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Texas House approves bill raising highway speed limits

The highways in Texas are some of the nation's busiest with a high amount of traffic from semi-trucks or 18-wheelers. Because of their size and sheer force, a collision with a semi-truck is often catastrophic, and many times is caused by poor driving decisions made by the truck driver. One of the most common poor driving decisions made by truck drivers is speeding.

Currently, the speed limit on most highways in Texas is 70 mph. The limit is then reduced to 65 mph on most major highways after dark. Last week, however, the Houston Chronicle reported that members of the Texas House approved a bill that would raise the speed limit on major state highways to 75 mph and would get rid of the 5 mph variation between speed limits during the daytime and nighttime.

Proponents of the bill pointed out that Texas is the only state that currently enforces a lower speed limit at night, and that other states have demonstrated that the difference is not needed. They said the reduced nighttime speed limits were put in place before vehicle headlights could properly illuminate the roads at night. Proponents also reasoned that the 5 mph speed limit increase would make Texas highways more efficient.

However, the Houston Chronicle reported that information released by the Texas Transportation Institute at Texas A&M University showed that increased speed limits frequently make the roads more dangerous.

Ultimately, a senior research scientist with the Institute said that as speed limits increase, so do risks because accidents occurring at higher speeds will be more severe. And while the Houston Chronicle reported that there was no direct evidence that the number of crashes would increase because of higher speeds, it said that the Institute concluded that increases in the posted speed limit could very well lead to more accidents.

As far as the nighttime speed limit goes, the Institute's report credited slower  speed limits at night with making up for inferior vision in the dark. No matter how bright the headlights are, visibility at night will never be equal to what it is during the day, the researcher said.

At this rate, it appears that the bill will pass through the Senate next and new speed laws could soon take effect. Hopefully vehicles on the roads, and especially 18-wheelers, will use caution and stay within the new limits. As we know, accidents involving speeding semi-trucks can be deadly.

Source: Houston Chronicle, "Full speed ahead in the House," Gary Scharrer, 4/16/2011.

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