Florida may soon become the second East Coast state to allow motorists to drive as fast as 75 miles per hour.
Legislation to increase the speed limit has been advancing through House and Senate committees with little opposition. If approved, it would set a 75 mph maximum speed limit, but would give the state Department of Transportation the authority to determine what the speed limit should be on individual divided highways with at least four lanes.
The most likely stretches of highway to be posted with a 75 mph speed limit are interstates in rural areas with few exits and little congestion.
Proponents of the legislation say that higher speed limits will more accurately represent the speeds at which people actually travel and increase safety.
“In certain areas of the state, it will better reflect how drivers are actually using the roads, and therefore make it safer because you won’t have the variability between minimum speeds and maximum speeds,” Sen. Jeff Brandes (R-St. Petersburg), the sponsor of the Senate Bill, told the House Transportation and Highway Safety Subcommittee.
Safety advocates disagree, citing studies that show that higher speed limits lead to more car accidents and even greater driving speeds.
The American Automobile Association opposes raising Florida’s speed limit, citing National Highway Transportation Safety Administration (NHTSA) statistics showing that other states that have increased their speed limits have seen increases in speed-related fatalities. The NTHSA says that in 2012, nearly a third of motor vehicle fatalities involved speed.
The Trend Toward Higher Speed Limits
The Florida legislation is part of a national trend of steadily increasing speed limits. States set their own speed limits until 1974, when the federal government mandated a nationwide 55 mile per hour limit. When that requirement was abolished in 1995, most states enacted higher speed limits. A few, like Texas and Utah, now have speed limits as high as 80 mph on some roads. Florida’s current 70 mph limit was enacted in 1996.
If the new legislation passes, Florida will join Maine to become the second state east of the Mississippi to have a speed limit higher than 70 mph.
Safety Studies Point to Increased Risk of Deadly Car Accidents
The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety cites numerous studies confirming that speed limit increases lead to an increase in accidents and fatalities. A 2002 study on the effects of increasing rural interstate speed limits from 65 mph to either 70 or 75 mph showed that states with speed limits of 75 mph had 38 percent more deaths per million vehicle miles traveled than expected, or an estimated 780 more deaths.
Another study, in 2009, found a three percent increase in road fatalities on all types of roads since states began increasing speed limits in 1995, with a nine percent increase on rural interstates. The study’s authors estimated that there were 12,545 deaths due to increased speed limits between 1995 and 2005.
When a driver traveling at a high rate of speed is involved in an accident, the results can be catastrophic. If you are injured in an accident where speed is a factor, an experienced personal injury lawyer can investigate the cause of your accident and help you get any compensation that you are entitled to.