Driving faster may make some highways safer

It’s hard to know whom to believe sometimes when we’re lectured on how to drive safely. A common message from the highway authorities is to slow down.

Nah.

The Minnesota Department of Transportation thinks on some roads — two-lane state highways, for example, the solution is going faster, the Brainerd Dispatch indicates.

It’s been raising speed limits this fall from 55 mph to 60 mph, partly because people were going 60 anyway, as if they won’t start going 65 now. But it wants to study whether the higher speed limits will reduce the number of crashes on the highways.

“State highways have pretty good design criteria,” Thomas Dumont, a traffic engineer, told the Dispatch. “Pretty much nobody is traveling at 55. Everybody is traveling in the 60s and [state legislators] thought it would be the right thing to do. Eighty-five percent of traffic in rural areas was traveling about 65 or low 60s.”

“You get one person going 45 and you’ve got 40 cars waiting to pass that person,” said Dumont. “It’s just dangerous. There’s tremendous backup.”

MnDOT is in the middle of a five-year study to examine speed limits and their effect.

Hardly any of the higher speed limits are in the metro area, where few drivers pay attention to the the posted speeds anyway.

  • Erick

    “It’s not all the fault of one slow driver” Fault? Really? I can think of a dozen good and legitimate reasons to drive slower than the speed limit or not to pass. If I choose to legally take my time and someone else makes an unsafe move, I am not the one at fault.

  • Erick

    The line of cars may occur but the fault of a crash lies with the unsafe driver not with someone who merely chooses to drive legally and safely albeit below the maximum limit or without passing.

  • Rob

    What a load of bullpucky. Driving faster is only safer until something happens that may require an emergency reaction – or until you get in a crash.

  • Rob

    I’ve driven a fair amount lo these past several decades, and I have rarely encountered long highway backups because a driver is going significantly below the speed limit.

    And in your scenario, if nobody passes a slower moving vehicle, the only way there could be a crash is if someone is tailgating.

  • Amanda

    East Coast-er here, been in Minnesota for a year and I must note, Minnesotans are legitimately the world’s slowest drivers ever. Nowhere I’ve ever lived have I seen people go EXACTLY the speed limit as everyone here does, and it is the worst. It creates unnecessary flow issues, makes it harder to switch lanes — especially because people are usually going equally slow next to each other — or to merge. People also break excessively … I’ve looked into it and some reports suggest the slow speed and passive approaches causes more accidents here.

    • In our defense, though,compared to the east coast, we don’t pass on the right by driving in the breakdown lane.

      • Amanda

        touche, haha

      • Jim in RF

        And we don’t call it the breakdown lane, either. It’s the shoulder.

      • I’ve seen a few do this…

    • Guest

      But speeding is not nice 🙂

      Actually there is only one reason to speed: “I care more about my convenience than my own life or the lives of others.”

      • Amanda

        Speeding isn’t nice, and it is dangerous, correct… but there is a difference between speeding, and going an appropriate rate for a highway — i’m saying 70 is normal… not 80, and definitely not faster than 80

        • lusophone

          Until everybody kicks it up to 70 and then 75 isn’t much more than 70, but then 80 isn’t much more than 75…

          • Amanda

            i understand your concern. that attitude could happen, but you can make that argument with any limit ever, so…. to be clear though, I only said anything in the first place because it’s an observation. Most people elsewhere travel within 10 over. here everyone goes exactly the limit. I’ve never seen that and find it hard still to get used to. But i am by no means advocating for real, reckless, excessive speeding. Safety matters more than speed for sure.

          • lusophone

            All I can say is your observation is definitely not the same as mine.

          • Amanda

            do you see people here going much over the limit often?

          • fromthesidelines21

            For me, always. I primarily drive on 2 lane highways most are posted 55 and are changing to 60. I usually drive 62 in a 55 and am constantly ‘the slow guy,’ I’d probably go faster but I am also the guy who always sees a patrol. Passing on a straight 2 lane is easy. any curves or visibility issues and I’ll wait it out behind the slow guy.

          • lusophone

            Yes, quite often. It seems we have almost the exact opposite experiences. Usually the only cars I see going the speed limit or lower are older cars, not necessarily older drivers. Do you drive 94 Westbound, say from the Lowry Tunnel heading out of downtown much? Or 394 heading west out of downtown? Try driving the speed limit on just about any highway, even if there’s nobody in front of you and see how long it takes before you have someone tailgating you. This is my experience on city roads too in Minneapolis and suburban roads all over the Twin Cities.

    • lusophone

      I can’t disagree with you more. It is so hard to drive the speed limit around town and not have someone on your butt instantly. The only reason a slow driver would cause an accident is when someone who is driving too fast isn’t paying attention to the road up ahead.

  • Guest

    Roundabouts are dangerous. That is why I get thru as quickly as possible, gunning it and going around on two wheels

    🙂

    • jon
      • Guest

        Yep, that is me 🙂
        It was Heckuva time to look down change the radio station

      • Jim in RF

        Love the dog coming out to see what was up.

      • 212944

        Rusty Griswold: Wow dad, we must have jumped that rail by like 50 yards.

        Clark: Nothing to be proud of Russ…

        [pauses as Rusty walks away]

        Clark: [proudly] … 50 yards…

  • boB from WA

    Ahh, how I long for the days of Montana driving (sigh).

    • KTN

      The short lived “reasonable and prudent” speed limit only last maybe 18 months. Sure was fun when it was legal to haul ass across the state though – but 80 isn’t to bad (which of course means 85).

