Categorized | Opinion

Speed & Highway Safety

By David Peel

As an injury lawyer that sees the results of horrific accidents every day, I understand the connection between speed and safety.

At just 60 miles per hour, you are traveling a surprising 88 feet per second! That is why many who cause accidents testify in my depositions, “I just never saw him!” That can be truthful.  They looked, but he was not there yet when they looked.

Speed limits are back in the news again. Texas will have a speed limit of 85 mph for a rural toll highway between Austin and San Antonio.

The famously unpopular change to 55 mph (the “double nickel”) happened way back in 1973.  Up until then, most speedometers had a red line at 70 mph, if they had one at all.

If you have had a car with an 85 mph speedometer, you can thank the government.

In 1979, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) required speedometers to have special emphasis on the number 55 and a maximum speed of 85 mph. That has since gone by the wayside, much like the 55 mph speed limit.

Are there any states with NO speed limits? There were.  Montana had a non-numeric “reasonable and prudent” speed limit during the daytime on most rural roads. The phrase “reasonable and prudent” is found in the language of most state speed laws. This allows prosecution under non-ideal conditions such as rain or snow when the speed limit would be imprudently fast.

In 1996, a Montana patrolman gave a speeding ticket to a man doing 85 mph and he was convicted.

On appeal at the Montana Supreme Court, the Court reversed the conviction; it held that a law requiring drivers to drive at a non-numerical “reasonable and proper” speed “is so vague that it violates the Due Process Clause … of the Montana Constitution.”  In 1999, as a result of that decision, the Montana Legislature established a speed limit of 75 mph.

Over in Germany, the autobahn has sections without any speed limit.

Actually, the accident rate is consistently lower than other super highway systems, including the United States Interstates.

But on the autobahn in Germany, it is actually illegal to run out of gas. Thus, we fine you for going too fast, and the Germans fine you for going too slow. Drive safely!

Peel seeks justice for those injured in car accidents, work place incidents, medical malpractice, and nursing homes. He often addresses churches, clubs and groups without charge. Peel may be reached through PeelLawFirm.com wherein other articles may be accessed.

— What do you think? Send Letters to the Editor to thomas.sellers@journalinc.com.

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