• Oct 27, 2009
When the Utah DOT raised the speed limit on two pieces of I-15 from 75 mph to 80 mph, it discovered that driving habits didn't change. When the limit was 75 mph, the Utah DoT found that drivers were going between 81 and 85 mph. And now that the maximum limit is 80 mph, it has found that drivers are going between 83 and 85 mph.

You can look at that as less speeding, as the UDoT has, or simply the fact that people didn't automatically start going 10 mph over the limit, having found a speed that satisfies 85% of them. This shouldn't be that surprising – even when Montana had stretches of highway with unlimited speeds, it was only a few folks, mostly out-of-staters, that raced at max velocity. And most folks on unlimited sections of the Autobahn aren't even going 150 mph.

According to the Deseret News, a UDoT official said that accidents haven't increased, either, nor did they expect an increase in fender benders. What he said has increased, though, is speed differential, which we don't quite understand. Apparently, the difference between the fastest and slowest vehicles has widened. We can only imagine he was speaking of the 2 mph difference between the slightly higher lower average speed of 83 mph vs the 81 mph from before. Even though one Utah legislator wasn't happy about the increased limit, saying speed kills, the proof appears to be... well, not necessarily.

[Source: Deseret News | Image: Ken Lund via CC2.0]


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  • 63 Comments
      • 5 Years Ago
      A few things to note:

      Most "speeders" on the freeway drive about 80-85 in any state (I've driven in many states).

      The Germans when they have a speed limit it is 130 km/hr, which is 80 Mph. Conversely people DO SPEED in Germany and traffic does stay at 140-150 km/hr (86-93 MPH) in these 130 zones unless they KNOW there are camera's or enforcement (which in Germany is rare most speeding tickets are dolled out by camera).

      The safest speed limit is the 85th percentile, that's statistics for you. They need to do more studies, one with the current speed limit, then one after and adjust down accordingly (some people will speed more with the limit raised, but not the majority).

      Regarding the speed differential, if people actually used lanes properly those drivers going 70 would be in the right lane, and those going 85 in the left thus keeping them apart. In Europe they do fine with trucks that cannot go over 80 km/hr and drivers going 170 km/hr in the other lane.

      Distractions, and the lack of proper driving knowledge hurt more than the speed. The speed just makes those problems greater, so speed in it of its self isn't a danger. Regarding death and injury, the likelihood of you being seriously at 60 MPH versus 90 MPH isn't that great, however it is much greater at both speeds versus a 40 MPH crash and that has to do mostly with the type of road (people pay more attention on roads than freeways due to other things such as side streets, traffic lights, and pedestrians).
      • 5 Years Ago
      Thats pretty cool, I live in Utah, and went to Vegas last month, they had stretches of roads that they were testing at 80 mph. Funny part was that everyone did the speed limit in those parts.
        • 5 Years Ago
        Yeah, beware in Utah, once there is no snow there is road work, I mean are state tree its the yellow cones. Be careful of all the speed traps, and if you see a crop plane flying over the highway you will have a Highway Patrol behind you soon.
        • 5 Years Ago
        People are more likely to follow laws and regulations that are perceived to be reasonable.

        Conversely, an unreasonable law (arbitrarily low speed limit) won't be followed.

        80 mph is very close to 130 km/h, which is the motorway speed limit almost everywhere in Europe. Only exceptions are UK (70 mph = 113 km/h), Switzerland (120 km/h, but there are not many motorways there), and of course Germany.

        Here in Canada, our 100 km/h motorway limit is almost universally ignored, unless the traffic is so heavy that it's impossible to go that fast anyway, which is the case much of the day in Toronto, but outside that, 120 - 140 km/h is the norm.
        • 5 Years Ago
        I have driven in Vancouver, totally different than the USA. Canadians are a lot calmer nicer drivers.
        • 5 Years Ago
        I rode that experimental stretch in May on my Triumph Daytona 675 while travelling from San Diego to Salt Lake and back. The sad part was they had stretches just prior to it set at 55 for ~30 miles or more which is REALLLY hard to do when you've been doing Utah's 75 mph for a few hours. Warnings about doubled fines and workzones added to the confusion. Probably not really much to be learned about speeding from this test.

        The 15 is actually much more divided than it is in that picture . Utah's beautiful, but the 15 cutting through the middle of it is pretty desolate. Not unlike PA turnpike east of Pittsburgh, or probably 90% of Texas. 80 works there, and I'd guess natives want to get to where they're going faster too.
      • 5 Years Ago
      Autoblog got the stats backwards. From the article:

      "With an 80 mph posted speed limit, people are driving 81 mph to 85 mph, said Carlos Braceras, UDOT deputy director. With a 75 mph posted speed limit, people were driving 83 mph to 85 mph."

