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85 mph Speed Limit in Texas—Is This Really Safe?

How much is 15 minutes worth to you?

If you find yourself driving from San Antonio to Austin some day, you may be tempted to jump onto Texas’s State Highway 130. It’s a brand new 41-mile stretch of tollroad with a speed limit of up to 85 miles per hour. It will save you about 15 minutes over the older highway—the 55-mile-per-hour Interstate 35 that runs parallel to 130. It will cost you $6 to $8. Of course, that 15 minutes could come at a potentially much higher cost.

High Driving Speeds Can Kill

Research shows speed kills. The faster your driving speed, the longer it takes to stop and a few extra feet of skid marks on the road can mean the difference between stopping safely and colliding with the cars around you. Since your body travels at the same speed as your vehicle, that extra 30 miles per hour could mean the difference between living and dying but that might sound overly dramatic to some people. After all, none of us ever really plans to become road kill. So let’s take a look at who you might find in the car next to you if you choose to drive that stretch of Texas Highway 130:

  • You can be sure that some—many?—of your fellow motorists will be speedsters out to see what their machines can really do. Since the police can’t stop people for driving a mile or two over the limit, these guys will be doing 95 miles per hour. Or more. No doubt they’ll be weaving in and out of their more cautious road companions.
  • Then there will be busy multi-taskers who choose the high-speed road because their time is money. They’ll need to maximize their time making business calls or texting instructions to their assistants. All the while they’re whizzing along at ninety or so.
  • No doubt, some drivers will be tourists and curious locals. These drivers are just out to see what the hubbub is all about and experience how it feels to drive at such high speeds. They could be a little shaky or chicken-out and drive at lower, more comfortable speeds. Those other guys will be tailgating and passing them.
  • Overconfident novice drivers will give the 130 a go too. It will be a rude awakening for them to realize that driving like a race car driver requires 360-degree vision, long-range planning, and smooth, confident maneuvering. (Race car drivers also have a lot of additional safety equipment.)
  • And finally, there will be trucks loaded with goods that need to get somewhere on time. These drivers are pros but their trucks have huge blind spots that other drivers like to slide into unnoticed. And speeding trucks take even longer time to stop than cars

Safe Driving

Instead of slowing down in rain, fog or darkness, most of the drivers will maintain the pace just like they do on other highways. An 85 mile per hour speed limit is a recipe for disaster. Regardless of how well engineers construct the road, the highway is unsafe for the people who will use it. So why would the Texas Department of Transportation even build it? They didn’t. This stretch of toll road was built by a private European company. That company will recoup its investment by collecting tolls, which it will then share with The Texas Department of Transportation. According to The Austin Statesman, the deal was structured to include an extra $100 million if the speed limit was set at 85 mph. Apparently you can put a price on safety after all.

Anne Marie Hayes

Anne Marie Hayes is a certified driving instructor and author of 3 Keys to Keeping Your Teen Alive: Lessons for Surviving the First Year of Driving. Learn more at TeensLearntoDrive.com.