Arkansas DOT says “no”

Since the national speed limit was repealed several state legislatures have attempted to raise speed limits only to be denied by a governor or DOT director who is afraid of drivers obeying the law. It happened in Oregon, Washington, Nevada, Oklahoma, and now Arkansas.

Arkansas lawmakers requested a speed limit increase to 75 and the DOT said no. The excuse is they have to do extensive research. That is an excuse, not the real reason.

When the national speed limit was repealed, transportation officials basically threw a dart at a board and decided 65 was too slow and 75 would risk embarrassing the state. So let’s try 70. Although the official rule alleged an engineering study was done, the choice of a uniform statewide speed limit below the actual speed of traffic suggests it was not an engineering decision.

If the rural highways I drive on were posted based on engineering studies I would see a mix of 70, 75, 80, and maybe 85. Not all 70. Not all 75 either.

I don’t expect Arkansas officials will consider traffic safety any more than their predecessors did in the 1990s. Maybe Arkansas will end up like Nevada. Nevada DOT threw the legislature a bone by raising about a quarter of the Interstate system to 80 when almost all of it should have been posted 80. Maybe Arkansas will end up like Oregon 15 years ago. The governor told his people to make up reasons not to post 70 mph speed limits.

Once again I advise lawmakers looking to raise speed limits: don’t say “please.” Pass a California-style speed trap law. Any speed limits below the state maximum, and preferably all speed limits period, must be justified by a recent engineering study. That study has to be primarily based on the actual speed of free-flowing traffic. Facts, not fear.

Police will scream “but what about our pretext stops!” People claiming to be “safety experts” will scream “the sky is falling!”

But the constituents you are supposed to represent will have one less thing to fear when driving down the highway.

The opinions expressed in this post belong to the author and do not necessarily represent those of the National Motorists Association or the NMA Foundation. This content is for informational purposes and is not intended as legal advice. No representations are made regarding the accuracy of this post or the included links.

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