Without evidence of benefit, an intervention should not be presumed to be beneficial or safe.

- Rogue Medic

An 85 Mile Per Hour Speed Limit?


An 85 mph speed limit sign is placed on the 41-mile-long toll road in Austin, near the increasingly crowded Interstate between Austin and San Antonio, Texas on Thursday, Sept. 6, 2012. While some drivers will want to test their horsepower and radar detectors, others are asking if safety is taking a backseat to pure speed.
Photo: Statesman.com, Ricardo B. Brazziell / AP


85 Miles an hour?

In the wide open plains of central Texas, a new addition to State Highway 130 opened for business this week with a compelling marketing hook: Its speed limit of 85 MPH is the highest in America. The 41-mile toll road connects Seguin to Mustang Ridge.[2]


That’s insane!

Speed kills!

There were 32,310 traffic fatalities in 2011, the fewest there have been since 1949. More importantly, fatality rates per 100 million vehicle miles traveled have dropped substantially over the years, falling from 24.09 in 1921 to 1.09 in 2011.[2]


Why mess with a good thing.

If we raise the speed limits, the highways will become death traps.

Just listen to common sense.

Everybody knows that speed kills.

In addition, while interstate highway speed limits have risen since Congress repealed all federally imposed speed limits in 1995, fatalities categorized as “speeding-related” by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) have declined since then. Specifically, there were 13,414 speeding-related fatalities in 1995 and 10,591 in 2011. Of the 10,591 speeding-related fatalities in 2011, just 964 occurred on interstate highways with speed limits “over 55 MPH.”[2]


Maybe we should stop listening to the conventional wisdom, the old wives’ tales, and common sense, because the only thing that seems to be reliable about them is that they will be wrong.

Why base traffic laws on mythology?

There are many factors that affect the outcome of a traffic collision. Speed is just one of those factors.

Wouldn’t it be nice to know what the actual speed limit is, rather than seeing many drivers passing a State Trooper parked on the median, monitoring the speed of the passing traffic, with drivers regularly passing by the Trooper at 75 MPH and not being stopped.

Meanwhile there are people driving at what they think is an acceptable speed in the number 1 lane (lane farthest to the left) making the road less safe, because they cause other drivers to change lanes around them. The irony is that many of these drivers are also exceeding the speed limit, but they apparently feel that their level of comfort should be forced on others to make them feel better about whatever.

Then there are those who are just unaware of how to behave on the road. Keep to the right, except to pass. That means that we should only move to the left to pass someone, and only when it can be done safely. That does not mean that passing on the right is a traffic violation.

Driving wherever our whims might motivate us is actually encouraged in Florida –

Governor Bush vetoed 2005 SB732, which would have reserved the left lane for passing, saying that drivers blocking the left lane are “cautious and careful.”[3]


No. Governor Bush does not understand “cautious and careful.” If these drivers were cautious and careful, they would keep to the right, as I do, rather than go looking for conflict at highway speeds.

A few states permit use of the left lane only for passing or turning left. These have “yes” in the “keep right” column. Six states require drivers to move right if they are blocking traffic in the left lane. Most states follow the Uniform Vehicle Code and require drivers to keep right if they are going slower than the normal speed of traffic (regardless of the speed limit; see below).[3]


So if you are from a state, such as Florida, that encourages the slowest people to hold everyone else back, you might not want to do your Luddite driving in other states. It probably is not even safe for you to leave your state under any circumstances, after all you can’t be too safe. 😳

Motorists may drive Segments 5 and 6 of SH 130 for free until November 11. Beginning November 11, the toll rate will be set at $0.15 per mile for passenger vehicles using TxTag. Cars and trucks without a TxTag may also use the road and will be billed via TxTag’s Pay-By-Mail service.[4]


If we don’t want to drive on that toll road, we don’t have to, but there is no good reason to assume that it is any less safe than the roads we would travel on to get to the toll road.

The speed limit is 80 mph on the existing portion of the toll road, which connects Georgetown to south Austin. Open for several years, it’s operated by the Texas Department of Transportation.[1]


Maybe I should let Huey Lewis explain the irony –


Is it ironic to tell people that 85 MPH is just too darn fast?

What about 88 MPH? 😉


[1] Can’t drive 55? On Texas 130, you soon can go at 85 mph
By Vianna Davila
Updated 1:11 a.m., Friday, September 7, 2012

[2] Time to Raise the Speed Limit in America?
By Reason Foundation
Thu, October 25, 2012

[3] State “keep right” laws
Web page.

