Monday, March 21, 2016

Wyo. raising some highways to 70 mph; bill sponsor says people more comfortable driving that speed

Raising speed limits to 70 mph on some rural Wyoming highways will increase safety, said the state senator who sponsored the bill that was signed into law Tuesday by Republican Gov. Matt Mead, Laura Hancock reports for the Billings Gazette. Some speed limits have already been raised from 65 mph to 70 mph, while 1,500 miles will be raised by the end of April and another 1,000 miles by the end of May. In all, the state will put up 900 new signs, some of which will be new curve warnings to adjust for higher rates of speed. (Wyoming Department of Transportation photo)

Republican state Sen. Leland Christensen, who said he sponsored the bill because he felt it would be more cost-effective to pass the bill than to continue studying it, said 70 mph is a safe speed because data shows that the average person drives 71 to 72 mph, Hancock writes. He told her, “People tend to drive where they’re comfortable. That’s what we found out when we raised the speeds on the freeways.” He also said he studied when speed limits were raised from 75 to 80, finding "there was more variation between the speeds of the fastest and slowest vehicles," which he said increases accident risks.

Cathy Chase of Advocates for Highway and Auto Safety, a Washington-based nonprofit public health, safety and consumer group, disagrees that raising speed limits can be safer, Hancock writes. She said "people are more likely to be killed or permanently injured at high speeds than lower speeds," stating that one-third of all crashes are speeding-related. She also "pointed to federal data showing that in a six-state region that includes Wyoming, fatalities were up in the first nine months of 2015 compared with the same time in 2014." (Read more)

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