Why Interstate Speed Limits Vary State to State
Speeding on interstates is not uncommon even though these limits are set for your safety. Just how fast you can go in a state is determined by state officials, and currently, lawmakers in some states are considering raising speed limits, but some researchers say that is not a safe idea.
Speed Laws Date Back to the Early 1600s
No, your eyes are not deceiving you! Believe it or not, speed limit laws came to be in the mid-1600s when New Amsterdam, now modern-day New York, posted what would have been considered a speed limit in those days. The law noted that a horse pulling a wagon, cart or sleigh could not gallop, essentially setting a speed limit for those modes of transportation. In 1901, Connecticut passed the first speed law, which limited motor vehicles to 12 mph on city streets and 15 mph on country roads. As this country grew, so did speed limit laws, and by the 1980s, the federal government allowed vehicles traveling on interstates to do so at 65 mph.
However, in 1995, speed limit regulation was handed back to the states allowing each one to set individual limits. Today, there is a huge disparity in these limits across the United States. For instance, Colorado’s interstate speed limit is 75 mph, while Alaska’s limit is 55 mph. On some stretches of roads in Texas, the limit is 85 mph. As the debate on increasing speed limits continues today in some states, researchers are arming lawmakers and motorists alike with information that may make you think twice about how fast you go on the interstate.
Studies Show Thousands Dead Due to Auto Accidents Related to Higher Speed Limits
About two years ago, The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) reported that two decades of research it conducted showed that increased speed limits in 41 states, where speed laws changed to make it legal to drive faster, attributed to more deaths. The study concluded the higher speed rates caused 33,000 traffic fatalities in 20 years. To get more specific, the IIHS researcher determined that a five mph increase in speed limits on the interstates he studied, resulted in an eight percent increase in auto accident fatalities.
Not everyone agrees with this, however. There are those who say the IIHS research shows that if drivers are going to drive faster than the interstate speed limit, lawmakers should increase the limit to match. Their conclusion was based on the 85th Percentile Speed, meaning that IIHS looked at what speed 85 percent of interstate drivers travel, and decided that number should determine speed limits.
One point of this particular study was to show that it’s more dangerous to have people driving too slow along with those going too fast on the interstate than it is to increase the speed limit and hopefully encourage everyone to obey that speed.
Regardless, safety should always be the number one goal, and there are some basic road rules that every driver on the interstate must follow:
- Don’t stop on the interstate – if you are having a problem, safely pull over to the shoulder of the road.
- Never back up on the interstate. If you miss your exit, go to the next exit and turn around.
- If you are merging into interstate traffic from an exit ramp, don’t hesitate, safely accelerate and merge with oncoming traffic.
Again, the most important thing is safety. Driving too fast or too slow can lead to car accidents resulting in injury or death. As one safety organization notes, interstates should be considered a driving arena, and it’s important that all drivers blend in.