Need for Speed

You may have heard that the Pennsylvania Department of Transportation plans to raise the speed limit from 65 mph to 70 mph on two stretches of interstate highways. And if you hadn’t heard…now you have! Let’s take a closer look at what exactly the change entails and whether or not it’s worth it.


Here are the facts, courtesy of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette:

-the 70 mph speed limit will be enforced on Interstate 80 from Du Bois in Clearfield County (that’s exit 101) to Clinton County, ending at mile 189, and on a 21-mile stretch of I-380 in Monroe and Lackawanna counties.

-The change will take effect starting August 11, 2014

-70 mph limits are already in place on the Pennsylvania Turnpike, from Blue Mountain (exit 201) to Morgantown (exit 298)

Image courtesy of PennDOT

Image courtesy of PennDOT

-PennDOT has stated that the increased speed limits in these areas are part of a pilot project that may lead to more universal increases throughout the 550 miles of road it manages in an attempt to “keep Pennsylvania [economically] competitive [with]…more efficient delivery of goods and services.”

-Pennsylvania will become the 38th state to have a highway speed limit of at least 70 mph–the speed limit hasn’t been raised to 70 mph since Ohio did so in 2011



-According to PennDOT, the increased speed limit will save drivers an average of 6.4 minutes on the Turnpike, 5.8 minutes on the I-80, and 1.4 minutes on the I-380

-Accompanying the new speed limit is an increase in speedometer use and vigilance by state police as a precaution against high-speed collisions. Lt. Edward Murphy verified that a driver can be pulled over for being just 1 mph over the new speed limit, and will be cited for speeding when traveling at 6 mph or more above the limit.

-The maximum speed was last set in 1995. Cars have evolved in the last 18 years to better handle increased speeds.

-The increase is still being tested and monitored for 6 to 8 months, so if PennDOT sees a significant increase in car accidents as a result, they can easily revert back to old speed limits.


-The problem lies in the “speed cushion” that most highway drivers take advantage of every day–in other words, the 5-10 miles over the speed limit that they can drive (mostly) without getting a speeding ticket. However, a collision at 65 or 70 mph, while dangerous, is significantly less so than a collision at 75 or 80 mph.

-some large trucks have speed governors limiting them to 65 to 68 mph at all times. Cars going faster than the new limit risk ramming into the backs of vehicles obligated to drive slower. 

-Crash testing is usually done at 35 to 40 mph, so the safety systems in cars may be overwhelmed by higher speeds.

-In states that have instituted a 70 mph speed limit, there has been a steady increase in car crashes and auto-related injuries



What do you think? Time-saver or unnecessary danger? Do you take any of the affected routes? Let us know your thoughts in the comments!

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