October 22, 2005

A WHILE BACK, I wrote about some modern ideas for energy conservation and observed: “I haven’t heard anyone suggest bringing back the 55 mile per hour speed limit, though, so I guess I should be grateful for small favors.”

Well, the San Francisco Chronicle has, sort of, proposed doing that, in an article encouraging people to just drive 55 now, even where the speed limit is 70. Overlawyered thinks that the Chronicle is putting profits before people and observes:

In sum, the Chronicle and the 55 Conservation Project are making a recommendation that doesn’t really save that much (if anything) in the way of money, can substantially inconvenience others, and, most of all, make the roads more dangerous.

What’s the liability reform tie-in? Well, note that automobile companies have been hit with millions of dollars of product liability verdicts for design decisions less risky and more cost-saving than what the Chronicle and 55 Conservation Project are proposing here. And (as should be the case) no one thinks that these two institutions, or the drivers that unilaterally adopt their recommendation to needlessly drive slower than the prevailing traffic, should be held liable for the foreseeable consequences of the recommendation or its adoption.

If we held news media liable for defective products in the same fashion that we do for, say, automobile companies or drug manufacturers, they’d all be bankrupt.

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