Speed Limit Increase Passed in Virginia’s General Assembly

In an effort to improve transportation in Virginia, Richmond based Gov. Bob McDonnell has pushed the initiative to raise interstate speed limits from 65 mph to 70 mph on certain roads. The measure was approved by both chambers of the General Assembly, but has left a lot of lawmakers debating the efficacy and safety issues of this bill.

The new speed limit regulations are due to go into effect July 1st on some rural roads and less populated areas of the state, where authorities see it is safe. Some limited access four lane highways and HOV lanes which are divided from the rest of the highway may also see a rise in the speed limit.

Engineering studies and review of accident and law enforcement data will help to figure out if the speed increase would be realistic without compromising the safety of motorists.

Will Raising the Speed Limit Cost Lives and Resources?

Insurance industry opposition came with the statement that increased speed limits would cause an increase in severe accidents and injuries, while Gov. McDonnell maintained that the increase would allow Virginians to operate their vehicles in a more efficient manner.

Retired police officer and current Delegate Bill Carrico called this a common sense reform, and that the increase would allow drivers to operate their vehicles in a more uniform speed.

  • When California increased its speed limit from 55mph to 65mph, fewer people died that year than any year in the past four decades, despite increased population and almost three times the number of cars on the road.
  • 33 states have speed limits of 70mph, and 12 allow drivers to go 75mph. Texas and Utah allow speeds up to 80mph in some areas.
  • Some view higher speed limits as self enforcing: With a speed limit of 55mph, drivers average 69mph on interstates while with a 65mph limit, drivers also averaged speeds of 69mph.
  • The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration claims that 30% of fatal auto-related accidents are due to speed, although most of these accidents are due to unsafe changes of speed by the driver, and on smaller rural roads.
  • Traffic engineers agree that roads are safer when the speed limits are set to the 85th percentile of drivers.
  • Fuel efficiency may be an issue, where 10% of efficiency is lost for every 10mph over 55mph.

Safety First

While speeding is one of the seriously dangerous driving habits, some argue that raising the speed limit will ease congestion and actually decrease the amount of fatal car accidents. Other lawmakers argue that raising the speed limit on these less populated roads would increase the occurrence of serious automobile accidents and injuries. Either way, when the speed limit goes into effect, remember that safety comes first and contact the lawyers at Whitehead & Chiocca if you have been the victim of an accident.