Highest Speed Limit May Be 85 mph

Apr 11, 2011, 09:45 by Danielle Bodnar

The highest speed limit in the country may become 85 miles per hour (mph), some lawmakers in Texas are considering.

The Texas House of Representatives has approved a bill that would raise the speed limit to 85 mph on some highways. The bill now goes to the state Senate, the Austin Statesman reports.

Texas currently has more than 520 miles of interstate highways where the speed limit is 80 mph, the highest in the nation, according to the Associated Press. The bill would allow the Texas Department of Transportation to raise the speed limit on certain roads or lanes after engineering and traffic studies. The 85-mph maximum would likely be permitted on rural roads with long sightlines.

Some car insurers and concerned citizens, however, oppose the bill.

According to the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS), high speeds were a factor in about one-third of all fatal crashes in 2009. The faster you're traveling, the greater the distance needed to bring your vehicle to a complete stop and the longer it takes a driver to react to emergency situations. If an accident does occur at a higher speed, there is a strong likelihood that the crash impact will exceed the safety features available to the driver and passengers.

Capt. Reno Lewis in West Texas' Reeves County said an increase in speed limits is "an accident just waiting to happen." Interstates 10 and 20 converge in Lewis' county, and the advent of the 80-mph speed limit in May 2006 has contributed to more wrecks, the Houston Chronicle reported.

On top of safety concerns, speeding increases fuel consumption. Every 5 mph you drive over 60 mph is like paying an additional $0.24 per gallon for gas, according to the U.S. Department of Energy.

"People already drive 5-to-10 mph over the limit," said Lewis. "Eighty is fast enough. You put it up to 85, and they drive 5-to-10 mph faster, they'll be going close to 100 mph."

All states had adopted a 55-mph speed limit by 1974 to keep federal highway funding, with some rural areas able to travel up to 65 mph since 1987. In the 1990s, the federal government deregulated national highway speed-limit standards, allowing states to set their own speed limits.

Since then, 33 states have raised speed limits to 70 mph or higher on some portions of their roads. Texas and Utah have the highest speed limits of 80 mph on specified segments of rural interstates, according to IIHS.

Others aren't so concerned with the possible change. Chris McMullin, terminal manager with The Waggoners Trucking in Houston, initially expressed shock at the possible raised speed limit, then mellowed. "Well, if they're out in West Texas or the Panhandle where you don't have a lot of merging traffic, they're probably driving that speed anyway."