I would like to thank Mark Nesbit of the S.C. Department of Transportation for clearing up my longstanding confusion about the purpose of speed limits.
The department denied a request to lower the speed limit on Pigeon Point Road in Beaufort from 30 mph to 25 mph. I erroneously believed that "speed limit" meant the top limit of speed you could travel on a road. Wrong. A speed limit, according to Nesbit, is something drivers are comfortable exceeding by a few miles per hour.
In the case of Pigeon Point Road, 30 mph is a good speed limit, even though, according to the DOT, 27 percent of drivers exceed the limit. A majority of drivers "only" exceed 30 mph by 2.74 mph. They are "comfortable" with that speed. In the real world, this would seem to increase safety concerns, not reduce them.
Also, I didn't realize that DOT gives attention to speed limits only if there are "numerous accidents or obstacles along the road."
Area residents and city officials have been using the wrong strategy for lowering the limit. They should have waited until "numerous" accidents actually happened on the road before making their request. Then perhaps DOT would make the change.
The next time an officer stops me for speeding, I am going to say that even though I might be exceeding the speed limit, I am driving at a comfortable speed. We'll see how that flies.