Maryland, Do You Drive 65? Highway Speeds Rising, National Survey Shows

The speed limit in Maryland is 65 mph for both rural and urban interstate highways. Despite posted speed limits, there always seem to be plenty of drivers who tear down the highway — with no regard for the law or other motorists’ safety. Speed is a factor in many of the serious Maryland traffic accident cases we handle here at our Baltimore County personal injury law practice.

If it feels like speeding on U.S. interstates and highways has ramped up in recent years — it’s not your imagination.

The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) reported on a recent survey by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), which found 14 percent of motorists exceed the posted speed limit by at least 10 mph on limited-access highways. (Known in some states as freeways or expressways, limited-access highways have on and off ramps, are generally separated from residential properties, and have barriers separating traffic traveling in opposite directions.)

This was the first time NHTSA has collected nationally representative estimates of travel speeds on public roads for all types of motor vehicles. The survey found that from 2007 to 2009, the percentage of vehicles exceeding the speed limit on limited-access highways jumped by 23 percentage points. That’s a lot of drivers deciding they need to get where they’re going faster than their state traffic laws allowed.

While the numbers of drivers exceeding the speed limit on other types of roads fell slightly from 2007 to 2009 — NHTSA still found that 13 percent of vehicles on major arteries and 15 percent on minor arteries went over the speed limit by 10 mph in 2009. (Arterial roadways are high-capacity urban roads that deliver traffic from “collector roads” to freeways.)

NHTSA released its survey results with the note that increased travels speeds may be due to differences in data collection periods. With the recession affecting highway travel in some areas, some drivers may have been inclined to speed on roads that were less congested. The challenge in collecting data stems in part from the fact that states are no longer required to submit speed data to the Federal Highway Administration. The 1995 repeal of the national maximum speed limit did away with that.

Maryland’s 65 mph speed limit on highways is modest compared to the legal speeds in other states. A 75 mph speed limit is not uncommon on rural interstates (e.g., in Arizona, Colorado, Idaho, Louisiana, and Maine) — while Texas tops the speed charts for the nation with 85 mph legal on some parts of certain highways. The IIHS frowns on this, stating that when speed limits go up, so do motor vehicle crashes and deaths.

As Baltimore County auto accident injury attorneys who work with injured people and grieving families, we’ve seen the terrible toll that speeding can take. Drive the speed limit, and drive defensively. Maryland isn’t Texas — but our dangerous, aggressive drivers still pose a hazard on the Baltimore Beltway and our interstates.

Related Maryland Injury Attorney article:

Maryland Motor Vehicle Accidents : NHTSA Releases Statistics, Types, and Causes for 2010 (Sept. 2012)


Freeway speeds rise as more drivers exceed posted speed limits (PDF)
IIHS Status Report, Vol. 47, No. 8, p. 6

National Travel Speeds Survey II: 2009 Huey, R., De Leonardis, D., & Freedman, M. (2012, July). National travel speeds survey II: 2009. (Report No. DOT HS 811 638 ). Washington, DC: National Highway Traffic Safety Administration
Maximum posted speed limits
Insurance Institute for Highway Safety, Feb. 2013

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