted speed limits, but they are willing to break those limits according to their own tastes, their own views, and their own decisions. To use the experience of the Israelites during the period of the Judges: “”Everyone did what was right in his own eyes” (Judges 21:25b; cf. 17:6).

traffic laws

Speed Limits: Do Most People Comply?

Several Reasons to Obey the Speed Limit

  1. The Christian is to be in submission to the civil authorities. As Paul put it, “Every person is to be in subjection to the governing authorities. . . . Whoever resists authority has opposed the ordinance of God” (Romans 13:1-2). It is a serious matter to oppose God’s ordinances and laws that are expressed through the government. Instead, the follower of Christ must obey the government in all legitimate matters.
  1. The Christian is to follow the example of Christ. John says that “the one who says he abides in Him [Christ] ought himself to walk in the same manner as He walked” (1 John 2:6; cf. 1 Peter 2:21). Although Jesus didn’t drive a car, we know that if He were to be living today, he surely would submit to the governing authorities regarding traffic laws.
  1. The Christian is to obey the “Golden Rule.” The Lord declared, “Treat others the same way you want them to treat you” (Luke 6:31). Someone has say, “Drive unto others in the same way you want them to drive unto you.” We wouldn’t want someone who is careless to share the highway with us.
  1. The Christian is to be a good example before others in his driving. Paul tells Titus, “Show yourself to be an example of good deeds” (2:7a). We should also be an example of driving and obeying all of the traffic regulations. Paul also writes to Timothy, “Show yourself an example of those who believe” (1 Timothy 4:12b). People should look to us and see us as ideal examples of living—as well as driving our car.

These are weighty reasons why a Christian will want to drive in a sensible, responsible, and obedient way.  Although others may ridicule us because of our care in this matter, God expects us to be submissive to Him in this issue of driving and obeying the speed limit.

We should also remember the very sensible matter of driving in a safe way to avoid endangering ourselves and other people. Think of it in this way. If you are driving 40 mph, and another person is driving toward you at 40 mph, if you were to happen to crash, the impact would be a surely fatal speed of 80 mph! If you are driving 60 mph and the other is doing the same, the impact speed would be 120 mph! If you are driving at 70 mph and the other driver is doing the same thing, the impact would be 140 mph. This surely would be a fatal crash. I don’t think that any of us would want this to happen to us, thus why should we endanger the life of other people by driving dangerously ourselves?

We began our discussion by asking the question whether most people comply with the speed limit regulations, and we answered this by stating an unqualified No. Most people don’t obey the speed limits. If the speed limit happens to be 30 mph, it seems that people will drive 35 or even 40 mph. If the speed limit is 50 mph, most people will drive 55 to 60 mph. If the limit is 65 mph, drivers will go to 70 or 75 mph. As Paul puts it, “The mind set on the flesh is hostile toward God; for it does not subject itself to the law of God, for it is not even able to do so” (Romans 8:7).

Years ago, I could see that violating the speed limit was sinful (Romans 13:1-2; 1 Peter 2:13-14). Thus, I went to a sign-maker and he produced a sign that I placed prominently at my rear window for some years that read, “Speeding is Sin!” I suppose that many didn’t like this message or the reminder of their sinfulness, and I doubt that very many people altered their fleshly driving habits, but it was an attempt to remind people of their sinful driving, and from this I hoped to point people to God’s forgiveness through Christ.

How about you? Do you either consciously or unconsciously drive too fast? Do you willingly violate the speed limit regulations and thus rebel against civil government?  Remember, although you may have avoided traffic tickets, you will need to give an account to a holy God for your deliberate sinful driving. Remember that “we must all appear before the judgment sat of Christ, so that each one may be recompensed for his deeds in the body, according to what he has done, whether good or bad” (2 Corinthians 5:10). That is, we will need to give an account for the way we have driven our car, whether lawfully or unlawfully!

Let’s determine to drive in a way that will glorify God as we humbly submit to the traffic speed limit regulations. Let’s be law-abiding citizens and submissive followers of Christ!





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