The Texas Transportation Commission has approved a new 85-mile-per-hour speed limit for a stretch of highway in the Lone Star State. The new high-speed section of highway is a 41-mile stretch of State Highway 130 that is several miles east of Interstate 35. This now makes Texas the state with the highest speed limit in the country.
Texans have already voiced their support for the move, as the I-35 corridor between Austin and San Antonio has become ever more bogged down with traffic. This move would certainly alleviate a lot of that congestion.
Meanwhile, the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety has been vocal in its disapproval of the move, though there is not much that it can do. According to Russ Rader, spokesman for IIHS, "The research is clear that when speed limits go up, fatalities go up." In support of this notion, a 2009 report from the American Journal of Public Health found that between 1995 and 2005, more than 12,500 deaths had connection with increased speed limits on American roads.
The 85-mph stretch will give drivers a leg up speed-wise over the 75 mph speed limit found on the fastest roads in most states. The only other roads close to this new Texas road are several highways in West Texas and Utah, which have 80-mph speed limits.
While the data brought forth by the IIHS points to an increase in fatalities at higher speeds, it should be noted that new cars in the last decade are safer and faster than ever. Many European cars are tested at Autobahn speeds, and have the safety equipment to match. These roads may not be ideal for older vehicles, but many drivers of new cars would likely admit to driving at 80+ mph speeds already. It will be interesting to see if this is the first of more high speed roads not only in Texas, but elsewhere.