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Steven J. Klearman
Steven J. Klearman
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How High Might Speed Limits Go and How Will they Affect Highway Safety?

3 comments

Right before summer temperatures started soaring, Nevada joined six other states in the U.S. by boosting the speed limit on certain sections of highway up to 80 miles per hour. While Texas posts the highest limit of 85 mph on a small section of State Highway 130, it’s hard to disagree that any speed starting with an eight seems rather extreme.

Like the Texas exception, Nevada’s 80 mph speed limit is not statewide—only applying to about 130 miles of Interstate 80 that runs through a sparsely populated area of desert. Interestingly, Gov. Brian Sandoval actually signed the law that allows for such a speed well over 18 months ago, yet it took time for highway engineers to even approve of an area where the limit could be implemented.

It’s not too hard to outline the views of opponents to this bill, many believe that years of data show that speed kills, plain and simple. Not only are many cars not built or maintained to cruise at 80 mph, most driver’s reaction time is not quick enough to respond to an obstruction or driving hazard in the road unless extremely focused. When traveling at such a speed, your vehicle can cover the length of a football field in 3 seconds—compare that to the 34 seconds it takes when traveling at a safer 60 mph.

Supporters of the measure have their reasons, but at least one seems a bit far-fetched. National Motorists Association representative Chad Dornsife claims that, “Fatigue is the biggest killer, not speed.” Thus, a higher speed limit means road travelers can arrive sooner while suffering less fatigue. Yes, driving drowsy is a large contributor to highway deaths as well, but an average 240-mile trip would take a mere 3 hours and 42 minutes at 65 mph compared to the 3 hours’ time at 80 mph—not exactly a game changer when it comes to the rest required to make such a trip.

Possibly even worse is the common public attitude that, whatever the speed limit, it’s okay to go another 5 mph over that. Thus, we could see many people driving sections of Nevada’s highways at 85 mph—but law enforcement warns that such attitudes won’t get drivers out of a ticket. Nevada State Trooper Dan Gordon made it very clear by stating, “The speed limit is the speed limit—80 is 80.”

3 Comments

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  1. Eddie Wren says:
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    You have a clearly-accidental but none-the-less glaring typo in your post.

    You wrote that: “When traveling at such a speed, your vehicle can cover the length of a football field in 3 seconds—compare that to the 34 seconds it takes when traveling at a safer 60 mph…”

    In reality, at 80mph one covers a 300-foot football field in 2.6 seconds but at 60mph it would take 3.4 seconds, not 34.

    You are entirely correct in your skepticism about the National Motorists’ Association. Their repertoire is built on what they, as individuals, selfishly want, not even remotely on empirical safety research or best-practices, despite their claims to the contrary.

    Eddie Wren
    CEO/Chief Instructor
    Advanced Drivers of North America, Inc.

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    Legitimate traffic safety researchers (those who don’t benefit financially from under posted limits and speed traps) have known for at least 75 years that posted limits on main roads are the safest when set so the slowest 85% of the cars are legal (rounded to the nearest 5 mph or 10 kph interval). Example: If the slowest 85% of the cars are at or below 78 to 82 mph (as is true for HUGE numbers of rural freeway areas nationwide), then the safest limit to post is 80 – NOT lower. The one 85 mph road, Texas 130, has actual 85th percentile speeds of 86 mph per data from TxDOT – it is a perfect limit for that road.

    James C. Walker, National Motorists Association

  3. Henry Stowe says:
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    I guess attorneys think no one’s tine is valuable but their own. I would prefer to save the 42 minutes on the trip due to the fact that I am completely capable of piloting a car at 80 and have been doing so for the last 35 years without incident. Decades of research on the subject have shown the same thing. People drive at speeds they feel safe and comfortable driving. As a result speed limits have no measurable effect on traffic safety. Fatality and accident rates generally follow economic growth factors. They dropped substantially in 1974, 1982 and in 2008-12. They rose in 1977-80, and in 2015-16. All of these independent of speed limit changes. Do the world a favor and handle that whiplash claim pronto.