Speed limits are a never-ending source of controversy. Since the 1970s, when the nationwide speed limit was lowered to 55 mile per hour to conserve fuel due to the oil embargo, there has been a constant debate over what constitutes the ideal speed limit.
Safety advocates argue that lower speed limits are always safer. Slower speeds allow drivers more time to react to changing road conditions or traffic. They have time to apply the brakes and avoid motor vehicle accidents.
At high speeds, not only is reaction time compromised, but also the brakes need longer distances to stop a vehicle and evasive action by a driver is more likely to lead to a loss of control.
Additionally, at high speeds, the physics of a car accident mean safety system like airbags and crumple zones are less effective and injuries are likely to be more severe.
But advocates of higher speed limits suggest that traffic flow is improved when all of the traffic is moving at the same speed, lessening car accidents between vehicles at greatly differing speeds.
In the Chambersburg area, we will get to see this debate play out on the Pennsylvania Turnpike between the Blue Mountain and Morgantown interchanges. PennDOT is increasing the speed limit in this area to 70 mph as part of a pilot project.
They warn, however, that a 70 mph speed limit does not mean motorists should attempt to drive at higher speeds. PennDOT will assess this project to see if it can be expanded to other locations in Pennsylvania.
Driving is an all-encompassing activity, and at 70 mph, you and your vehicle are traveling at 102 feet per second. You don't want to find out what happens when a vehicle at that speed comes to a sudden stop.
Source: Chambersburg Public Opinion, "Be careful with new turnpike speed limit," Editorial, July 28, 2014