Sir: This afternoon I was driving through a residential area, and I passed a sign that I thought was really quite clever. It said “speed limit 25,” and then below that, “your speed,” with—and this is the really clever part—an electronic display showing exactly how fast I was going.

That was extremely useful information. I had no idea I was driving at 68 miles per hour past the orphanage and the home for retired invalids, and of course I slowed down immediately.

At once I began to think how useful it would be if those signs were everywhere, so that I could always know how fast I was driving. Think how convenient that would be! But of course it would involve considerable expense, perhaps more than our already stretched highway budget could accommodate.

And then, quite suddenly, I was hit by an inspiration. What if, instead of signs along the road, the display were inside the car itself? Then I could always know how fast I was driving, with no need to rely on the thoroughness of the municipal sign-posting authorities. What if every motor vehicle on the road were equipped with some sort of device that would constantly display the exact speed of that vehicle? Law enforcement would be rendered almost redundant; for I am convinced, as every charitable soul must be, that “speeding” is largely a crime of ignorance.

If I were mechanically or electronically inclined, I should at once set out to design and patent such a device, and then market it under a catchy name—“Speed-O-Measurer” or something like that—confident that I should soon become wealthy on the revenues of so obviously useful an invention. However, as a sincere lover of humanity who is also all thumbs (I mean that literally; it is a rare medical condition having something to do with that DNA stuff), I have decided to publish this idea for the benefit of the whole world, hoping that the automotive companies will take notice.

Perhaps I shall live to see the day when it is no longer necessary for municipalities to post signs of the sort I have described, because every vehicle on the road will be able to measure its own speed. Or even if it is not technically feasible now, perhaps my letter will plant an intellectual seed that will ripen in the age of my children’s children. It is never too late for a good idea. —Sincerely, Landelin Melchor, Spring Hill.


  1. raf says:

    My dear Mr Melchor,

    I fear you misapprehend the purpose of the clever signage. This is possibly related to your apparent ignorance of the device in your automobile called a “speedometer.” This device purports to do as you suggest, continuously monitor your vehicle’s speed. Because it is notoriously inaccurate, most people ignore it, so you should not feel guilt for your ignorance. No doubt, when you were taught to drive, your instructor did not bother with that useless detail. The purpose of the clever electronic spped display signs is a well-intentioned but probably futile effort by those in charge of such things to provide a means to calibrate your speedometer against your actual speed so that by performing a simple translation in your head you can determine your actual speed and act accordingly. This is probbably futile, as I have mentioned, because simple translation functions are no longer part of a basic mathematical education. Such, often, is life.

    Sincerely, LA Kia, Editorial Assistant in Charge of Stuff Like This.

  2. On the contrary, the speedometer in most cars is quite accurate. The radar guns used by law enforcement, however, are notoriously inaccurate, due to the obvious financial incentives on behalf of the individual traffic cops, the police department maintenance personnel, and the local political authorities, all of whom stand to gain in terms of performance assessments or department budgets if practically every car on the road turns out to be flagrantly violating the speed limits and is thus subject to lucrative fines and court fees. A handful of activists and the rare honest politician have teamed up to, in a few places, push through legislation installing a standard law enforcement radar gun and a public readout, so the drivers can get an idea for just HOW out of whack the local cops tune their radar guns, and thus make an informed decision as to whether or not they wish to slow down to the far-below-any-reasonable-speed-limit velocity which one must drive so as to never be tagged as speeding by the lying equipment of your average local traffic cop.

  3. Greybeard says:

    I often see signs reading, “Slow Children At Play.”

    This leads me to ask two questions. Where do the fast children play? and Why don’t fast children get signs warning about their play areas?

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