Drivers in Texas who have long commutes may be happy that the Lone Star State has some of the highest speed limits in the country, but this is a situation that greatly concerns road safety advocacy groups. According to data from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, accidents involving excessive speed kill about 10,000 road users each year in the United States despite significant improvements in road design and automobile safety systems.
Regulating speed limits
Congress responded to a global oil shortage in 1972 by setting a National Maximum Speed Limit of 55 mph, but that law was repealed in 1995. Speed limits around the country are now regulated by state agencies like the Texas Department of Transportation. Texas law sets the maximum speed limit in the state to 70 mph, but the agency can raise this limit to 75, 80 or even 85 mph if it determines that doing so would not endanger the public.
Higher speeds lead to more fatalities
Raising speed limits is popular with motorists even though the figures suggest that higher speeds lead to more traffic fatalities. When researchers from the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety studied the impact that higher speed limits have had on road safety, they discovered that highway deaths increase by about 8% and car accident fatalities on other roads increase by 3% when speed limits are raised by just 5 mph.
Enforcement is needed
Law enforcement agencies are tasked with enforcing traffic laws, but speeders often go unpunished. The great strides that have been made in the battle against drunk driving have largely been the result of rigorous policing and powerful public awareness campaigns, and the same kind of effort is needed to tackle recklessness and excessive speed.