Speed limits were raised on Pennsylvania highways a few years ago, but statistics now show greater risk for local drivers. Recently, some states around the country are considering raising limits again or eliminating them entirely. Is this a good idea?
Unlimited Speed May Become a Reality
Just last month, California Senator John Moorlach proposed a bill that would allow drivers to go as fast as they wish. The plan calls for building lanes on a stretch of highway with no posted speed limit, similar to the famous Autobahn in Germany. This proposal comes as a response to growing traffic problems in densely populated areas of the state and related environmental concerns.
Senator Moorlach argued that letting drivers speed up would help alleviate traffic in congested roadways and optimize fuel efficiency of those vehicles. Other politicians and legislatures on the state level have worked to raise limits as cars have become safer.
Currently, the average highway speed limit in California is 70 mph. Other states, including Idaho, Montana, Nevada, South Dakota, Texas, Utah and Wyoming, now have limits hiked to 80 mph on highways. Plus, sections of State Highway 130 in Texas has the legal limit set at 85 mph. Data in these states has not shown a significant increase in the number of deadly crashes.
Some have labeled the new bill as ‘crazy’ and others worry that it will make roadways much more dangerous.
The Danger of Higher Speed Limits
Road safety experts urge citizens to resist the need for speed. There is continued concern that raising speed limits is dangerous for all drivers and passengers on our streets. For the past 20 years, speeding has been the leading factor in about one-third of all car accident fatalities, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. When speed increases, the number and severity of crashes tends to increase as well. “We have routinely seen studies that show when states raise speed limits, they can expect higher deaths,” said Maureen Vogel, spokeswoman for the National Safety Council.
Are Pennsylvania Drivers Safe?
Just less than five years ago, Pennsylvania began raising the legal limits. In 2014, the PennDOT increased it to 70 mph on the Pennsylvania Turnpike, from Blue Mountain to Morgantown. Then in 2016, the state extended the 70 mph speed limit, applying it to nearly 1,000 miles of roadways. The goal was to make travel faster for residents and other drivers passing through the state.
The higher speed limit was posted along five different state highways and part of the Pennsylvania Turnpike. Previously, speeds had been restricted to 65 mph on Pennsylvania highways since 1995. Traffic safety made sure that the speed limit was not raised on stretches with known driving hazards or which already had a high rate of car accidents. Areas marked as work zones, or which tend to experience heavy traffic, were also excluded.
PennDOT states that the amount of speed-related accidents has not changed significantly since the limit was changed. These crashes include speeding drivers, speeds that were dangerous in certain conditions, or high-speed chases. It’s important to note that speed-related accidents don’t include crashes that happen within the legal limit for the conditions.
Local journalists have followed the development to see how it would impact our safety on the roads. They looked at the recent Pennsylvania Department of Transportation accident statistics from these years since the posted speed was raised. The data revealed that the number of crashes increased more than 10% over the previous years when the lower limit was in effect. In two Pennsylvania counties in particular, the number of collisions went up a startling 20% on the Turnpike. This negative effect happened within the nearly two years since the speed limit was raised in 2016.
Slow Down, Drive Safe
You can check the local safety advice and crash statistics for yourself. Use the Pennsylvania Crash Information Tool (PCIT) to see the latest data available from our state law enforcement.
Let’s work together to make our highways safer for drivers and passengers. Remember to slow down, pay attention and follow the laws in effect.
Learn about the New DUI Laws in Pennsylvania and how the local authorities are working to decrease the risk of drunk driving.
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