      • jon

        I was surprised driving through Montana how many people weren’t even doing the speed limit… but if you watch your mpg gauge rather than the clock you’ll realize that it’s going to take an eternity to drive through montana either way, and you’ll spend less money at gas stations if you do 70-75 instead of 80-85…

      • crystals

        …and then to be immediately pulled over upon crossing the border into North Dakota. That had to have been a really nice income generator for them in the late 90s.

        • KTN

          Don’t know, I always slowed down at that border, but I do remember one early morning, heading our of Williston, to Whitefish, just after the reasonable and prudent went into effect, I hit the border at 120, and kept it in triple digits for a good portion of the rest of the trip – that was a fun drive.

          • crystals

            I was not so wise. I think I was pulled over within two minutes of crossing over going east on I-94!

  • jon

    So because people are doing 60, and one person doing 45 makes the situation danger, they are raising the speed limit to 60… sounds like a need for a minimum speed limit rather than changing the maximum (which might be nice for other reasons).

    Speed does not kill, difference in velocity in a collision kills.

    if you are doing 75mph and get rear ended by some one doing 76 mph, you were involved in a 1 mph collision… if you are doing 75 and get hit head on by some one doing 75 you were involved in a 150 mph collision… the seriousness of those accidents is significantly different, but the speeds involved were the same.

    Going to slow is just as dangerous as going to fast from a physics standpoint. Keep up with the flow of traffic, that’s what reduces the risk of a deadly car/car collision… pay attention when driving that’s what keeps you from having a car/wall collision.

    • Amanda

      well put!

  • Jeff G.

    It seems in MN there are only two extremes, 2 lane undivided highways or 4 (or more) lane divided highways. In many states there are 4 lane undivided highways. Im not sure why you dont see these here. They would be much cheaper than divided highways but safer than 2 lane highways as you wouldnt have to enter an oncoming lane to pass. Also in other parts of the country there are many 2 lane highways with short half-mile or so passing lanes placed every 5 miles or so. This prevents a slower driver from blocking other traffic for any sustained distance. It would be nice to see some of these common sense ideas here in MN.

    • Mike Worcester

      //Also in other parts of the country there are many 2 lane highways with
      short half-mile or so passing lanes placed every 5 miles or so

      There are a number of these “Super-2’s” (to use highway engineer parlance) in the state. U.S. 12 west of Delano has several sections of them, though not in the frequency you describe. Biggest issue with them is that when folks reach the lane expansion everyone speeds up, then slow right back down after the reduction to a single lane, so the backup really is not eliminated that much.

      • Jeff G.

        Interesting. I’ve never been on that stretch of highway. Maybe they are so uncommon around here people don’t really understand what they are for and there needs to be a public information campaign on how to use them? Although it seems it should be pretty self explanatory. But also if the dual lane section is too long, I imagine people would treat it as a changeover to a multi lane highway and feel its safer to go faster. With the highways I’m thinking of, I’ve treated the extra-lane sections as glorified turns outs that are long enough to let a chain of several cars pass without having to slow down much.

  • king harvest

    Phoenix. The disparity of speeds in the Phoenix metro is the worst I’ve seen. The locals are going 15 mph over and the snowbirds (known locally as q-tips)
    are going 5 under. Brutal.
    Houston. If you ain’t going as fast as you can, you’re dead meat.
    Los Angeles. Nuff said.
    It’s not too bad in Minnesota 😉

    • Guest

      Q-tips > white hair on head or as dumb as a Q-tip?
      I wonder what other lingo is out there referring to a Minnesotan? Wisconsin and Dakotas MUST have a short-hand reference .

      • king harvest

        White hair. It’s usually accompanied by an f word. Really has nothing to do with where people are from, just Old and In The Way.
        Great band by the way:
        https://youtu.be/rYETHsxAv8c

  • Sonny T

    Who are these guys? What happened to conserving gas? To green house emissions?

    • Joseph

      That went out the window with low gas prices and big pickup trucks/SUV’s becoming the predominant choice of vehicle. (See Ford deciding to discontinue all its sedan models outside the Mustang, and Dodge killing the Dart).

      • Sonny T

        Are you saying public policy is driving (no pun intended) consumer demand?

        I’m assuming low gas price is the result of public policy. Also I don’t remember a whole lot of eco talk about conserving. Then and now.

        By the way, the new version Dart looks like a death-mobile. The old version (from the sixties) was like a scaled-down Malibu, with all the pep. Today’s version of a Mini Cooper.

        • Joseph

          I’m saying consumer demand is behind the wheel of public policy in this case. (Pun totally intended). Low gas prices have next to nothing to do with public policy, and are more impacted by international affairs, oil output, refinery’s and transportation of crude, hurricanes and general confidence in the stock market.

  • Rob

    Again, you can’t have a chain reaction without tailgating. If you, personally, don’t tailgate, you are far less likely to be part of a chain reaction – no matter how other people are driving.

    A safe space cushion at 60 mph requires three full seconds between you and the driver you are folllowing.

    • JamieHX

      I heard it’s two seconds. That’s what I always use as a guide, and it SEEMS like it would be enough. But I guess three seconds would be even better. There are always cars pulling into that cushion area, though, so you have to do the count over again.

      • lusophone

        Yes, it seems like people tailgate so nobody will try to cut into that cushion between them and the driver in front of them. The zipper merge would work better if people gave a good distance between themselves an the car in front too.

  • John

    “You get one person going 45 and you’ve got 40 cars waiting to pass that person,” said Dumont. “It’s just dangerous. There’s tremendous backup.”

    It’s almost like Dumont thinks that raising the speed limit will induce the people going 45 to pick it up to . . . 46? I don’t follow the logic here at all.