ARG-173

In an attempt to improve highway safety, Prunty County last year lowered its speed limit from 55 to 45 miles per hour on all county highways. But this effort has failed: the number of accidents has not decreased, and, based on reports by the highway patrol, many drivers are exceeding the speed limit. Prunty County should instead undertake the same kind of road improvement project that Butler County completed five years ago: increasing lane widths, resurfacing rough highways, and improving visibility at dangerous intersections. Today, major Butler County roads still have a 55 mph speed limit, yet there were 25 percent fewer reported accidents in Butler County this past year than there were five years ago.


Write a response in which you discuss what specific evidence is needed to evaluate the argument and explain how the evidence would weaken or strengthen the argument.


The author suggests that Prunty County’s effort to improve highway safety by lowering its speed limit has proved futile. Instead, Prunty County should implement the same kinds of road improvement projects like the ones done in Butler County, which the author claims has lowered the number of reported accidents by 25 percent. She has elucidated several reasons for this recommendation; however, close observations reveal the lack of critical support for the conclusion.


First of all, the author stated that Prunty County’s first attempt, which is to lower the speed limit, has failed in the past year, based on an absence of decrease in the number of accidents and the patrols’ report of many drivers exceeding the new speed limit. However, is one year enough to assess a regulation’s effectiveness? Perhaps, people need more than a year to adapt to it. Unfortunately, the author lacks such information concerning how much time is needed and the aforementioned question remains unresolved. Granting that a year is indeed enough, we need to more evidence to understand if the speed limit reduction was the only affecting factor during that time. Otherwise, the effectiveness of the new speed limit might be counteracted by some counterproductive factors, such as low safety awareness or Prunty County drivers’ tendency to drive under influences. Moreover, it is necessary to look into the comprehensiveness and details of the patrol’s report. Little detail is known about such reports, such as the length of patrolling times, the coverage of patrolling regions, and how much drivers exceeded exactly beyond the limit. If people used to drive at 70 MPH, but they now drive at 50 MPH, that should be taken as a sign of mend not a sign of no change. For example, if it turns out that, though drivers are technically speeding, they may drive well under 50 mph, the police report cannot sufficiently support the purported failure of new speed limit. On the other hand, if evidence could be provided showing that the report is both temporally and spatially comprehensive, then the author’s conclusion of policy failure would be more tenable.


Second, more evidence is needed to help us ascertain the success of Butler County’s road improvement project. First, we need to ask if all accidents have been faithfully reported. Whether there was concealment or not will have a major influence in determining the credibility of the author’s suggestion. Even if the accident data is reliable, we still lack information related to Butler’s highway safety, other than road improvement. For example, other regulations, increased safety awareness and driving skills of Butler County’s drivers, or even the decreased number of cars in Butler, may all contribute to the decrease in accidents. If there were such reasons, the conclusion of the road improvement alone would increase highway safety is questionable. On the contrary, evidence unequivocally supporting the effectiveness of the project would strengthen the author’s conclusion.


Finally, granted that the road improvement project of Butler was genuinely useful and Prunty’s reduction of speed limit had no effect, we must consider whether or not Prunty County would benefit from improvement projects similar to those in Butler County in reality. In the case of Prunty County having well enough road conditions, road improvement would be much less effective as in Butler County. Moreover, even if the project is beneficial and is possible to replicate, evidence of there will be no other factors to offset its result are needed. For instance, a significant increase in cars or the local drivers remain unchanged of their bad habits, such as calling while driving, would very possibly be counterproductive. Thus, we cannot be sure the implementation of the same project will for sure decrease the number of the accident of Prunty County, unless more information is presented. Should there be enough proofs that the road improvement project will be useful and its effect not neutralized, the author’s recommendation should be advocated.


To conclude, whether a regulation is valid or not often depends on various reasons, but the author does not provide sufficient evidence to support his claim. Thus our assessment is contingent upon evidence that is yet to emerge.

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