A new toll road in Texas that opens in November will be the first highway in the state with an 85 mph speed limit, The Associated Press reports. Last month, the Texas Transportation Commission approved the 41-mile stretch after the Texas Legislature's decision in 2011 to allow 85 mph speed limits on newer constructed roads in certain parts of the state.
The new toll road from Austin to Seguin may alleviate some of the heavy traffic on Interstate 35, which connects Austin to San Antonio. Still, not everyone approves of the 85-mph speed limit.
"The research is clear that when speed limits go up, fatalities go up," said Russ Rader, a spokesman for the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety, to The Associated Press. He told the news organization that the tradeoff for higher speed limits may shorten travel time, "but the trade-off is more crashes and more highway deaths."
The Associated Press cites a 2009 report in the American Journal of Public Health suggesting that more than 12,500 traffic fatalities in the decade following the end of the federally mandated 55 mph speed limit in 1995 were attributed to raising speed limits.
Most states restrict highway speeds to 75 mph or less, but some stretches in rural West Texas and Utah have 80 mph speed limits. The Texas Transportation Commission's website notes that when speed limits are set too low, some drivers who don't see the need to drive that slowly may develop disrespect for speed limits. Speed limits on Texas highways are said to be optimized by the 85th percentile method, finding the speed at which 85 percent of all drivers will travel at or below.
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Source: The Associated Press