Discovering the History of the U.S. Speed Limit and How It Applies to Current Colorado Driver Safety
Even before the development of paved roads and highways, there were speeding laws. According to the History Channel, the colony of New Amsterdam, now present-day New York, was the first settlement to set a speed limit. The year was 1652, and the speed limit was put in place for wagons, carts, and sleighs. Drivers were fined if they were caught moving faster than a gallop. Today, speed limits vary depending on the state, so it’s critical to pay attention to speed limits when you travel across Colorado and around the country.
Speed Limit Once Dictated by Global Market
In 1901, Connecticut set the first speed limit, according to the American Safety Council. Vehicles could go no more than 12 mph on city streets, and no more than 15 mph on more rural roads. Speed limits increased as time passed; individual states began imposing their own speed limits. But in 1974, President Richard Nixon signed a national highway maximum speed limit into law, which set it at 55 mph for all states.
Instead of being enacted due to safety concerns, overall profit was the true reason for the new law. The Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC), which was made up of Middle Eastern oil-producing countries, stopped shipping oil to the United States in protest of the U.S.’s support of Israel in the Yom Kippur War; as a result, prices skyrocketed as the U.S. was hit by an oil crisis. Driving at slower speeds was considered more fuel-efficient. This lower speed rate continued until Congress reversed the law in 1995.
Speed Limits Vary State to State
The Lone Star State has a 41-mile stretch of highway, between Austin and San Antonio, with an 85 mile per hour speed limit. And while you won’t hear all drivers complain, there are those who believe that driving at that speed will increase fatal auto accidents. The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) highlights a 2013 study that notes higher speed limits resulted in an additional 1900 road deaths that year alone. IIHS also notes that over two decades, higher U.S. speed rates have taken some 33,000 lives.
When it comes to Colorado, the speed limit on highways and interstates was 65 mph in 1993, and today it’s 75 mph. In general, Colorado speed limits vary from 25 mph in business districts to 75 mph on some interstates. If you look at a map of the entire U.S., you will see the same type of speed fluctuation with the lowest highway speed limit at 55 mph, and the highest at 85 mph. And it’s not just the speed that has some officials talking, it’s what the driver is doing at that speed, specifically, what aggressive drivers are doing at high rates of speed that has some concerned.
Aggressive Driving Also a Cause for Concern
The AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety, the research arm of AAA, found that a majority of drivers surveyed say aggressive driving is a major roadway issue and also discovered that it is the cause of more than half of all auto accident fatalities. Aggressive driving includes road rage incidents, tailgating, and reckless driving while speeding, among other things. According to the National Highway Transportation Safety Administration (NHTSA), speeding is the cause of over 60 percent of fatal car accidents on rural roads. The agency also notes that, on average, 1000 people are killed each month due to speeding.
Obeying traffic laws at all times is critical to keeping yourself and other drivers safe. Driving above the legal speed limit in Colorado may save you a few minutes of travel time, but it could also lead to an accident that ends your life or the life of someone else. Ensure that you always know the speed limit and keep calm when behind the wheel.