New Texas law could increase split speed differential

| 6/27/2005

Gov. Rick Perry has signed a bill into law that could increase daytime speed limits for personal vehicles on certain stretches of Texas highways to 80 mph. Commercial vehicles would continue to drive at the current 70 mph limit posted for trucks in those areas.

The new law, previously HB2257, gives the Texas Transportation Commission the option to increase the daytime speed limit for cars from 75 mph to 80 mph on Interstates 10 and 20 in sparsely populated areas of Crockett, Culberson, Hudspeth, Jeff Davis, Kerr, Kimble, Pecos, Reeves, Sutton and Ward counties.

Nighttime speeds for cars would remain at 65 mph.

Sponsored by Rep. Pete Gallego, D-Alpine, the bill’s analysis gives this reasoning for the change: “The vast size of Texas requires many Texans to spend many hours on the road. Road travel is especially challenging and time consuming for rural Texans who live in sparsely populated areas of the state.”

Todd Spencer, executive vice president for the Owner-Operator Independent Drivers Association, said lawmakers and the governor missed a greater opportunity to do away with split speeds in the state.

“One of the main reasons highway safety has improved even as states nationwide increase speed limits is because higher speed limits tend to eliminate or minimize speed variances that are often key contributors to accidents,” Spencer said. “It would have made more sense for lawmakers to use this legislation as an opportunity to once and for all establish uniform speed limits for the state’s highways.”

TxDOT is slated to conduct studies this summer and fall to figure out if it’s safe to push the speed limit for cars up to 80 mph along some stretches. The earliest speeds would increase will be January 2006.