Increase in Speed Limit a Good Thing?


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Austin is in the news this morning – and whether or not this is a ‘good thing’ depends upon your point of view. Indeed, all three major morning shows played a segment on the fact that there is a stretch of highway between Austin and San Antonio where Texas will soon open a stretch of highway with the highest speed limit in the country. Now being a recent transplant to Austin I am not inclined to criticize, however, after years of writing about highway safety hazards it would be disingenuous of me to ignore this bit of news. What follows are some pertinent facts:

*The Texas Transportation Commission has approved the 85-m.p.h. speed limit for a 41-mile-long toll road near the increasingly crowded I-35 corridor between Austin and San Antonio.

*The road runs several miles east of the interstate between two of the state’s largest metropolitan areas.

*Research confirms (time and again) that increased speed leads to increased fatalities. One report from 2009 revealed the results of a study on traffic fatalities in the United States from 1995 to 2005 and found that more than 12,500 deaths were attributable to increases in speed limits on all kinds of roads. The study also revealed over a 9% increase in fatalities on rural roads where speed limits were raised, but did not cite specific numbers in those instances.

The single largest factor in automobile accidents on the highway is speed. Additionally, the faster the speed the more severe the car wreck. A direct correlation exists between the severity of injury or the percentage of fatal accidents and the speed of the vehicles involved. On the other hand, everyone likes to get to the destination as soon as possible and when traffic is not a problem traveling faster seems to be a reasonable idea.

The balance that needs to be made is the safest speed that vehicles can travel on the specific highway without endangering the public. Some older of us may remember when the speed limits in the United States were lowered in an effort to save on gasoline. The number of fatal car accidents decreased when the speed limit went down.

Time will tell if raising the speed limit on certain highways in Texas was a good idea or not. I am sure that the leaders in Austin considered the evidence closely before making the choices they did. One factor that can help reduce fatal car accidents in Texas is to increase our infrastructure spending on highways. Areas such as Houston, Dallas and Austin are lagging behind giving us congested highways that lead to additional serious accidents.

Greg Baumgartner is a personal injury lawyer in Austin and the founder of the Baumgartner law firm, a Texas personal injury law firm dedicated to helping families of people injured or killed in car accidents. For a free no obligation consultation with an Austin wrongful death attorney call the Baumgartner law firm.

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