Michigan Proposal to Allow 80mph Speed Limits
The days of 55 mph speed limits seem to be long behind us. Over the past twenty years, a gradual but steady push to raise speed limits throughout the nation’s highways has taken place. Even the old standard of 65 mph is steadily being replaced with 70 or even 75 mph limits outside of urban areas. And while there is no doubt that cars have become much safer over the years, some experts are concerned that increasing speed limits will lead to more crashes involving death or serious injury. Given the prevalence of so-called “distracted driving” crashes, there is reason to be worried. In Michigan, a new proposal calls for raising the states 70 mph speed limit to 75-80 mph, leading to widespread debate.
M-DOT and engineering studies would be conducted to analyze traffic flows, patterns, and accident hotspots in order to determine which stretches of highway would be eligible for the increased speed limits. The push will also raise speed limits for commercial 18-wheelers to 60 or 65 mph, and raise the speed minimum to 55 mph. Proponents claim that the raised speed limits would more accurately reflect typical driver habits and avoid penalizing drivers with speeding citations who are simply following the flow of traffic. Ideally, legalizing the average rate of speed will make travel safer for all drivers by minimizing the variations in speeds that can lead to excessive lane-changing and accidents.
Not all are on board with the proposal. Some claim that an increase in speed limits would necessarily lead to an increase in crashes resulting in serious injury or death. Others fear that raised speed limits will prompt driver to maintain excessive speeds when weather or road conditions make it even more unsafe.
Experts maintain, however, that safety is best upheld when speed limits match the behavior of 85-90% of the drivers, which in Michigan tends to be 75-85 mph anyway. They point to evidence that few crashes are caused solely by excessive speed, with alcohol use, distracted driving, or aggressive actions causing a vast majority of highway collisions. Experts counter concerns with the promise that speed limit raises will be done on a case by case basis, with scientific and engineering studies ensuring that each individual stretch of roadway can safely accommodate a speed increase.
Citizen reaction seems to be mostly positive. Many motorists seem to relish the idea of avoiding so-called “speed traps” or having to slam on the brakes at the sight of a trooper. There is a feeling that speeding tickets are only a form of “random taxation” that targets actions most drivers engage in safely. There is a possibility, they say, of more accidents being caused by attempting to slow down rapidly at the sight of an officer than may be prevented by keeping speed limits down. Drivers say they would no longer have to fear being cited for simply going with the flow of traffic.
The proposal is set to begin implementation November 9th, and it seems to be riding a large groundswell of both public, professional, and political support. Western states such as Utah and Texas have already raised their speed limits to similar levels with apparent safety and success. Many drivers hope Michigan leads the way to similar raises in other Midwestern and Eastern states to better reflect increased safety and performance in modern vehicles.