Minnesota began raising highway speed limits to 70 in 2014. Wisconsin was the last state in the upper Midwest to follow suit; Gov. Walker signed legislation over the summer.
Since then, the number of crashes on 70 mph roads in Wisconsin has increased, the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel reports today. Coincidence? Maybe.
“I don’t think we have the answers yet,” Capt. Steve Krueger, commander of the State Patrol’s post in Wausau, which handles 18 counties, told the paper.
He suggested, however, that it may not be the speed itself that’s causing the crashes. It may be that more people are driving at different speeds. Those of us in the 55-to-save-some-money club can probably attest to this. It’s probably our fault.
“A lot of highways don’t have minimum speed limits, and that’s where the problem comes — when cars close in on each other too fast.” Krueger said.
“Initially it does seem there was a significant portion of the commercial vehicle traffic that has decided, whether it’s fuel economy or another reason, that it’s sticking with 65 mph, which creates its own problems, especially when you have a lot of traffic,” Capt. Timothy Carnahan, regional commander of the State Patrol’s Waukesha post, said.
This raises an interesting dilemma for some people. What if we don’t want to drive 70? What if we’re perfectly content at 60?
But even if you drive the speed limit, you risk getting run off the road because the reality is when you raise the speed limit to 70, you’re really raising it to 75.
“Those who used to drive 70 in a 65 are now driving 75 in a 70 — they adjust their driving patterns five miles up,” Knudson told the Journal Sentinel. “Certainly we are concerned as we get closer to winter. Always those first snows are an adjustment, even to those of us who live in colder climates.”
Several studies over the years, however, have said higher speed limits don’t cause more crashes; they just inflate the severity of the ones that occur.
Related: Google car pulled over for driving too slow (BBC)