[4] 41-Mile Extension of State Highway 130 Opens Ahead of Schedule in Central Texas – Public-private partnership completed at no cost to the State Highway Fund, more than 150 Texas-based firms employed
130 Toll News



  1. The speed limit state wide was just raised to 75mph on most interstates, bypasses, rural roads, etc. A large ambulance provider here in Texas (2nd largest in the nation allegedly), East Texas Medical Center, has the Road Safety system which limits the speed of the ambulance to 70mph. If you’re not familiar with Road Safety, it’s a tattletale system that relays information about the speed, G-forces, braking force, seat belt status, whether or not a spotter is in place when the vehicle is in reverse, and other variables of the vehicle.
    When the speed limit was raised to 75 in Texas ETMC announced they would not be raising the speed restrictions on the ambulances due to safety concerns.
    Apparently it’s more safe to drive down the interstate and be passed by other vehicles while you’re responding to an emergency.
    This is a typical attitude throughout EMS. Rather than address an actual problem, in this case driver training, we’ll throw a blanket solution down that does nothing but harm the public we’re supposed to be protecting.

    • I can not fathom why anyone would use lights and sirens on the interstate/restricted access highway (or for any reason for that matter). The siren is ineffective due to the speed, and most ambulances* I’ve been in are doing their best to keep up with the flow of traffic. You can forget passing anyone with the exception of rush hour gridlock.

      * that doesn’t count the old gas burner I drove as an EMT back in the stone ages, actually got clocked by a cop going 104 mph. I sometimes wonder how I made it this far…

      • Dewayne:
        You make a good point regarding the ineffectiveness of lights/sirens response. I’m not arguing for the benefits of a Code 3 response, I’m saying we’re missing the mark in calling speed restrictions a gateway to safety. What’s the survivability data for crashing an ambulance at 70mph? 75? 85? I doubt the difference is that much Why draw the line at 70mph due to “safety concerns”? I’m sure the odds at a 35mph crash are much better. So, by that logic we should knock the speed limit down to 35mph for all ambulance responses.
        I’m only criticizing the lack of desire to address an actual problem by sidestepping to a smaller factor. Mark W was commenting on the autobahn speed limits. According to http://www.gettingaroundgermany.info/autobahn.shtml#regs the Autobahn has a much lower fatality rating than the US, and accounts for little of the German traffic deaths. Germany strictly enforces the laws on the road, and has a higher standard of training than Texas (probably America as a whole, but the original article focused on Texas). Also, the roads are monitored for local weather changes and speed is adjusted accordingly. I know of no roads in Texas that do this.
        The Germans didn’t tackle speed as in issue in making safer roadways. They went after driver training, maintenance, adjusting to weather variables, etc.

        • I was directing my comment strictly at the bit about being passed by other vehicles while responding. It’s so hard to convey the full meaning in text without hearing the tone and inflections of the voice along with the facial expressions.

          Aside from that, you will be hard pressed to find a more staunch supporter of higher driver’s license standards (and medic education as well) than me. I’m in favor of moving the the age up to 18 across the board; mandatory driving school; and a graduated license. I agree with you 100% about better training for emergency vehicle operators as well.

          The real problem with blogs like Rogue’s, is that the majority of the readers will agree the majority of the time. And when we/they do disagree, there is usually a great conversation with great references. The people that are the cause of the various dilemmas and needed improvements that we find ourselves talking about will never show up here, And if they did come here, I don’t really think they’d understand the information or the conversations and they would (IMHO) simply ignore the board or become involved in flaming.

  2. How often do we hear/read that “speed kills”?

    With respect, not it doesn’t! If it did, someone traveling at over 33,000mph would surely be long dead – yet that’s what we’re all doing as we move around the Sun.

    It’s SUDDEN CHANGE in speed that kills. This means that if you are traveling along a road at 85mph with no sharp bends, no traffic coming the other way and no idiot pulling out in front of you, you’d be fine. Travel at 30mph and meet a vehicle coming the other way at the same speed and you’ve got problems. Make that 60mph and you’ve almost certainly got a death or very serious injury.

    Our reaction times vary between one person and another. As I’m closing 60, my reaction times will be greater than when I was 25 – not by much, but by enough. I therefore leave a little more space between me and other vehicles than I used to. However, I’m probably better at assessing the traffic than I was 30+ years ago – after all, I’ve had 30+ more years experience.

    On a good distance road (e.g. “motorways” in the UK, “Autobahn” in Germany) where there are usually at least three lanes each way and a good central reservation, I reckon that the current UK limit of 70mph is rather silly – 85mph would be better. (I’m not sure of the situation now, but Autobahn never used to be limited.)