The National Transportation Safety Board has weighed in on the controversial topic of maximum speed limits on the nation’s highways. Using an automobile accident that occurred on a Texas highway that claimed seven lives as an example – they note that most of America’s roadways were designed for a maximum speed of 60 miles per hour.
The circumstances surrounding the crash may have been avoidable in hindsight. A motorcoach failed to negotiate a stop on wet pavement in foggy weather upon cresting a hill and finding traffic stopped ahead, crossed the median and collided with a van on the other side of the highway.
The loss of life is real and always painful. The only glimmer of hope that comes from automobile accidents such as these is that truck accident lawyers and accident reconstruction experts can usually determine the cause of the collision and make recommendations which may save lives in the future if they are incorporated into law.
Such is the case here. The NTSB found that many of our roadways across the country need to be updated to provide for safer driving at higher speeds.
NTSB urged the Federal Highway Administration to work with the States to put together an inventory of stretches of interstate that were not designed for current speeds.
The next step, the NTSB said, is for the FHWA to work with the States to correct the problem. Certainly, this will take time and money – and all political parties seem to agree on the need to update the infrastructure of our nation, even if they can’t agree on how to fund it.
Recently, two senators have introduced a bill to limit 18-wheeler speeds to 65 miles per hour. Such rule was offered due to the failure to act on a proposed rule from the Department of Transportation which has effectively killed the reform.
While some may disagree on the analysis used for such rules to limit the speed of big rigs, not one disputes that reducing speed limits for semi-trucks will save lives. Safety advocates support the bill, but the trucking lobby is opposed.
The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety has conducted extensive research about the consequences of speed with tractor-trailers. The larger the truck the more dangerous higher speed limits are for the motoring public. Both larger stopping distances and the forces created by a 40,000 to 80,000-pound truck increases the hazards to the public.
Ever since the 1995 repeal of the Federal law limiting speed limits, States have set the maximum speeds. Today 41 states have approved speed limits of 70 mph or more. Texas has a maximum speed of 85 on some roads. And highways, where a record number of accidents occur, like I-45 are now 70 mph in many places.
Experts note that big rigs and other vehicles tend to travel slightly above the posted speed limits. Traveling at speeds of 70 mph or above makes the big rigs much more difficult to maneuver in emergency situations and leads to more fatal truck accidents.
The need for leadership on the issue of maximum speeds for tractor-trailers is evident by the number of fatal crashes at highway speeds each year.