Arkansas Highway Commission: Don’t Raise Speed Limits

December 11, 2008

The Arkansas Highway Commission has come out against raising speed limits on rural highways because it could increase the number of fatal traffic accidents. Also, it would lower fuel economy for motorists, according to a statement released by the Arkansas General Assembly.

In 2007 the General Assembly passed Act 242 directing highway officials to study raising speed limits on the Arkansas primary highway network, which amounts to 6,310 miles of roads. In a recent meeting of the Legislative Council, highway officials reported their findings.

One purpose of Act 242 was to raise speed limits on rural two-lane highways to 65 miles an hour, but only if the study supported raising them. There are almost 5,300 miles of such highways in Arkansas.

Highway department officials estimate that increasing speed limits to 65 mph. would lead to a 28 percent increase in traffic fatalities. In 2007 there were 650 deaths from traffic accidents on Arkansas highways, down from 665 in 2006. An established goal of the Highway Department has been to reduce the number of fatalities 14 percent by 2010, so raising speed limits would work against that goal.

Highway officials cited federal Energy Department experiments that find gas mileage goes down when motorists speed up. On average, for each 5 mph over 60 mph a car is driven, its mileage goes down by 7 percent.

There are 754 miles of freeway and interstate highways in Arkansas and the speed limit on them ranges from 60 mph in urban areas to 70 for cars in rural areas. For trucks it is 65 mph in rural areas, and for cars it is 65 mph in suburban areas.

Arkansas has 284 miles of rural, multi-lane highways that are not interstates, although opposing lanes are divided. Their speed limits are 65 mph. now.

Source: Arkansas General Assembly

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