A Texas law goes into effect today (September 1, 2011) that will change speed limits on Texas roads. House Bill 1353, which was passed by the Texas Legislature and signed into law by Governor Rick Perry, gives the Texas Department of Transportation (TxDOT) permission to increase the speed limit on some state highways to 75 mph. The law also repeals nighttime speed limits and truck speed limits.
State officials, legislators, Dallas motor vehicles accident attorneys, truck drivers and others debate whether changing the speed limit on Texas roads will lead to more accidents.
The Dangers of Higher Speed Limits
According to a 2005 study by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety, the risk of an injury crash increases exponentially with increases in speed limit. The faster cars and trucks travel, the harder it is for them to slow down for turns, traffic stops and exits.
When the national speed limit was reduced to 55 mph in 1974, traffic fatalities declined by 16 percent in just one year. When the national speed limit law - NMSL - was repealed in 1995, states that increased highway speed limits saw an increase in car accident injuries. Even an increase in 5 mph, especially at speeds as high as 70/75 mph, can lead to an increase in fatal and injury-causing auto accidents.
The changes in nighttime speed limits and truck speed limits also pose safety questions. While Texas safety officials believe that safety will actually improve because speed limits will be more consistent, truck accident attorneys feel differently. Eliminating the truck speed limit inevitably means that truckers will drive faster. The faster a truck is going, the more distance it needs to stop. Factor in limited visibility during the night and you have a potential recipe for an increase in serious and fatal truck accidents.
In the next few years, TxDOT will evaluate thousands of miles of highway to determine whether it is safe to increase the speed limit from 70 mph to 75 mph. However, the new speed limits will not go into effect until new signs are in place. TxDOT estimates that nighttime speed limit signs and truck speed limit signs will be removed by the end of this year, while we can expect changes in highway speed limits by the end of 2013.