In the shadow of another legislative push to raise speed limits in Tennessee, experts going through the data continue their claims that increasing speeds only lead to more accidents. The Volunteer State’s speed limits are currently posted at:
- Interstates/limited access freeways, both urban and rural – 70 MPH
- Divided highways – 65 MPH
- Undivided and two-lane roads – 55 MPH
- Residential streets – 30 MPH
In 1974, Montana and Nevada did not set limits for speeding on roads throughout their respective states. In response to the oil embargo a year earlier, President Nixon established top speeds and 55 MPH for all interstates to save energy. While the motivation did not seem to be safety, traffic deaths decreased by nearly 17 percent between 1973 and 1974.
Data from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration in 2021 revealed that approximately 43,000 deaths occurred on roads throughout the nation, the highest number in sixteen years. Many cite that the COVID-19 pandemic, combined with drivers staying home instead of traveling, resulted in an increase in illegal behavior behind the wheel. The American Automobile Association released a 2022 report that cited drivers as more likely to text, speed, run red lights, and, even worse, drive while under the influence.
Universally, those in the know link increased speed limits – even five miles per hour – to an increase in fatalities. Yet, state after state continues to pursue higher MPHs during a time when deaths are occurring more in nearly 20 years.
Safety measures and legislation to punish speeders are having no effect in reducing tragic accidents. Lawmakers who push the increase cite more safe driving due to advanced assistance technologies on new vehicles. However, the average age of motor vehicles throughout the United States is 12 years old. Even with sensors and indicators, exceeding speed limits provide little time to course correct.
The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety has identified 15 states already approving 75 MPH speed limits on rural interstates. Out of that number, eight allow for 80 MPH on certain roads.
Increased speeds reduce the time necessary to avoid accidents. Add to that reckless and impaired driving. The problem is a perfect storm of tragedy for Tennessee residents and drivers throughout the United States.