Are high Texas speed limits putting drivers in danger?

Research shows that higher speed limits make accident avoidance more difficult for Texas drivers and increase the severity of accidents that do occur.

Texas is home to some of the nation's fastest speed limits, as most Killeen residents know; the Governors Highway Safety Association states that maximum car and truck speeds reach up to 80 or 85 miles per hour on some roads. Many drivers view these limits as a convenience, rather than an unnecessary danger. Sadly, though, data suggests that these high speed limits create a greater risk of catastrophic collisions, and this problem may only become worse as higher speeds become more common around the country.

A trend toward faster roads

Speed plays a role in about one-third of fatal accidents that occur in the U.S., according to the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety. Despite this fact, in recent years, many states have started increasing speed limits, with the highest limits found in western states such as Texas. According to the Los Angeles Times, some states increase speed limits to accommodate the actual speed of traffic, while others do it to match the speed limits posted in neighboring states.

Limited data suggests that raising speed limits may be effective in reducing the number of drivers who speed and lowering speed discrepancies between vehicles. Utah has even reported a drop in fatalities on one highway with a new 80 mile per hour speed limit, although the Utah Highway Patrol still opposes the new speed limit. Troublingly, though, broader data suggests that high speed limits may create an unacceptable risk of serious accidents.

Worse accidents expected

According to The Los Angeles Times, safety advocates state that higher speed limits cause more severe crashes in which fatalities are more likely. The IIHS explains that the following factors make high-speed crashes more severe:

  • Drivers traveling at higher speeds need more distance to stop the vehicle, making accident avoidance a greater challenge.
  • At higher speeds, drivers need to exhibit faster reaction times to respond appropriately to situations, since the vehicle will cover more distance during the time the driver processes the situation and decides how to respond.
  • A higher travel speed disproportionately increases kinetic energy, which must be dissipated during the crash; greater crash energy creates a greater risk of vehicle damage and personal injury.

These factors may especially increase the severity of accidents involving larger vehicles, resulting in even more serious injuries. The Los Angeles Times notes that, due to safety concerns, the trucking industry has called for uniform speed limits of 65 miles per hour, which would keep all traffic moving at speeds that trucks can safety travel at. Unfortunately, speed limits on many Texas roads are significantly greater than this recommended threshold.

Nation-leading speed limits for passenger vehicles and large trucks alike may take a substantial toll on Texas drivers. The Killeen Daily Herald reported at the start of 2014 that speed was one of three primary factors contributing to the rising rate of fatal car accidents in Texas. Unless drivers and accident trends have changed significantly since then, speed-related accidents may affect many people this year.

Holding negligent drivers accountable

Drivers who have been injured in speed-related accidents may be able to hold the responsible party liable. A driver who was traveling at an unreasonable speed given the road and traffic conditions may be found negligent, even if the driver was not exceeding the posted speed limit. If other factors, such as distraction or intoxication, contributed to the accident, the driver may similarly be held accountable.

Anyone who has been harmed or lost a loved one in an accident involving speeding or reckless driving should speak to an attorney about legal options and potential next steps.

Keywords: car, auto, accident, injury