RALEIGH, N.C. (WNCN) — A bill recently filed to increase the maximum speed limit in the state has the support of Republican House Speaker Tim Moore, but experts warn it could make the roads more dangerous.
The bill would increase the maximum speed limit from 70 miles per hour to 75.
It doesn’t specify which roads would allow for that. Instead, it would be up to the N.C. Department of Transportation to determine where it would be “reasonable and safe” to make that change.
Supporters of the move argue that many people are already driving in excess of 70 miles per hour anyway, and that some roads are designed to handle increased speeds.
“I think it makes sense with the modern safety of vehicles, with the modern-day design standards of roads. We have parts of our highways that are safe for that speed,” said Moore (R-Cleveland). “It just has to be in the right area. And, I would trust the engineers, folks in law enforcement, otherwise, to make those assessments of where the appropriate speed zones are.”
According to the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety, 19 states have a maximum speed limit of at least 75 miles per hour. In Texas, the maximum is 85 miles per hour.
Chuck Farmer, vice president of research and statistical services at IIHS, has studied the impact of raising the speed limit and says there are deadly consequences.
He found speed limit increases were tied to nearly 37,000 deaths from 1993-2017.
“I’ve been doing this for almost 30 years now. Every time we looked at an increase in speed limits, you see an increase in deaths,” said Farmer.
He also found an increase in the speed limit of five miles an hour “was associated with an 8 percent increase in fatalities on interstates and highways” and a 3 percent increase on other roads. He said the study took into account distracted and drunk driving as well as seat belt use.
“It was pretty clear that it was the speed limit changes that were making the difference,” he said. “It’s only gonna be worse. If you increase the speed limit, people are gonna go faster. And, the faster you go the more likely you are to get killed in a crash.”
A similar bill filed in 2013 passed the state Senate almost unanimously but failed in the House. The Associated Press reported at the time that some lawmakers raised concerns about safety.