After years of seeing posted highway speeds creep up around the country, perhaps it’s no surprise that a California legislator would propose the ultimate in motoring freedom: No limits at all.
State Sen. John Moorlach’s vision for a Golden State version of Germany’s famed Autobahn — a stretch of pavement where you can drive as fast you want — is just the latest in a series of moves by states to put the pedal to the metal when it comes to speed limits.
It’s happening even as safety experts try to throw on the brakes on speeds that have now reached legal levels they view as somewhere between risky and downright dangerous.
“We have routinely seen studies that show when states raise speed limits, they can expect higher deaths,” said Maureen Vogel, spokeswoman for the National Safety Council.
Seven states — Idaho, Montana, Nevada, South Dakota, Texas, Utah and Wyoming — have allowed 80 mph speed limits on select highways. One, Texas, has 85 mph on a section of State Highway 130. Legislatures have upped limits as cars have become safer and more powerful and the price of gas has tumbled, lowering concerns about the poor fuel mileage that high-speed driving can bring.
Yet, the resulting higher speeds haven’t made much of a statistical dent in highway deaths, the Governors Highway Safety Association reports.
In 2017, there were 9,717 speed-related deaths from among 37,133 total road fatalities. Those speed-related deaths were down 574 from 2016, were about the same as in 2015 and up 434 from 2014.