Texas House OKs 85-mph speed limit, would be nation’s highest

By Jim Forsyth

SAN ANTONIO (Reuters) – Rocker Sammy Hagar, who once sang “I Can’t Drive 55,” might want to move to Texas. The California-born singer may be able to drive 85 miles per hour in the Lone Star State if a measure approved by the Texas House becomes law.

The proposal would allow the Texas Department of Transportation to establish a speed limit not to exceed 85 miles per hour on a part of a state highway system, as long as engineering and safety studies determine the higher speed limit is appropriate.

The measure is a provision of a bill that would eliminate funding for an unpopular toll road project. There is a similar proposal in the Senate.

Eighty-five miles per hour would be the highest posted speed limit in the United States and the second-highest posted speed limit in the world, according to the European auto rental firm Rhino Car Hire. A speed of 140 kilometers per hour, or about 86 mph, is posted on some motorways in Poland.

Texas and Utah are the only states that now allow speed limits of 80 miles per hour. In 2006, 80-mile-per-hour speed limit signs were posted on roads in two remote areas of west Texas. One is a 432-mile stretch of Interstate 10; the other is an 89-mile stretch of Interstate 20.

In Utah, about 40 miles of Interstate 15 has been posted at 80 mph since early 2009.

Gary Biller, executive director of the Wisconsin-based National Motorists Association, said higher speed limits are perfectly reasonable given the good quality of today’s highway construction.

“In Utah, after they adjusted from 75 to 80, nothing happened to the accident rate,” Biller said. “Actually, nothing happened to the average speed, either; it remained the same.”

But Jerry Johns, President of the Southwest Insurance Information Institute, said 85 miles per hour is a bad idea.

“The two things that contribute most to traffic accidents are speed and alcohol,” he said.

“The higher the speed limit the more accidents there are, the more injuries, and the more deaths,” Johns said.

Under the legislation, the Texas Department of Transportation would have to conduct engineering studies before any highway could be certified for an 85 mph speed limit.

“Should this or similar language become law, the agency would conduct extensive studies and analyses to determine safety and structural integrity before raising the speed limit on any particular highway in the state,” said Penny Mason, a spokeswoman for the department.

(Editing by Corrie MacLaggan and Jerry Norton)

Texas House OKs 85-mph speed limit, would be nation’s highest