Statistics show that motorists cited by the South Dakota Highway Patrol are driving at faster speeds since lawmakers increased the maximum highway speed limit.
Lawmakers increased the speed limit to 80 mph (nearly 130 kilometers) in April 2015.
An analysis of state data by the Argus Leader showed that prior to the increase, motorists ticketed in 75 mph zones were driving 86 mph on average. In the nearly two years since the increase, the average speed ticketed in 80 mph zones increased to 88 mph.
Statistics also showed that there was a 70 percent increase in the number of motorists cited for driving 100 mph or more since the new speed limit was implemented.
Supporters of the increasing the speed limit argued that doing so would legalize speeds people were already driving. But the group Advocates for Highway and Auto Safety said the findings only confirm safety advocates’ warnings that higher speed limits would encourage faster driving.
“Higher limits, even higher speeds,” said Catherine Chase, the group’s vice president of governmental affairs. “This is a race to the graveyard because survivability in high-speed crashes goes down.”
The data also showed that the Highway Patrol has become harsher since the new speed limit was implemented. An analysis of the number of tickets issued in the two years before and two years after the speed limit increase showed a nearly 45 percent hike in tickets issued.
“We always stress safe driving habits and that includes driving the speed limit,” said Tony Mangan, a spokesman for the Department of Public Safety. “Drivers have always exceeded the speed limit, this is nothing new. We will continue to enforce the speed limits just as we are now.”
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