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Massachusetts Speed Limits and Traffic Safety

On highways outside of Boston and Route 128, Massachusetts raised the posted speed limit to 65 miles per hour. This was a result of legislation passed in 1995 whereby Congress allowed Massachusetts and other states to raise the posted speed limit. The Law Office of Neil Burns has represented hundreds of individuals injured as a result of speeding vehicles. Massachusetts raised the posted speed limit to 65 mph first on the Massachusetts Turnpike. President Richard M. Nixon established a 55 mph national speed limit on highways during the oil crisis in the 1970s to reduce the country’s reliance on imported crude oil. He signed the legislation on Jan. 2, 1974. Thus, some 20 years later, states were then able to set their own speed limits.

Fifteen years after the national speed limit was repealed, some believe going slower on highways is a way to conserve energy and fuel consumption, and remain safer on the roadways. Meanwhile, others maintain that increasing the speed limit has not increased speed-related crashes and does not conserve energy. According to a 2008 study by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, of the 34,017 fatal crashes in 2008, 6,908 were reported at speed limits at 60 mph or higher, and 9,794 at 55 mph. In Massachusetts, the number of traffic fatalities went down 16 percent in 2008, from 434 in 2007 to 363. Of that number, there were seven speed-related fatalities reported on interstates with speed limits above, at or below 55 mph. The highest number of speed-related fatalities — 30 — were reported at speeds of less than 35 mph.

Boston drivers are fully aware of the use of radar-enforced speed checks. This was an offshoot of the energy crisis and the 55 mph speed limit. The introduction of radar-enforced speed checks started as a way to ensure people were driving the federal speed limit and all states, including Massachusetts, received federal funding based on driver compliance with the 55 mph speed.

In Massachusetts, posted speed limits are established through a lengthy process involving the issuance of special speed regulations. On state highways, the Massachusetts Highway Department (MassHighway) is responsible for conducting an engineering study to establish a speed regulation, which is then jointly signed by both MassHighway and the Registry of Motor Vehicles according to Chapter 90, Section 18 of the Massachusetts General Laws (MGL).

Ultimately, MassHighway, local cities and municipalities all work together to establish posted speed limits. The above link fully outlines the lengthy process involved in determining and establishing posted speed limits.

At the Law Office of Neil Burns, we handle all types of injuries and accidents as a result of the failure to adhere to traffic safety rules, including speeding and the failure to adhere to posted speed limits.