How Fast is Too Fast? – A Look at Interstate Speeds in America

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The Carsforsale.com headquarters is located in the beautiful Mt. Rushmore State, or South Dakota. Officially as of April 1, 2015 the maximum speed limit for interstates throughout South Dakota was increased to 80 MPH. This was a 5 MPH increase from the previous 75 MPH maximum. This got many of us thinking about speed and safety on the interstate. How fast really is too fast?

Nationally the speed limit varies widely as you move throughout the country. This hasn’t always been the case though. In 1974 the National Maximum Speed Law, as part of the Emergency Energy Conservation Act, was passed to lower the average speed to only 55 MPH. This was an attempt to reduce fuel consumption following the 1973 fuel crisis. This 55 MPH limit was widely disregarded by motorists and often not enforced by officials. It would take over 10 years for the national speed to be raised to 65 MPH in certain rural areas. It also wasn’t until just 1995 when the government decided to allow individual states the ability to dictate their own speed limits.

Wikipeadia Speed Limits

Photo Credit: Wikipedia.com

If you have ever visited South Dakota, you’ll know that “large” cities are few and far between. With six hours of drive time separating the East and West border of the state, and many visitors passing through South Dakota that raising the speed limit might be a good idea. Other largely rural states like Utah, Wyoming and Idaho have the same 80 MPH maximum speed.

Currently the highest speed limit in America is at a toll road in Texas that connects Austin and San Antonio. In this 40 mile stretch, drivers can legally drive 85 MPH. Globally, the highest posted speed limits are in Poland and Bulgaria where the limit is 140 km/h; or 87 MPH. Then there is Germany who is home to the Autobahn, where drivers aren’t limited by any posted speed maximum.

commons.wikimedia.orgAfter that history and geography lesson, back to the issue at hand: how fast is too fast. Speed limits are enacted to make sure everyone on the road is safe. Following the old rule from driver safety course, you should allow one car length between you and the motorist in front of you for every 10 MPH. This is why you may experience lower speed limits while driving through large cities on the freeway as locals tend to congest them in these areas. Also, because visibility is lowered at night, many areas in the United States have a decreased night driving speed limit that is different from the daytime limit. While the road hasn’t changed overnight, the driving conditions have and cause the need for a decrease.

The problem with raising the speed limits is in the gray area where drivers believe they can legally get away with driving only a few miles per hour over. You may have already been going 80 MPH when the speed limit was set at 75. Does that mean drivers can push the limit to 85 MPH? This is one of the biggest hot button issues for law makers when choosing whether to raise the speed limit.

As much as we love speed and cars that go fast, we at Carsforsale.com also agree you need to ensure your safety first and foremost. Sadly, speed limits are looked at as a legal issue rather than a safety issue. Ultimately, you as an individual driver should be able to decide what you believe is too fast. We at Carsforsale.com advocate for following the posted speed limit laws.

Tell us in the comments below what your thoughts are for speed limits. Are they good? Is it just a way for police to pull you over and give you a ticket? Do you wish the Autobahn rules applied here in America? If you have an opinion on the matter, we would love to hear it.