      So the story here is that on average people tend to go slower with the higher speed limit in place, although the speed differential is higher. And when people say "speed kills" what they're really trying to say is "high speed differentials kill." Not that that's the case here, I'm just saying.
        • 5 Years Ago
        Agreed, having lived in Stuttgart I can attest to the fact that most of the accidents on the autobahn are caused by either soccer moms being slow in the left lane or east European truckers attempting to pass each other at 45mph on a 2 lane autobahn.
        • 5 Years Ago
        Ward, i read that getting licence in Germany is much tougher than it is in USA, i was wondering if that is the case?

        And if so, wouldn't that mean that most people who drive actually know how to drive, that is certainly NOT the case here in USA.
        • 5 Years Ago
        P3, I think speed differential means the difference between the fastest and slowest cars on the road. When it gets big, you have very high closing velocities, which is dangerous. When I drive 80+ on 95, passing a slow car, you can bet I am paying attention and giving them a lot of room.

        On 95 there are plenty of signs telling motorists to keep right except to pass. Police also enforce it. Still, I find the right lane is the passing lane, since it only takes one slo-guy in the left lane to slow all of traffic. I'm talking to you Mr Volvo driver. :|
        • 5 Years Ago
        Sea Urchin, It is indeed more difficult and more costly to get a license in Germany. When I lived there it cost about 1500 Euros for a driving class. The tests are much harder and require more precision than other places in Europe, but I think that has more to do with German culture than safety laws(all though I think that is changing, just look at the interiors of a modern German car, how many cup holders, sat nav with DVD functions, vanity mirrors and the like you'll find now as compared with say something from even the late 90s).

        All of this extra expense and skill does not, however, mean the average German driver is all that attentive; which let's be honest is the real safety problem regardless of your country. Germany has it's fair share of cell phone yakking, makeup smearing, breakfast eating, idiot drivers; but by far it's problems are caused by speed differentials mostly during heavy traffic periods and by unregulated/under regulated east European truck drivers.
        • 5 Years Ago
        Thank you Polly.
      • 5 Years Ago
      They should implement it nationwide.
      • 5 Years Ago
      Wish they would do that where I live... My BMW's happy place is right at 80 MPH... just loves to purr along there....
      • 5 Years Ago
      on longer road trips i find my self falling asleep at the speed limits.
      i'm always going 75-90mph on the highway. keeps me focused and away from people who are paying attention to their phone's rather than the road.
      • 5 Years Ago
      "Speed kills, and it kills more toads."
      • 5 Years Ago
      Speaking as a Montana driver with a reasonably powered sports car, more than able to cruise at 100, when we had the unlimited speed limits, drivers *did* pay more attention. Reaction times are shorter, and higher speeds are considerably more stimulating. Another thing; In Montana, we drive a long way, generally speaking, to get anywhere.

      From my town to Billings MT is about 300 miles. Billings is the closest city to us that is actually in Montana. The road between here and there is in good condition, and about 2/3rds of it offers reasonably interesting driving, basically Malta to Billings. Reducing a five hour drive (at 70mph, slowing for small towns, the congested mess around Roundup, and the occasional person or persons on a horse) to four hours or even less not only makes you pay more attention, it relieves boredom because it cuts down significantly on the amount of time you're actually on the road; and boredom, my friends, is the dark side of not paying attention... it'll kill you as fast as anything. Driving fast on Montana roads is like playing a video game. Deer, antelope, other cars, sometime lack of shoulders, 100 foot (or more) drops into gullies... yeah, paying attention matters a lot at *any* normal driving speed, even 55 mph. And speed limits that increase your boredom are the very most dangerous thing for a sober and otherwise responsible driver.

      A couple of my employees, back when the limit was 55 south of the Missouri river bridge, drive right off the road into a gully, car rolled many times... young driver was bored silly at 55. Attention wavered, wheel off the road, car gone. Just that fast. They lived through it (seat belts FTW) but they sure were funny colors for a while. Looked like they had gotten into a serious argument with a baseball bat.

      So... I am not the least surprised at the Utah results. Nor am I surprised at the terror people feel at the idea of no speed limits in urban areas. You urban folk drive with your headlights up the other guys ass most of the time; there's an accident, you pile up like chickens racing to the bloody feed trough. You even do it in the rain. I've driven extensively in NYC, Boston, Washington DC, LA, Ft Lauderdale and Miami, plus short term in many other cities, and for some inexplicable reason, you ALL do it. Whatever your reasons are for driving like that -- not with the recommended carlength-per-10mph spacing you were taught, or at least, *I* was taught by the state of Pennsylvania as a new driver in 1970 -- the faster you go, the more trouble you're going to get into. Of course. So you have to be regulated.

