The fastest highway in America has opened to drivers in Texas, on a stretch of road from Austin to Seguin, sporting a speed limit of 85 MPH — higher than the standard 55 MPH seen in most jurisdictions.
It may come as no surprise to you that the fastest highway in America is in Texas, where everything (including the speed limit) is jokingly said to be bigger.
But the fastest highway in America has been a while in planning, and the stretch of road is different from your average US highway.
Here in metro New York, the speed limit of 55 applies in some truly treacherous driving conditions. Anyone who has barreled down the Jackie Robinson’s hairpin turns going as fast as the law allows can attest to how a speed is certainly not the only safety factor on highways.
In contrast, the fastest highway in America was literally built for speed. It’s wider, flatter, and even has fewer distractions inherent than other American highways and byways, lacking billboards and other attention grabbers that may cause drivers to take their eyes from the road for a few minutes.
Of course, as the fastest highway in America prepared for its maiden voyage, safety advocates were there to say that high rates of speed are a recipe for disaster. Ahead of its opening, back in August, president and CEO of the American Trucking Association Bill Graves complained:
“Higher speeds dramatically increase the risks of a catastrophic crash … On today’s busy and congested highways, it is simply unfathomable that a state would allow drivers to put themselves and others at risk by increasing speed limits to such excessive heights.”
But is the fastest highway in America really an inherent risk, given the fact that many Americans routinely clock such speeds on roads not even designed for faster driving? TxDOT spokesman Bob Kaufman points to infrastructure engineering to support a higher rate of speed permissible on the fastest highway in America:
“If you look at the topography, the geography and the engineering of the roadway, you can see how an 85 mph speed limit could be supported.”
The Texas A&M Transportation Institute agreed, delving a bit into the myriad factors that contribute to road fatalities:
“A cause-and-effect relationship between speed limits and safety is not straightforward … The relationship among speed limits, driver speed choice, and safety on a given road is complex.”
As the fastest highway in America is now live, the experiment is likely to prove a case in point in the weeks and months to come. Would you like to see a higher speed limit posted in less populous, more open areas?