Hearing the news that a bill passed in the Texas House last Wednesday allowing the Department of Transportation to have the power to raise the speed limit on highways to 85 mph was, for me, long overdue.
I will admit it, I speed, and, according to a research study done by the TomTom GPS company, so do 61 percent of Americans.
Time is valuable in our society, and Americans are willing to do what they need to do to maximize that time. The study also showed that 71 percent of Americans change their route depending on road conditions or time to navigate the fastest route.
Increasing the speed limit will make this easier. It will also allow people to get where they want to go and to pay more attention to the vehicles around them while also allowing them to spend less time staring down the same patch of road watching for cops.
But not everyone believes that increasing the speed limit is a good idea. Many are against the bill, believing the measure will result in more crashes and increased aggression of drivers who will drive dangerously with the new speed limit. While increased speed could cause more dangerous crashes, there is evidence showing that an increased speed limit is not directly related to causing crashes.
According to the Association of British Drivers, studies have shown that countries with the highest speed limits actually have some of the lowest crash rates. The ABD instead points to distracted drivers or drivers that have not been adequately prepared for highway conditions as the cause for most accidents, which would correlate heavily with the National Safety Council’s finding that 28 percent of traffic crashes in the United States are caused by drivers using cell phones — the equivalent of 1.6 million crashes per year.
The most important consideration involved in raising the speed limit is that an increase in speed limit does not mean that drivers have to drive that fast or that they will at all. Research done by Parker & Associates for the Federal Highway Administration shows that when increased speed limits were posted, there was only a minor increase in speed, with an average increase of only 1.5 mph.
Allowing for an increased speed limit will result in some increased speed by those who have the reason or desire to drive faster, but for people who are not as time constrained, there will not be as much incentive to speed.
The question of whether to increase the speed limit seems silly when looking at the data. There will always be a slow lane, and always the option for drivers to slow down to take a rest. Smart drivers who are looking for an increased speed, but know to be careful and slow in certain areas, will spend less time watching for cops and more time keeping their eyes on the road.
Austin Sandford is a freshman journalism major from Austin.