      Out here, it is simply different. Someone is going slow, at most wait a few seconds, you can pass, and then there's no one for another ten or twenty miles. In either lane, most of the time. Usually, there are only two lanes. Which, for most paved roads, you can safely eat at 100 mph as long as the car is capable, you can see what you're doing, you know the road, and the surface is good. I couldn't even tell you how many miles I've driven at 3-digit speeds in my car; well, yes I sorta can, something less than 70,000. Because that's how many miles are on it. But not too much less -- around town, we drive gas-sipping 4WD Suzuki and Kia Rio daily drivers. Out of town... the pedal is down.

      And while the speed limits were brought back because the feds used mafia-style coercion on our legislature, as is their corrupt habit to force states to kowtow because *they* are corrupt... no one really gives a darn. I've been passed rather smartly when *I* was going 110 mph by late model Vettes, friendly waves both ways, no racing. Some jealousy, though. Sigh. :)

        • 5 Years Ago
        Absolutely right.

        Nothing wrong with speed limits in the city, no-one needs to be going THAT fast, and the extra 5 over the limit really can be the difference between stopping in time and crashing into some kid running out into the street.

        So many rural highway speed limits, though, seem to be set on the basis of city highways or on what most cars could safely do in 1970, and no-one's looked at them since. Not to mention road authorities who seem incapable of running driver education campaigns on anything but speed and alcohol.
      • 5 Years Ago
      I drive these stretches of I-15 with some regularity and it's also important to note that these are fairly desolate stretches of road with few to no on/off ramps, two lanes in each direction separated by a wide swath of scrub. In over 20 years of driving these stretches, I've never seen an accident of any kind there.

      Like others have noted, take the results with a grain of salt. Though I have to say I like being able to go 85mph without as much worry as before.

      Also, I think others have mentioned it, but that photo in the article isn't anywhere near the test sections.
      • 5 Years Ago
      Good for Utah, particularly since the traffic in the Salt lake city metro area tended to run 85-90 when the limit was lower.

      But if you're traveling north on I-15 and cross into Idaho, there is a state trooper who will write you up for anything over 85. Nice guy though.
      • 5 Years Ago
      Speed kills, meaning you're more likely to die going 85mph than 75mph if you crash.
        • 5 Years Ago
        Here's another statistical factoid to back up this argument:

        Michael Schumacher spent his life driving everywhere at 200mph and he's alive. My granny spent her life driving everywhere at 25mph and she's dead.
        • 5 Years Ago
        yea like a lot of people on here
        • 5 Years Ago
        @nick

        most american studies on speed and driving safety are poorly done. they are usually taken apart by a reasonable statistician, but often after the results are lauded by safety advocates.

        much as everything else on this earth, the answer is usually a mix of the two positions.

        -the faster a car is going the more energy it has and the higher the amount of damage it can cause whoever it strikes or who is inside, BUT traffic as a system will operate at an optimal average speed. that average speed (depending on the road and conditions) is very often LOWER than the posted limit, thus if you raise the limit and do a study, safety will IMPROVE.

        • 5 Years Ago
        The sides seem to be either a) higher velocity is more fatal, or b) inattentive drivers cause accidents.

        I would say that both are true.

        If you get into a wreck going 100 mph, you're more likely to die from that wreck than if you're going 30 mph.

        Also, inattentive drivers do cause accidents and drive less, as illustrated by lane departure studies while drink driving or cellphone talking and driving.

        These are two different, *mostly* unrelated things. We can argue whether driving faster means more drivers are paying more attention, and if that balances out or not. Would people be less likely to talk on a cellphone if they're driving 100 mph, because they finally think that that's a scary combination? Maybe. I personally wouldn't count on it.

        But it seems that the facts are that both sides are right, just talking about different things.

        Personally? I want to drive as fast and as safely as I can. Usually that's not more than 20% faster than the flow of traffic. I would tend to put safety as trumping speed, that's not to say I wouldn't drive fast, just that I'd drive safely.
        • 5 Years Ago
        This report is in contradiction to every other traffic accident statistics I've seen.

