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.


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.