Speed demons

Texas is considering raising its speed limits to 85 mph

The Texas House of Representatives has approved a bill that would raise the current speed limit to 85 mph in some areas.

People in this day and age just cannot get enough speed, whether it is waiting for a webpage to load, wanting our fast food faster, or when we are behind the wheel. As the old adage proclaims, time is money.

Texas already boasts the highest speed limit in the country at 80 mph and now it cannot wait to go faster. We certainly have come a long way since 1987 when no speed limits in the country exceeded 55 mph.

As Texans wait to see if this bill will come into affect, there are safety concerns being raised about the possibility of traffic moving even faster along the highways. These concerns being that when traveling at faster speeds, people will have less time to react and require more space to stop which will ultimately lead to a rise in fatalities.

According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, there were 10,591 fatalities in 2009 caused by speed-related crashes. In the U.S., speed is a contributing culprit in 31 percent of all crashes. So naturally, if the speed limit rises, these numbers will also rise. Not so fast though, that may actually not be true.

There is of course the famous German Autobahn, which is known for its stretches of highway where there is no speed limit. As it carries one-third of all German traffic, the fatality rates must be outrageous, right? Wrong. Each year, there are approximately 3.2 fatalities per billion kilometers of road on the Autobahn. Compare this to five people per billion kilometers on U.S. highways.

That begs the question – how is this possible? Well, for starters, I think speed does do one good thing. It makes drivers pay attention to the road. I have seen with my own pair of eyes people doing 70-75 down the highway, as they are texting, reading the newspaper, eating a $5 footlong and even doing their make-up. While speed may at times play a part in an accident, most of the time there is another variable involved. I doubt you would see that many people enjoying a cold cut combo on a whole-wheat bun if there was a steady stream of cars doing 90 past them.

Another argument is that no matter what the speed limit is, people will always do at least five over. So, if the speed limit were 100 mph, would people be going 105 or higher? No, the vast majority would not. People drive a speed limit they are comfortable with. We see this every winter here in our lovely state of Michigan. Once that horrid white stuff starts to fall from the sky, what happens on the roads? People slow down. Just because the speed limit still says 70, that does not mean they feel some undeniable need to go that fast. We are aware there is the possibility of the roads being treacherous, so we make the proper changes and slow down.

If you want to avoid accidents out on the roads, pay attention to your surroundings. So many people are just oblivious to other drivers and what is going on around them. A fatal accident can happen at 25 mph, let alone 85. We get so caught up in our own lives we often forget that our actions can affect those around us, until it is often too late. Whether you are doing 25 mph through campus, or 70 down U.S.-131, please pay attention to what is outside your car and not just what is inside it. Put down the phone, put down the sandwich and put down the mascara.

As we wait and wonder whether our state will adopt any changes to its speed limit in the near future, come to the realization that driving safe is so much more then what your speedometer reads. n