Highway speed limits vary by state. For example, in most of California the highway speed limit is 55 mph, while in South Dakota you can find several of the main highways posted for a 75 mph speed zone. Texas has stretches of highway that are zoned at 85 mph, which is the highest in the US. State laws mandate the speed of highways in their jurisdiction. However, as states vote to increase the speed limits on highways there is the grave concern of the dangers of speeding that will ultimately result.

Dangers of Speeding by Default

According to the Advocates for Highway and Auto Safety (AHAS) nearly one-third of all car crashes that result in death are a result of speeding. Speeding is defined as going faster than the speed limit, as well as driving too fast in certain conditions, such as inclement weather or road construction. When a state increases their speed limit on highways it automatically increases the speeds driven on the posted road. For drivers, this increases the risks of being involved in a fatality in car crash. Additionally, the AHAS reports speeds that increase from 40 to 60 mph causes the energy relayed during a car collision to more than double in force.

Raised Speed Limits Increase Risks

If a highway speed limit is raised, then by default those driving on that highway will be going faster than before the increase. For drivers who are used to the slower speed limit this poses the problem of having to increase their regular speed. As noted in USA Today, Insurance Institute for Highway Safety spokesperson Russ Rader said, "When speed limits go up deaths go up, and when speed limits go down deaths go down. It seems as though more states are raising speed limits despite the clear evidence that shows what the safety downside is. Higher speeds mean more crashes and more severe ones."

States Increasing Speed Limits

States can increase their highway speed limits, but the question is whether or not they should. Transportation authorities and businesses want speed limits raised to decrease the time freight and workers are in transit. However, in terms of safety the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety reported:

  • Speed limits raised in 1996 resulted in increased speed and car crash fatalities by 15 percent
  • Twenty-nine states in the US raised their highway speeding limits to 70 mph or more in 2003

Maryland's max speed on any state highway is limited at 65 mph at this time. However, given the increased number of states interested in boosting revenue from increased speeds for transportation, it will be interesting to see if Maryland jumps on the faster highways bandwagon in the future. For those interested in seeing safer highways note that increased speeds may bring in more tax dollars due to boosts in business revenue. However, these speeds can also lead to a greater risk of car collisions resulting in fatalities.