A study by the Utah Dept. of Transportation showed accidents decreased by between 11% and 20% when the speed limit was raised from 75 to 80 mph on some parts of the state’s freeways.
The results of the three-year study may prompt state officials to up the speed limit to 80 mph on other stretches of highway, accord to a Fox 13 Now report. The studied noted that portions of road that had the 80 mph limit saw average speeds increase just 2 mph and concluded that drivers tend to comply more with higher speed limits, making for a safer road.
As a result of the study, the Utah government has now shown an interest in putting more 80 mph zones throughout the state, which UDOT officials say would be strategically picked out on stretches of road that are straight and provide a lower chance of accidents.
The state is also making the 80 mph speed limit permanent in two out of four of the "test zones” — stretches of road between Nephi and Cedar City, If the study finds similar results in the other two test areas, UDOT says the state will make those permanent in 2014 as well.
Utah joins Texas in the move to increase speed limits. Texas also had 80 mph restrictions on some rural roads, and made news earlier this month by becoming the first state to allow an 85-mph limit on State Highway 130, which runs between Austin and San Antonio. The new highway is scheduled to open in a few weeks.
The American Trucking Assns. has protested speed limit increases, urging the Texas Transportation Commission to reverse its decision and cautioning other states against following the Lone Star State’s “dangerous example.”
“At the end of the day, excessive speed is the greatest threat to highway safety,” said Bill Graves, ATA president and CEO. “And by giving motorists carte blanche to put the pedal to the metal, Texas is raising the risk of more crashes, as well as more severe crashes.”
ATA has been a vocal advocate, not just for the use of technology to regulate maximum truck speeds at 65 mph, but for states to promote greater highway safety by adopting maximum speed limits of 65 mph for all vehicles, Graves said.
“Higher speeds dramatically increase the risks of a catastrophic crash. On today’s busy and congested highways, it is simply unfathomable that a state would allow drivers to put themselves and others at risk by increasing speed limits to such excessive heights,” he added. “The state’s obvious attempt to generate more traffic and greater profit from tolls for private investors, at the public’s expense, highlights the trade-offs associated with relying too much on the private sector to finance.