As of Sept. 29, the speed limits of four highways – sections of I-35, SH 130, SH 45 and US 281 in Bell, Burnet, Travis and Williamson counties – were increased from 70 mph to 75 mph.
House Bill 1353, which came into effect less than two months ago, permits the change to 75 or even up to 85 mph on certain highways where it is proved to be “reasonable and safe.”
An engineering study showed that the change was safe using the “85th percentile” method. According to the TxDOT Media Relations Office, this process, which is used by the entire state, sets the speed limit based on the speed at which the majority of drivers are already driving.
A speed limit may change in increments of 5 mph, explained spokesperson Karen Amacker, but “it is unlikely that it will increase from 65 to 75,” for example.
When asked about safety concerns of the new speeds, Amacker responded that studies have proved “roads are safer if most of traffic moves at a uniform speed.” According to TxDOT, vehicles driving at different speeds on the same highway make “for unsafe conditions.”
The change in speed limit reflected many of the goals of the department: to improve safety, prepare for the future and reduce congestion on the roads.
However, some are not as confident in that argument. Anne Fleming, a spokesperson for the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety, said that studies have consistently shown that “whenever and wherever speed limits have been raised, deaths have increased.”
To counter, National Motorists Associated claims that those who drive under the speed limit are most likely to be involved in a crash.
According to the TxDOT, the department has been testing roadways all over the state since Sept. 1.
“Anywhere you see [a] 70 mph [sign] is already being tested,” Amacker said.
If the roads in the DFW area are eligible for a speed limit change, drivers could see change coming here soon.
All changes should be effected by 2013, according to the department’s press release.
Some are concerned about the new speed limits’ effect on their wallets. With gas already at a high price, higher speeds – and therefore lower fuel efficiency – could cost motorists a significant amount of money.
TxDOT dismissed the monetary concerns, as well as worries about the negative environmental impact on speed limit increases, by stating that these changes “are more manageable when the speed increase is only five [mph].”