Speeding consistently plays a major role in highway crashes, causing fully one-third of accidents each year. Yet, ever since Congress repealed the National Maximum Speed Limit in 1995 and left setting limits to state governments, 34 states have raised speed limits to 70 mph or higher!
In October 2012, Texas raised the speed limit on a 41-mile stretch of roadway just south of Austin to 85 mph, the highest speed limit in the country. The arguments in favor of doing so were: the road was newly built and can handle the speed; it would relieve the heavy I-35 congestion between San Antonio and Austin; the higher speed limit is actually safe; and the revenue generated to the state from leasing the toll road to the company that built and manages it is substantial.
Critics say that as speed limits rise, so do fatalities. They are also concerned that drivers have a tendency to drive 5 to 10 miles over any posted speed limit anyway, and fear that we will be driving among vehicles going close to 100 mph. And the costs to drivers in gasoline would be significant. The U.S. Department of Energy estimates that for each 5 mph over a 50 mph speed, drivers would pay about a quarter extra per gallon in lost fuel efficiency – $3.00 per tank at 85 mph.
There is also the question of whether larger vehicles like trucks, buses and limo buses should be mandated to drive at lower speed limits than smaller vehicles. The fear is that if larger vehicles must drive at slower speeds, the total traffic flow will always be in conflict, causing erratic driving behavior and compromising safety.
Since late last year, 9 more state legislatures have been debating whether to raise their
speed limits. They are: Connecticut (increase multi-lane, limited access highway speeds from 65 to 75 mph); Indiana (raising speed limit of larger vehicles to conform to current 65 and 70 mph limits); Iowa (increase highway limits from 55 to 60 mph); Maryland (raising speeds on highways to 70 mph); Mississippi (raise limit from 70 to 75 mph); New Hampshire (increase interstate speeds by as much as 10 mph); Oklahoma (raise limits from 75 to 80 mph on turnpikes); Utah (raise limits on portions of interstates to 80 mph); and Wyoming (increase speed limit from 65 to 70 mph.
The Governors Highway Safety Association (GHSA) has published a list of each state’s current speed limit laws, broken down by cars and larger vehicles and by rural interstates, urban interstates and other limited access roads.