Speed Limits: Why Do We Need Them?
By: Good2GoPublished: August 22, 2017
You may have noticed that speed limits are trending upward lately, with some stretches of highway allowing drivers to accelerate up to 85 mph. Other roads still follow a more traditional speed limit, like Pennsylvania, where the maximum speed limit is 65 mph. It’s hard to tell why some states allow their drivers to go faster than others, but there are many factors that weigh in on the decision to set a certain speed limit.
You might not know that every road has a classification that helps set the most logical speed. Classifications vary by state, but can be categorized into three general types:
Arterial: Typically interstates with on- and off- ramps, have the highest speeds and few access points.
Collector: Most likely to be a county road, which allow for higher speeds but more access points.
Local: Most neighborhood streets with driveways and several cross streets, restricted to lower speeds.
Speed is indirectly related to the amount of access points, or intersections, a road has. When there are fewer intersections, then there are fewer travelers moving perpendicular to one another, and the risk for a collision decreases. On local roads, when you consider many people moving at different speeds in multiple directions, the road is safer with a lower speed limit.
So then, if many interstate and county road speeds are increasing, then why are we seeing local road speeds decreasing? As cars evolve to go faster, drivers are becoming more inclined to push speed limits further and further. When a road’s speed limit changes, it’s often the result of a speed zoning study conducted by a public agency to document individual speeds on a certain road. That data is used to determine exactly how fast roughly 85 percent of motorists are traveling, which is deemed the “prevailing speed,” which is then taken in consideration to set a new speed limit.
The prevailing speed is important because when other drivers differ from the majority, safety decreases significantly. Picture this: most drivers are going 65 mph on a highway where the speed limit is set at 45mph, but there is one lone motorist driving 50 mph in the left lane. This causes other drivers to swerve around him at their higher speed, which could cause an accident. Regardless of the speed limit, the lone motorist is causing more danger because of his speed in relation to the other drivers.
Still, it’s not safe to exceed the speed limit, especially since speed limits are set for multiple reasons. Even though highway speeds are increasing, it’s more important to drive at a speed where you are comfortable and in control of your vehicle. Before you hit the road, you should always make sure you’re protected with auto insurance.
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*Prices vary based upon what state you’re in, what coverages you buy and other underwriting factors
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