Raise in speed limit poorly thought out

Hills, deer, turns, limited visibility throughout Gillespie mean a more dangerous commute

By Ken Esten Cooke— Last week’s announcement that some of Gillespie County’s hilly, windy roads will now have a speed limit of 75 miles per hour should have come with a yellow sign that read: “Warning: More Traffic Accidents Ahead.”

The legal speed limit on stretches of Texas Highway 16 U.S. Highways 87 and 290, all of which stretch through the entire county, will be raised to 75 miles per hour from their current top speed of 70.

Law enforcement was not contacted about the change, and it seemed to come as a surprise to Gillespie County DPS officers. While they must be diplomatic in what they say publicly, we do not have to be.

This is a bad idea.

The speed limit is set by state lawmakers, who are as apt to do something for political favor as they are for common sense. We feel it was a poor decision by our legislators. Was there a clamor for higher speed limits that we missed? With safer cars and seat-belt laws, should we be willing to accept worse accidents due to higher speeds?

The way speed limits are calculated, according to the Texas Department of Transportation, is the 85th percentile of drivers. Speed checks are conducted to determine the speed that 84 percent of the drivers are traveling.

What this doesn’t take into account, however, is that many drivers will inch five to 10 miles over the posted limits no matter what the speed. Most drivers know that DPS will give about a five mile-per-hour slack to drivers who exceed the limit before they issue tickets.

DPS Sgt. Todd Jennings had some interesting points in the Standard-Radio Post article last week. At 75 mph, a person is traveling 110 feet per second. Taking into account perception and reaction time, it will take a skidding vehicle approximately 415 feet to stop. These numbers are based on dry, level pavement and everything being perfect. Environmental, driver and vehicle conditions only make these numbers go up, he said.

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