Big Sky Country could soon be the land of high speeds.
Four Montana lawmakers have proposed raising the state’s maximum speed limit from 75 mph to 80 or 85 mph and are working on bills to introduce during next year’s legislative session, the Missoulian reports.
State Senator Scott Sales of Bozeman, who favors an 85 mph limit, told the newspaper he’s been working across the state in the Bakken oil fields near the North Dakota border and that the higher limit would shave an hour off his 400-plus mile trip.
State Representative Mike Miller adds that neighboring states with similarly wide open stretches of road have increased their limits to 80 mph with apparent success.
“Utah, Wyoming and Idaho have all done it. Nevada is looking at it, too. I didn’t see any problems in the other states,” Miller said.
Texas currently boasts the nation’s highest speed limit of 85 mph on a stretch of State Highway 130 between San Antonio and Austin.
Prior to the imposition of a national 55 mph limit in 1974, and again from 1995-1998, many of Montana’s roads had no numerical speed limit during the day, with signs suggesting drivers maintain a “reasonable and prudent” speed. However, a 1998 state supreme court decision ruled that this description was too vague and violated the due process protections of the state constitution, which led to the establishment of a 75 mph speed limit in the following year.
However, even in the days of the national limit, most violators were issued a fine of just $5 for wasting natural resources in order to keep the state in compliance with federal law, and today’s fines are still among the lowest in the nation.
Montana Highway Patrol Col. Tom Butler told the Missoulian that he couldn’t comment on the bills until he's seen them, but says driving faster reduces reaction time and makes stopping more difficult.