Our Opinion: Speed limits must be both safe and sensible

Are speed limits an issue anymore?

More states are considering joining the existing 34 states, including Missouri, that have increased speed limits to at least 70 mph on parts of their road system.

Although some traffic safety advocates resist higher speeds, limits generally have ratcheted upwards since the federal government dropped its edict linking federal highway funding to a 55 mph limit on most roads.

The trend toward increased speed limits has been attributed to a number of factors, including:

• Cars contain more safety features.

• Highways are improved, including surfaces, lines, signage, rumble strips, cross-over barriers, etc.

• Modern culture emphasizes and rewards quickness — indeed, instantaneousness — which now is expected in many aspects of life.

• Traffic safety priorities and attention have shifted to drunk and distracted driving.

“The politics is that the public wants to go faster, they don’t see it (speed) as a safety issue. So it’s no surprise that legislatures have followed,” said Jonathan Adkins, deputy executive director of the Governors Highway Safety Association.

Traffic safety advocates, however, do have statistics on their side.

They cite a 2009 study that revealed a 3.2 percent increase in highway deaths since federal limits were lifted on all types of roads, including a 9.1 hike in fatalities on rural interstates.

Establishing speed limits is the fine art of finding a balancing point between convenience and risk.

We believe Missouri and 33 other states have achieved balance with the 70 mph limit. We also believe greater uniformity among the states would enhance safety for interstate travelers.

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