Speed Limits in Samoa

The laziness, pomposity, and idiocy of the American people should have been evident long ago. Ongoing attempts to adopt the metric system have all failed. That rejection of an invitation to join the rest of the world has put us in the company of only six other countries: Myanmar, Liberia, Palau, the Marshall Islands, the Federated States of Micronesia, and Samoa. God, we’re such a progressive nation.

Perhaps I’m too harsh in saying efforts to adopt the metric system have failed. We (some of us) buy soft drinks in two-liter bottles. Wine and liquor are sold in 750 mL bottles. Some gun fanatics enthusiasts speak in hushed, reverential tones about their 9mm handguns. In medicine, science, and pharmacology, use of the metric system is almost universal. So I can’t say metrication failed. But it certainly didn’t succeed. Our speed limit signs still show MPH, though some also indicate in smaller type “km/h.” Weather reports and forecasts still use Fahrenheit instead of Celsius. Tape measures show inches (some also reflect metric measurements, as well). We monitor tire pressure in pounds per square inch. But wait…aren’t the sizes of tires (or tyres) worldwide measured in inches? Ach. If that’s true (and it may not be), I suspect that’s because of the early American domination of the auto industry. But some places, I think, measure tyre pressure in kg/m2. Right? Or is it kPA? Hell, I don’t know.

My condemnation of Americans as lazy, pompous, and idiotic may have been overly harsh, as well. The conversion to metrics would have required significant investments by some industries. And it would have required re-training Americans in the use of metric measurements. The benefits, in many instances, would be minimal. But, in my view, the single most important benefit that we continue to disregard is that we would be in step with every other developed, and most undeveloped, country. Our citizens would be able to communicate on fundamental matters of weight and distance and speed and on and on, using the same system that almost everyone else on earth uses.

On another matter, completely unrelated, I learned this morning that the speed limit while driving over bridges in Samoa is 15MPH (24 kph). If you want to know more about Samoan driving codes (and I know you do), you may find information at:


Frankly, it’s embarrassing to me that I have not made the effort to use the metric system of measurement. Because I’m used to seeing U.S. Customary Units, I continue to use them. But I do notice that my shampoo bottle is marked as 23.7 fluid ounces, with (700 mL) noted after. So the bottle is sized in metric round numbers, but the U.S. units are printed first. Maybe we’re changing, ever-so-slowly, after all. But I doubt our school children are being taught the metric system (I could be wrong—I often am). And that’s too bad. If kids were taught to use the metric system and could see how much sense it makes, I suspect they would grow up questioning the unwieldy system we use. Who has time (or the inclination) to convert everything in one’s head? Or, for that matter, who wants to grab the calculator to calculate metric-to-US or US-to-metric conversions? What’s the US equivalent of a blood pressure of 185/120?

This matter may not be worth the rant, but it’s too late now. I can’t un-write what I’ve just written. I could opt not to post it, but that would mean the time and energy I’ve spent writing this rant were for naught. My decision to delete this post now would amount to self-condemnation, a habit I’m trying to break. So, instead of deleting it, I’ll proudly proclaim my support for metric measurement and my ambivalence about American ambivalence about it.

About John Swinburn

"Love not what you are but what you may become."― Miguel de Cervantes
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