How dangerous is the new Texas 85 mph highway?

85 miles per hour on TX State Highway 130 is the highest legal driving speed in the US. Passenger vehicles aren't built to withstand crashes upwards of 90 mph.

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Zaneta Wood, Ed.S. has over 15 years of experience in research and technical writing bringing a keen understanding of data analysis and information synthesis to reach a wide variety of audiences. She studied adult education and instructional technology at Appalachian State University as well as technical and professional communication at East Carolina University. Zaneta has prepared technical p...

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Joel Ohman is the CEO of a private equity backed digital media company. He is a CERTIFIED FINANCIAL PLANNER™, author, angel investor, and serial entrepreneur who loves creating new things, whether books or businesses. He has also previously served as the founder and resident CFP® of a national insurance agency, Real Time Health Quotes. He has an MBA from the University of South Florida. Jo...

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Reviewed by Joel Ohman
Founder & CFP®

UPDATED: Apr 30, 2020

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Here's what you need to know...

  • Texas opened up a stretch of toll roads and highways that has a speed limit of 85 mph, making it the highest legal limit in the country.
  • Higher speeds may open up some concern for greater chances of accidents and effects on car insurance in the Lone Star state
  • The road was tested by the Texas Department of Transportation to make sure it was safe for such a high speed limit.
  • Drivers often will travel a little above the speed limit and consider that to be “safe.”

Since Texas ranked #20 overall in our Most Dangerous Highways study, including a #10 ranking in the drivers operating without seat belts category, we wondered what increasing the speed limit in Texas could mean for safety on that particular stretch of highway.

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Speed Limit Studies

The Consumer’s Union raised the question in their formal study, “Does an increase in the speed limit result in a higher incidence of fatal crashes.”

They determined that there was indeed a significant increase in fatal crashes in a number of states when they increased speed limits, but it wasn’t true for every state.

When Wisconsin was considering increasing their speed limits, researchers suggested that the increase in speed would increase the fatal crashes on the interstates.

Their work showed just how difficult it is to really put an accurate assessment together due to all of the outside factors that affect drivers such as:

  • Age
  • Traffic
  • Weather conditions
  • Road conditions

While a number of researchers claim that overall speed variance, not just speeding in general, is the source of the problem, the IIHS has stated that the the likelihood of death and serious injuries is a direction function of speed, not just speed variance.

The IIHS also points to several studies in concluding that as speed limits are increased, increases in fatal crashes are consistent in significant numbers.

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Statistics before the Texas High-speed Highway

We took a look at the NHSTA statistics from 2005-2010 for fatal crashes in the counties where this highway is today, and tallied up the totals.

It will be revealing to see those numbers in the coming years, to see if the number of fatal crashes increases or decreases as more and more drivers start to enjoy the freedom of the highest speed limit in the nation.

Here are the most recent available stats for Texas driving fatalities by county before the new 85 mph highway in Texas:

TX County Travis Caldwell Guadalupe Totals
2010 78 15 8 101
2009 95 12 18 125
2008 92 9 13 114
2007 94 12 16 122
2006 103 3 12 118
580

What Higher Speed Limits Mean Today

The new 85 mph highway in Texas might send these numbers skyrocketing in the coming years, or it just might not significantly affect the fatality rates at all.

Only one thing can be sure: accidents at higher speeds will cause greater damage, and the chances of surviving an accident decrease as the travelling speed goes up.

Cars just aren’t built to withstand crashes upwards of 90 miles per hour.

When travelling at such high speeds, drivers have just a split second to make quick decisions (especially with wild hogs roaming the area). It is important to maintain safe following distances, and adjust your speed according to the visibility conditions.

Accidents on the New Texas Highway

Unfortunately, there has already been one fatal crash since the new highway has opened – the day that they started enforcing the toll charges.

On the first day that the highway opened, several drivers were involved with accidents that included wild hogs on the road – increasingly dangerous when combined with the high speed of travel.

There are thousands of fatal accidents year after year in Texas (2008, 2009, 2010).

While there may be tests to show that cars can handle certain speeds if the road conditions are right, no one plans on steering around a wild hog while they are driving 85 miles per hour.

Only time will tell just which direction the 85 mph highway in Texas will take the statistics, or if anything will change at all.

For now, be safe on the road, always wear your seat belt, and use our FREE quote tool to compare insurance rates!

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