        Not every road is like Utah's, not every driving condition is the same as Utah's etc..
        • 5 Years Ago
        There are so many people out there who should not even have licence to drive, many out right ignore laws, others talk on the phone, some text, some drink, some smoke and once you add the fact that half of all cars are tanks (SUVs) a removal of speed limit will make all these people that much more dangerous.
        • 5 Years Ago
        If you crash or are involved in a crash on the unlimited stretch of Autobahn while doing over 130 km/h, which is officially a recommended speed, you're automaticaly treated as if you yourself caused whatever pile-up there was.

        Still, it feels weird when you're doing 160 km/h in the right lane a you're apparently the slowest car on the road....
        • 5 Years Ago
        You're also more likely to die crashing an old Honda Civic compared to a new Honda Civic. Does that mean older Civics kill?
        • 5 Years Ago
        So don't crash. Wtf are you going to crash into on an interstate besides your own stupidity?
        • 5 Years Ago
        @brian

        innercity freeways absolutely require speed limits. no one on this site would rationally argue that a freeway through a major urban area should be unlimited.

        i think most people would argue that most speed limits in this country have no basis in science or safety, and are in fact used a tax on motorist who are otherwise safely driving their cars.

        just careful observation would solve this. observe the average unregulated speed of any thoroughfare and make that the speed limit. large groups tend to self regulate (see any systems science)
        • 5 Years Ago
        @Brain
        there was never a 12% drop in killed in traffic in Germany ..

        the changes that slowed down the increasing number of killed in traffic numbers in Germany
        - 1957 .. inside towns only 50km/h(31mph)
        - 1972... 100km/h(62mph) on country roads

        the first real reducing of killed in traffic was the change to

        - 1973 0.8promil alcohol in together with the oil crisis
        - 1980 bikers have to wear helmets
        - 1984 drivers have to use seatbells (the biggest drop in killed in traffic)
        - 1998 0.5 promil alcohol

        this reduced the killed in traffic from 21.322 in 1970 to 4.477 in 2008...

        according to German statistics high speeds are not so often the reason for killed in traffic... other driving mistakes, alcohol and drugs are more often the reason for killed in traffic..
        • 5 Years Ago
        you have a very old school and one-way type of thinking. what u stated is obvious but not what happens in reality. someone driving 90mph is paying a whole lot more attention than someone cruising along at 60mph. most accidents are because of people not paying attention!! im not surprised at all with the results of increasing the speed limit. people don't just drive 10 over no matter the speed limit. the majority will drive at a speed they feel comfortable. wonder why a lot of foreigners or elderly drive slow?? well they don't feel comfortable driving fast. has nothing to do with the speed limit.

        i'd say raise the speed limit to a reasonable level (as long as the roads are built safely for it, ie: having an appropriate exit ramp that isn't ridiculously short) and you will notice less accidents because people are paying more attention and also another very important point as to how it cuts speeding.....

        it is a lot easier to speed and cut between cars when the cars are doing 60mph and ur doing 80mph. now if everyone is doing 80mph, are you gonna be doing 100mph and cutting through the traffic?! not a chance! weaving through traffic at 80mph vs 100mph is a huge difference!! also the fact that you have significantly decreased performance from your car when ur traveling faster, either in acceleration or braking and changing lanes you'll notice that it's a lot easier to lose control.

        i could go into texting while driving but that's a different topic haha... basically you need to keep the drivers attention on the road, how do u force them to do that?.... increase the speed limit!
        • 5 Years Ago
        Agree 100%, but this isn't the place to convince anyone.

        Mr. Ramsey, some say that pot has no side effects either, why don't you guys start advocating that as well in here?
        • 5 Years Ago
        If you crash from a jetplane.... you are freaking dead. Yet it's the safest way to travel?

        Same thing here... If an accident happens... yeap...... you are dead at higher speeds.... but.... if you get a lot less accidents and fatalities.... although all accidents are fatal what do you choose? Fatality is fatility, no matter which has a higher probability. I choose the lowest numerical total vs the higher probability...

        Make sense?
        • 5 Years Ago
        Wrong.

        http://www.hwysafety.com/hwy_montana.htm

        When Montana had no speed limits, highway deaths sunk to an ALL TIME LOW. Why? People were hauling ass, and paying attention. When the speed limit was reinstated, it rose to an all time high. Why? People were again yapping on cell phones, eating food, reading books, etc.

        Speed doesn't kill. Inattentive driving does.
      • 5 Years Ago
      Questionable data in this UDOT article. People had slowed down a bit in 2008 due to high gas prices, and drove less, skewing their research. If the same amount of accidents happened with less people driving, then it's an increase in percentage.

      I'd like to see the original vs the story this post links to. And I don't think the fastest-slowest was a 2mph difference. Probably more like 10-20mph, or whatever the minimum speed for cars is, or the limit for trucks.
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