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Bill to raise MI speed limit to 80 mph on “rural limited access freeways” is back

October 9, 2015 by Steven M. Gursten

But U of M study shows serious injury and fatality rates jump when speed limits raised

increasing MI speed limits

For the third time in the last year or so, there’s a new proposed bill that would raise the speed limit to 80 miles per hour on rural freeways.

House Bill 4423, proposed by Rep. Brad Jacobsen (R-Oakland County, MI) has been referred to the Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure, which is set to review the measure next week. Jacobsen has said in published reports that most people are speeding anyway, and if the road is wide open, then why not go 80?

Well, as an auto accident attorney, I’ll tell you why. Because when crashes do occur, they will be more severe. And more severe crashes means injuries will be worse and more people will be killed. It’s what we all learned in driver’s ed, and it’s still true today:

Speed kills.

The thing that really bothers me is that because we’re using the word “rural,” we are assuming that car accidents are not going to happen on rural freeways. But they do. So Rep. Jacobsen is essentially playing Russian roulette with your life. We’re talking about raising speeds at the same time that distracted driving and texting and driving have reached record levels.

That is a very dangerous combination.

And injury and death statistics back me up — even in the instance of raising the speed limit on rural limited access freeways like Jacobsen is proposing.

According to a University of Michigan Study, “Effects of the 65 MPH Speed Limit on Injury Morbidity and Mortality,” there was a whopping 19.2% increase in fatalities and a 39.8% increase in serious injuries when Michigan raised its speed limit on rural limited access highways from 55 miles per hour to 65 miles per hour in December 1987.

If the U of M study showed a big jump in car accident deaths and injuries when speeds were raised on rural highways from 55 miles per hour to only 65, what do we think will happen when we hike that speed up to 80? And we all understand that 80 miles per hour is really going to be 90 for a lot of drivers on these roads. Finally, the 1987 U of M study was before we had texting and other forms of distracted driving that today cause so many more crashes.

In fact, one study estimates that one in every four car accidents involves the use of cell phones, either people texting or driving on the phone. All we have to do is glance over to our left or our right when we’re driving home today to see this is true.

How fast can you go on a Michigan highway?

Here’s a blog post I wrote on the current Michigan speed limit laws. There are some Michigan roads that do not have any speed limit signs, and there are stretches of highways that are unmarked.

And here’s Michigan speed limit law for highways, according to MCL 257.628 of the Michigan Vehicle Code:

  • The statewide maximum speed limit on all unposted highways at 55 mph.
  • Gravel roads are included.

What the heck is a rural access freeway, anyways?

If you’re unfamiliar, a quick review of what a “rural limited access freeway” is, according to the bill:

“A freeway segment that has been designated by the state transportation department and the department of state police to be rural in nature.”

Currently, MDOT doesn’t a have definition for “rural limited access freeway,” but defines a limited access freeway as:

“A highway or section of highway designed for travel by registered motor vehicles. Access is limited to intersections, and driveways are generally not allowed. Freeways are a common type of limited access highway.”

Also a very large side note. Jacobsen’s bill would also let commercial trucks to speed at 70 miles an hour on limited access freeways, from the current 60 miles per hour:

“…person operating a school bus, BUS, a truck WITH A GROSS WEIGHT OF 10,000 POUNDS OR MORE, a truck-tractor, or a truck- tractor with a semi-trailer or trailer described in this subsection OR A COMBINATION OF THESE VEHICLES shall not exceed a speed of 70 miles per hour on a LIMITED ACCESS freeway.”

HB4423 is nothing but a  perilous proposed change that will surely  cause more serious crashes, injuries and deaths.

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