Safe at 85 Miles Per Hour?
What is a safe speed limit for Massachusetts highways? Current law in Massachusetts limits highway speed to 65 miles per hour. In Texas, however, there is a new highway under construction in which the speed limit may be set at 85 miles per hour! The highway, Texas Route 130, which will run from Austin San Antonio, will have the fasted posted speed limit in the United States.
However the American Trucking Association is calling on the Texas Transportation commission to reduce the proposed speed limit.
Calling it a safety threat, the CEO of the ATA claims that a maximum speed of 65 should be set. Calling excessive speed the most dangerous threat to highway safety, CEO Bill Graves claims that Texas is directly raising the risk of more motor vehicle crashes, and more “severe crashes” in that.
Absent a change, Texas would have the highest speed limit in the US. Utah has an 80 mile per hour speed limit, and many states have a 70 or 75 mile per hour limit. Maine, for example has a 75 mile per hour limit, while the rest of New England and all of the mid Atlantic states have 65 mile per hour limits. Hawaii is the lone state with maximum speed limit of 60.
The Texas law requires a specific engineering study for the new highway in Central Texas to allow speeds of 85 miles per hour. The study must conclude that it would be “reasonable and safe” to have the higher speed limit. The Texas Department of Transportation will undertake the studies.
The history of speed limits can be quite interesting; like many other laws, this one originated in Boston! In 1757, the Boston Board of Selectmen set the speed limit for horses and the things they pulled at “walking pace” and set a fine for all violators! This law is no longer on the books in Boston. Other aspects of speed limit law historically include reducing speed limits at night and for trucks.
Currently, Massachusetts speed limit law in has the following increments: 15 miles per hour when in the vicinity of pedestrian related vehicle, such as a food truck; 20 miles per hour when in a school or child concentrated zone; 30 miles per hour in an urban or settled zone (where buildings are within 200 feet); 40 miles per hour in a regular non thickly settled zone; 50 miles per hour on highways outside the settled zones; certain two lane roads may be posted at 55 miles per hour; highways are 65 miles per hour.
In Massachusetts, we don’t want to tell Texas what to do; and, of course, we don’t want the Texans telling us what to do. On the other hand, having speed limits in historical context can prove illustrative. In the 1960s, there were public hearings to determine what national speed limits should be. The seat belt laws were enacted, as was the establishment of the US Department of Transportation. It should be noted that prior to 1966, many western states had no speed limit laws! In 1973, President Carter pushed for legislation that would reduce the national speed limit to 55 miles per hour. This was a reaction to the OPEC oil embargo of 1973. Although unintended, this reduction in the national speed limit had the greatest effect on reducing highway fatalities; from 55,704 in 1972 to 46,078 in 1974.
Driving is dangerous. If you are in a motor vehicle accident, call an attorney with trial experience to get your case aggressively handled against the insurance companies. Call Massachusetts car accident attorney Neil Burns at 617-227-7423