By John Carr, oos Activist
A year ago Utah became the second state in the modern era to post an 80 mile per hour speed limit. Since 1995 state law has specified a 75 mile per hour maximum speed limit. In 2008 that limit was lifted from part of I-15. Utah DOT could post any speed limit it wanted. Officials chose to post 80. The law directed DOT to report back in a year on the effects of speed limit changes.
The report is out. The effects were nil. The fastest 85th percentile speed was 85 mph before and 85 after. Accidents did not change significantly. Speed variance increased slightly without other effect.
This is all as expected. Numbers on signs do not control drivers’ speed. There aren’t enough police to run constant speed traps in the middle of nowhere, and that’s what it takes to slow traffic.
There was a major accident on I-15 shortly after the speed limit went up. It could have been anywhere. It happened not far outside the new 80 zone. Inside the 80 zone it would have been taken as proof that the speed limit increase was recklessly endangering drivers. In the 75 zone it was not taken as an indictment of the low speed limit.
That is how people think about speed limits. Ignore what they don’t want to believe, panic over what they do want to believe.
Next time a state considers raising a highway speed limit we’ll all hear how everybody will start driving faster and dying faster. This is false, of course, but facts are not welcome in this debate.