Since the Ohio Turnpike increased the speed limit to 70 mph six months ago, commercial truck traffic and accidents have also increased slightly, according to data from turnpike officials and the State Highway Patrol.
The speed limit increased in April from 65 mph to 70 mph for the 241-mi. toll road that connects the Midwest and the East Coast. Ohio is one of more than two dozen states that have adopted a 70 mph speed limit, according to a report in the Columbus, IN, Republic.
About 1,270 crashes were recorded on the turnpike from April through September, including two that were fatal, according to the patrol, up from 1,159 in the same period in 2010. The number of speeding citations issued in that time also rose by about 170, patrol data showed.
Last year, a total of nearly 38.9 million passenger vehicles and more than 9.9 million commercial vehicles used the turnpike, which charges $15 to $75 to travel across Ohio, depending on the size and type of vehicle. Year-to-date, turnpike passenger traffic is down about 94,000 vehicles but commercial traffic is up by about 204,000.
However, officials said they need more data to determine whether the recent increases in truck traffic and crashes are actually linked to the new speed limit. When the limit for commercial vehicles rose from 55 mph to 65 mph in 2004, the patrol found injury and fatal crashes also increased in the following year and a half.
Most trucks are equipped with speed limiters and don’t reach speeds over 60 to 65 mph, according the Ohio Trucking Assn. President Larry Davis, so the increased speed limit isn’t a benefit to them.