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Could higher speed limits be causing more accidents along I-20?

By Jennifer Kendall, jkendall@ktxs.com
Published On: Jan 10 2014 09:41:18 PM CST
Updated On: Jan 13 2014 07:25:41 AM CST
ABILENE, Texas -

In 2011 the Texas legislature passed a bill allowing the Texas Department of Transportation to create a 75 mile per hour speed limit on any state highway that passed a speed study. I-20 was one road where the speed limit went up.

DPS Trooper Lance Parker said he's noticed a change in driver habits since the speed limits along I-20 changed.

"You know, anytime there's an increase in the speed limit there's a lot that’s going to drive faster than the posted speed limit," said Parker. 

When TXDOT replaced the 70 mile per hour speed limit signs with 75 mile per hour signs in 2012 that's exactly what happened.

"We’re seeing a lot of higher speeds than we have in the past," Parker said.

Why were the speed limits increased?

"If you set a speed limit too high of course that can be unsafe, but if drivers perceive that a speed limit is artificially too low they tend not to observe it," said Darah Waldrip TXDOT Abilene district public information officer.

75 seemed like the magic number, but the statistics may prove otherwise.

In 2010 there were 80 speed related crashes on I-20 in Callahan, Taylor and Nolan counties, in 2011 there were 58. Then the speed limit changed and the number of accidents went way up. In 2012 there were 125 crashes, and last year, in 2013 there were 136.

"Certainly that's a trend that we want to see going the other direction and it's something we will be keeping an eye on," said Waldrip

Parker said the crashes aren't just more common, they are also more severe.

"It seems like there's more extensive damage and injury to the driver and the passengers out of it just due to the speed," said Parker. 

Speed related crashes don’t just mean going over the speed limit. TXDOT also categorizes it a speed related crash if it's caused by a driver traveling at an unsafe speed for the conditions.

Waldrip said they will continue to monitor the number of crashes and conduct another speed study if necessary.