A local toll road connecting San Antonio to Austin has a new speed limit of 85 miles per hour. This stretch of road is now the fastest in the nation. However, some critics are concerned that higher speeds will lead to higher rates of car crashes. Crashes at extremely high speeds are more likely to cause serious injuries and fatalities.
Texas transportation officials insist that the new speed limit on the 41-mile stretch of road is safe. They claim that the state designed and tested the roadway with high-speed travel in mind. Other organizations also say that appropriately designed roads can safely support higher speed limits. For example, one organization points to an Ohio road that recorded its lowest fatality numbers yet on a road after raising the speed limit to 70.
Of course, 70 miles per hour is a long way from 85 mph and it is common knowledge that many drivers push the boundaries as much as ten miles above posted limits. The maxim “eight you’re great, nine you’re fine” may not have enormous safety ramifications when a driver speeds nine miles per hour faster than a 55 mph posted limit. But 95 miles per hour could be a completely different story.
This is especially the case for large trucks like 18-wheelers-high speeds put enormous pressure on equipment and drivers are often sleep-deprived or over-worked. Financial incentives to make fast trips may encourage large numbers of truckers to take the 85 mph toll road.
Speed-related crashes are a leading cause of crashes in the United States, right behind drunk driving. One organization reports that speeding deaths increased markedly since 2000 while drunk driving fatalities declined.
Source: USA Today, “Texas raises speed limit to 85 mph: Other states could too,” Larry Copeland, Sept. 9, 2012