Will New 70 MPH Interstate Speeds Cause More Crashes?
The speed limit on rural stretches of Ohio interstates will increase July 1st to 70 miles per hour. Governor John Kasich signed the bill into law earlier this week. But higher speeds have reignited debate over safety concerns. Trooper Chad Duzan pulls his state highway patrol cruiser onto the median of Interstate 71. âMy radar is mounted on the outside of the car,â? Duzan says. âIt makes it a lot easier to watch the vehicles and get a speed estimate.â? Duzan also uses a hand-held laser speed detector which can track cars and trucks as they approach or drive away. âWe all have our standards on what we start stopping cars at. We all give a buffer zone. Itâs unwritten and unsaid,â? Duzan says. After more than an hour, Duzan clocks a Buick traveling at 83 miles per hour. With his blue lights flashing he pulls the car over and writes the driver a ticket. âHe had assumed it was a 70 miles per hour speed zone; just heading to Columbus from Lexington, Kentucky. He had his grandkids in the car. 18 miles per hour over the posted limit I feel that thatâs well beyond reason,â? Duzan says. While Duzan and other troopers patrol the interstates, higher speed limits raise the larger issue of a potential increase in traffic injuries and even fatalities. Anne McCartt of the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety says thatâs the downside to driving faster. âWhen speed limits go up, speeds go up and eventually they will exceed the new speed limit,â? McCartt says. âAnd eventually, crashes, more injuries, more deaths will occur.â? State Sen. Gayle Manning argues that thatâs not necessarily the case. She says better road design and safer cars allow for higher speeds. âWe had heard from many of our constituents, many businesses that we needed to be more competitive. There are already 35 other states that are at least 70 if not 75 and money is time and people are trying to get to work a little bit quicker and theyâre trying to get their supplies a little bit quicker and so we really had not had a lot of push back from anyone on this,â? Manning says. Along I-71 between Cincinnati and Columbus, as Trooper Duzan looks for speeders, a display on the dash shows that most of the traffic is moving along at about 65 miles per hour. An occasional vehicle drives past at 70. McCartt says a new 70 mile per hour speed limit will simply tempt some drivers to drive 75. âWhen the speed limit is raised people will set a new target because most people believe, probably pretty accurately, that theyâre not going to get a citation until theyâre exceeding the speed limit, letâs say, by five miles an hour. People donât think theyâre going to get a ticket if theyâre going a little bit above the speed limit,â? McCartt says. But Sen. Manning says sheâs heard nothing about the increased risks of driving faster. She says improvements in auto and road safety make higher speeds feasible. âOur roads are safer, theyâre rural areas, you know like on 71. You know, thereâs nothing around there. Our cars are safer; theyâre just made better,â? says Manning. The Ohio Department of Transportation has already begun studying which sections of rural interstates will be raised to 70 miles per hour. ODOT says new speed limit signs will be installed on July 1st.