By on March 31, 2011

Texas is the last state in the nation that still imposes different speed limits on its highways depending on whether it is daytime or nighttime. Roads marked 70 MPH during the day can only be legally driven at 65 MPH when its dark. Big rig trucks must also obey specially lowered speed limits. The state House Transportation Committee yesterday filed a favorable report on legislation that would simplify the Lone Star State’s speed laws and boost the speed limit in most rural areas.

“A difference in vehicle speeds can contribute to accidents,” the House committee report explained. “HB 1353 seeks to minimize the number of accidents that can occur when cars and trucks change lanes or pass or tailgate slower-moving vehicles by removing the different, lower speed limit for heavy trucks.”

Instead of a 70 MPH daytime and 65 MPH nighttime maximum speed on rural highways, the default speed limit in all conditions will be 75 MPH. The change would apply to interstate highways, state freeways, farm-to-market and ranch-to-market roads. Only school buses would be forced to adhere to specially lowered limits. The National Motorists Association argues that, contrary to what some might argue, the change will make the roads less dangerous.

“Having split speed limits between cars and trucks sharing the same roadways is poor traffic safety design,” NMA Executive Director Gary Biller the told TheNewspaper. “The same is true for variable daytime/nighttime speed limits. Anything that has the potential for adding driver confusion or uncertainty is inadvisable.”

The Texas Department of Transportation (TxDOT) along with the Utah Department of Transportation, post the fastest legal speed limits of 80 MPH on certain roads. Utah has reported an excellent safety record for its 80 MPH stretch of Interstate 15. Likewise, Texas last year reported a record drop in accidents statewide, with the high-speed roads showing excellent results. After five years of testing, TxDOT also found the 75 MPH limits appropriate for roads outside the urban environment.

“Crash records show that when the speed limit in these areas increased to 75 MPH in 2001, the number of traffic deaths on those segments decreased,” said Carlos Lopez, TxDOT Traffic Operations Division director, in a 2006 department explanation of speed limit changes in West Texas. “Motorists can prevent crashes by practicing safe driving habits.”

If adopted by the full House and Senate, the measure would take effect in September. A copy of the legislation is available in a 53k PDF file at the source link below.

Source: PDF File House Bill 1353 (Texas Legislature, 3/30/2011)


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17 Comments on “Texas Moves to Eliminate Nighttime Speed Limits, Raise Speeds...”

  • avatar

    Interesting, but there are some problems/questions/concerns—notably, that this removes an impetus for lane and conditional discipline that is quintessential in how, eg, Germany et al reconcile safe highways and high speeds.
    Of course, if North Americans in general (and Texans specifically) aren’t practising lane/condition discipline now, it’s kind of moot.

    • 0 avatar

      You just reminded me of an old workmate from the UK, telling stories about driving over there.  We were talking about how much narrower lanes were vs. the US, and how the blokes would push it harder:  “How many lanes are there?  Two – and I’m in the middle one.”
      Not lane related, but my favorite ex-pat Brit driving story was when one guy had some friends fly in.  They looked at the map and decided to drive to Chicago from Atlanta.  For the weekend.  The map scales are a bit different than he was used to…

    • 0 avatar

      More important is that North Americans and Texans aren’t practicing 65 mph on the highway either, regardless of what the signs may say.

    • 0 avatar
      Dr. Kenneth Noisewater

      If they make up any lost speeding ticket revenue by doubling down on left-lane bandits, that would make me exceedingly happy.
      Of course, the level of maintenance on many American roads is not conducive to full-speed operation, there’s a reason the Autobahn’s bed depth is double that of the US and why their fuel taxes are so high..

  • avatar

    Reduced fatalities at higher highway speeds is not counter-intuitive to me.

    Learning to drive in an era of save lives, drive 55, on long interstate drives the slow pace lulls you into a state of low attention as things crawl by. Your brain wanders, you don’t focus on the task of driving.

    At higher speeds your brain needs to focus more, you focus on the task at hand, driving and staying safe.

    I’m not sure how this will work on FM roads; there are some FM roads in the Big Piney Woods of Deep East Texas with 70 MPH speed limits today that I feel are too high, either because of a patch work of cross streets, visibility issues in the gently rolling hills and a two-lane blacktop, or an over abundance of farm animals and wildlife in the area. Out in the plains of the panhandle, northern and west Texas this is a no brainer.

    • 0 avatar
      Educator(of teachers)Dan

      I’ve got to drive 85mph on most us interstates in the western half of the U.S. just to stay awake. 

    • 0 avatar

      People will have to get used to the fact that it’s not always safe to drive the speed limit. Here in the UK there are plenty of country lanes that it’s not safe to drive the (60mph) limit on- a friend of a friend wrote off his car by taking a humpbacked bridge at the limit and jumping it.

    • 0 avatar

      I think I function better as a driver when I’m doing 100 on a road where everyone else is doing less than 80. It’s basically as Einstein said:  “the faster you move, the slower it appears everyone else is moving”.  When I’m at my best, everyone else appears to be standing still.

  • avatar
    Educator(of teachers)Dan

    Alright, you’re headline is pretty stinking misleading, they’re not eliminating the speed limit at night they are just raising it to the daytime limit.
    I’m a hardcore speeder and even I obey the speed limit when it’s dark on the interstate, it’s too easy to over-drive your headlights.  (And this is from a guy who goes a minimum of 10 over on the interstate when it’s bright and sunny and not raining.)

    • 0 avatar

      They are considering eliminating the night time speed limit as an entity distinct from the regular speed limit… the headline is factually correct. Even if you read “eliminate night time speed limits” and thought “those crazy Texans are going to let people drive any old speed you want after dark,” the “raise speeds” part makes it clear that speed limits will continue to exist.
      Also, I’m not sure who that “your headline” was directed at, but we syndicate The Newspaper’s content without alteration, headlines and all.

    • 0 avatar
      Educator(of teachers)Dan

      Darn newspaper.

  • avatar

    I see they want to reduce the redneck population.

  • avatar

    Does this mean I can make the Texarkana – El Paso run in 10 hours legally?

  • avatar

    Some roads I can see that, but most of the FM roads I’ve driven, even at 65, they are pretty darn entertaining enough to keep me focused.

  • avatar

    Wonderful news! Next step — get rid of the laughably ridiculous speed trap along the .6-mile length of US Highway 287 that runs through Estelline.

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