NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis

Higher Speed Limits, Safer Highways

November 24, 1998

When Congress abolished the 55-mile-per-hour speed limit in 1995, bureaucrats at the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration warned ominously that an additional 6,400 motorists would die annually because of the higher speeds. But the results have proved them wrong.

  • The year 1997 saw the lowest rate of automotive traffic accidents and deaths in the nation's history.
  • Twenty-one states have raised their maximum to 65-miles- per-hour; 17 have gone to 70 mph; and 10 have 75 mph limits -- while Montana has no posted daytime speed limit.
  • Experts theorize the higher limits are safer because they reflect the normal flow of traffic -- leading to a decline in tailgating, weaving and the dangers of wide variances in the speeds maintained by various drivers.
  • Prior to the imposition of the 55 mph limit in the 1970s -- occasioned by the energy crisis -- most interstate highways had 70 and 75 mph limits posted, in an era when cars were less safe than they are today.

According to studies, most highway fatalities occur at speeds of 45 mph or less. Nevertheless, "safety" lobbies are decrying the higher limits.

Source: Eric Peters, "Highways Are Safe at Any Speed," Wall Street Journal, November 24, 1998.


Browse more articles on Government Issues