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New Texas Road May Have 85 mph Speed Limit A stretch of highway between San Antonio and Dallas

could have the highest speed limit in the Western Hemisphere. If the Texas Department of Transportation (TxDOT) approves the 85mph speed limit on the section of State Highway 130 between the two cities, it will also be the second-highest speed limit in the world. The purpose of the roadway is to decrease congestion on Interstate 35, according to Reuters. As of 2011, I-35 was the fourth most congested road in Texas, according to TxDOT. Parts of State Highway 130 are already in use and have posted speed limits of 80 mph; the remaining sections of the road will be operational at the end of 2012. Before the federal government mandated a 55 mph speed limit on certain highways in 1974, several Western states had high speed limits and some highways had no posted speed limits at all. Critics of the proposed 85 mph speed limit are concerned that allowing higher speeds will result in more fatalities; proponents say that driving is safer when every vehicle travels at the same speed. A current study suggests that most drivers on that particular highway travel around 85mph regardless. Texas House Bill 1201, 2011 The 82nd Texas Legislature and the governor approved House Bill 1201, which allows TxDOT to establish speed limits of up to 85mph on roads that were originally designed to accommodate such speeds. Prior to the 2011 legislation, Texas had 1,445 miles of state highways with 75 mph speed limits and 521 miles of state highways with 80 mph speed limits, according to TxDOT. These speed limits were primarily in rural counties and highways located in western Texas. The state has 3,000 miles of highway zoned at 75mph or higher as of 2012. Dangers Associated with Inconsistent Speed Limits Data from a Reasonable Drivers Unanimous study suggests that lowering or raising speed limits has little or no effect on driver safety, but a 2012 editorial in the British Medical Journal suggests otherwise. Researchers from the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine are mainly concerned with research which links an exponential increase in crashes resulting in injury and death to a rise in speed limits, according to the London Telegraph. The researchers are also concerned that an increased speed limit (to only 80 mph) would increase gas emissions and air pollution. It is difficult to see how any benefits of an 80 mph speed limit would outweigh the costs. Past evidence shows that speed limit increases lead to substantial rises in road deaths, as well as other

potential negative health and economic impacts, according professor Martin McKee of the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, quoted in the Telegraph. Conversely, the propensity for a traffic accident increases around a vehicle that is traveling at a speed much higher or much lower than the rest of traffic, according to Reasonable Drivers Unanimous. Arbitrary, unrealistic and nonuniform speed limits have created a socially acceptable disregard for speed limits. Unrealistic limits increase accident risk for persons who attempt to comply with the limit by driving slower or faster than the majority of road users. Unreasonably low limits significantly decrease driver compliance and give road users, such as those not familiar with the road and pedestrians, a false sense of actual traffic speeds, according to the report. Other studies and data concur with Reasonable Drivers Unanimous. If all drivers operate their vehicles near the speed at which the highway was designed to be traveled, safety studies suggest traffic will flow more safely. Uniform Speeds Could Mean Safer Roadways TxDOT and both suggest that speed uniformity improves highway safety. When someone pokes along at a pace slower than the rest of traffic, his or her automobile is likely to be involved in a crash because it becomes an obstacle to the usual flow of vehicles. Conversely, moving much faster than the traffic around you is also a danger. If a highway is designed to be traveled at 85 mph, then, data suggests it is safe to drive it at that speed as long as everyone gravitates to that speed. Reasonable Drivers Unanimous data also suggests that lowering speed limits by 5, 10, 15, or 20 mph had little effect on vehicle speeds; raising speed limits by 5, 10, or 15 mph had a minor effect on vehicle speeds; and the indirect effects of speed limit changes on a sample of contiguous and adjacent roadways was found to be very small and insignificant.

Road test data suggests that speed limits have little impact on driver behavior. As long as all vehicles move at close to the same speed, and as long as that speed does not exceed the rate the highway was engineered to accommodate, highway safety will increase. TxDOT officials say they will set the speed limit on State Highway 130 at a speed that is safe for drivers. However, accidents will still happen, so the impetus for safety is always on the individual driver. If you or someone you know has been injured or if someone you know has been killed in a vehicle crash, contact The Bob Richardson Law Firm at 1-(800) 880-5100 or visit our website, where you may complete our online contact form.

These articles are provided for informational purposes only and should not be considered legal advice. Professional legal counsel should be sought for specific advice relevant to your circumstances.