The Utah Department of Transportation has announced that raisingthe state’sspeed limit to 80 mph has not increased the total number of highway fatalities. In an experimental trial, the speed limit on certain rural stretches of I-15 had been raised by 5 mph.
After one year, the Utah DOT Deputy Director Carlos Braceras reported that, “The number of vehicles exceeding the speed limit decreased 20 percent.” On the effects of the new speed limit, Braceras said, “We saw no change in accident history.”
A major concern in deciding whether or not to implement the increase was the worry that drivers would begin to drive at speeds upwards of 90 mph. The study showed otherwise.With a speed limit of 75 mph, 85 percent of the public drove at speeds between 81 and 85 mph. When increased to 80 mph, 85 percent of drivers maintained top speeds between 83 and 85 mph. Research engineers believe that traffic is at its safest when the speed limit matches the 85th percentile speed.
The Utah DOT is pleased with the results of the trial and will continue to observe the safety ramifications. “We take safety very seriously… This isn’t something we consider to be a trivial undertaking,” said Braceras.