Efforts by Texas lawmakers to increase the speed limit to 85 on the state's future highways is meeting with opposition from those who say the move will lead to more highway deaths.
Insurance industry officials say any increase in speed, whether on an existing freeway or new one, could cause more accidents, resulting in more injuries and fatalities.
The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration says that from 2009 to 2010, traffic deaths fell 3 percent, to the lowest rate since 1949. In the region that includes Texas, deaths are down almost 7 percent.
Jerry Johns, president of Southwestern Insurance Information Service, says that people already tend to drive over any posted speed limit.
“So does [it] translate to people driving 90? 95?” asks Johns. “That certainly does pose a hazard to the other drivers.”
Despite the concerns, the Texas House of Representatives last week unanimously passed the legislation. It will go to the Senate for approval.
Texas already has about 500 miles of rural interstate that allow 80 mph. None of these or any other existing roads would change.
The 85 mph limit, which would be the highest in the nation, would only apply to newly constructed roads that are engineered for that speed and those approved by the Texas Transportation Commission.
"We’re a big, big state," says Rep. Lori Kolkhorst, the lawmaker who introduced the bill. "And so as we try to move goods and services -- and more importantly people -- from destination to destination, it could be an option for the future.”
State senators could vote on the bill in the next few weeks.