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July 2, 2015

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Nevada lawmaker says ‘speed kills’ a myth, wants higher limits on interstates

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State Sen. Don Gustavson

CARSON CITY — The phrase “speed kills” — often posted along Nevada freeways — is a myth, says a state senator who wants to raise the maximum speed limit from 75 to 85 mph.

Sen. Donald Gustavson, R-Sparks, said studies show that more people are killed in 45 mph speed zones than on high-speed freeways.

Tom Greco, assistant director of the Nevada Department of Transportation, told the Senate Transportation Committee that the “interstates are very safe” and most fatalities occur on two-lane roads in rural areas.

The Nevada Law Enforcement Association supports the bill.

But the Nevada Trucking Association and the AAA auto club opposed Senate Bill 191. Mary Pierczynski of AAA said higher speeds increase risks and injuries and result in more fatalities.

Committee Chairman Sen. Mark Manendo, D-Las Vegas, said after Wednesday’s hearing that members have an open mind on the bill and want more information before taking a vote in a couple of weeks.

Committee member Sen. Kelvin Atkinson, D-Las Vegas, said he supports higher speed limits.

Asked about teen drivers, Atkinson, who has a 16-year-old daughter, said most accidents involving young drivers happen on city streets.

This bill is aimed at raising the speed limits on Interstate 15 in Southern Nevada and Interstate 80 in Northern Nevada. There was also testimony that the speed limit could be increased on parts of U.S. 95.

Cheryl Blomstrom of the Trucking Association testified that her group voted unanimously to oppose the measure.

She said raising the speed limit would mean an increase in fuel consumption, and the industry “operates on thin margins, and every penny saved is important.”

If the limit is raised, “you can expect some cars will exceed even that number and that will create a hazardous condition for both the trucking industry and the motoring public,” she said.

Even if the bill is passed, it could be a while before the speed limits are changed. Greco said the transportation department usually does a three-year study before raising speed limits.

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  1. More people in Fatal accidents at 45 mph than high speed.

    Yes, betting that is true. Why? Because there are more people on roads that are 45 mph than high speed roads.

    Guess common sense does not come into play once you are elected.

  2. Finally some sense is being talked about highways. It's time to raise the rural limit to 85. Further, let's have a tiered licensing, insurance and road system; we need an autobahn lane between LV and SoCal, populated by skilled drivers who get themselves in-car tested once per year. Raise the bar, and stop dumbing down everything from driving to education.

  3. Senator Donald (Don) G. Gustavson of the 77th (2013) Nevada Senatorial District....

    None too bright.

    Hey, Don...
    OVERWELMINGLY, studies show that freeway deaths increase with freeway speed limits.
    Of course, a lick of common sense tells you the same thing.

  4. He compares different kinds of roads with different speed limits and different construction. This is either disingenuous or thick headed. Gmag39 has the correct argument which is what will happen to injury and death rates on highways where speed limits are increased?

    The amount of energy in a collision that must be dissipated increases as to the square of velocity and most vehicles, with the exception of some higher end German models designed for the Autobahn, don't fare well at the speeds Gustavson envisions. But, hey, what's a little extra death and injury rates as long as you can get to your destination faster right?

  5. Enough with the "common sense" arguments, please. If we're going to have this discussion, let's do so based on EVIDENCE.

    Highways are inherently dangerous. They cannot be made 100% safe 100% of the time. Even if we enforced a 5 mph speed limit with Predator drones and mandated that cars be surrounded in foam rubber, I have no doubt that someone would still find a way to kill himself on the highway. We thus need to balance the risk associated with their use with the costs -- both in lives and lost productivity.

    We might choose to accept an average of, say 3 deaths per 100,000 people per year, if it saves ten million man-hours. That's a discussion worth having.

  6. I've handled a great many traffic accident investigations in my life. You don't find many surviving 85 mile an hour crashes. It's the kids who will be texting and talking on the phone while driving that are going kill themselves and everyone they hit. Do what you want but don't believe the nonsense that driving 85 miles an hour is safe.

    In Germany some highways have very high speed limits. But the highways are designed like race tracks. You have to stay on the right unless you're passing. American roads are not designed this way an American drivers are not as disciplined as German drivers.

  7. U.C. Berkeley pubilshed a study in 1994 concluding that raising the speed limit from 55 to 65 DECREASED fatality rates by 3.4 to 5.1%. The reason is that the increased efficiency of the interstates caused drivers to move off more dangerous rural roads. It also allowed the highway patrol to focus its efforts on the highways.

    That's why you need EVIDENCE, and not "common sense" gut reactions to every issue.

  8. @ zippert1 (gerry hageman)

    Very well said. To add to that, the process of obtaining a Driver's License in Germany, as I understand it, is one that requires much studying, not to mention has a much, MUCH higher cost involved.

    While I do believe that there are a great many people who can handle such speeds, I don't believe that the majority of drivers would be able to. Furthermore, I don't have confidence that the majority of automobiles are able to handle such speeds either.

    Now having said that however, I doubt that the impact would be as great as we fear. As we currently can see, the higher speed limits that we currently enjoy are enacted outside of all urban areas. We won't see 85MPH speed limits within Las Vegas, NLV, Henderson, or most of the valley itself. The same would most likely stay true for Washoe and other counties with not just large urban areas, but even small towns where even with 75MPH currently, you still must slow down to as little as 25 for safety reasons. Combine that with the fact that most drivers in Clark and Washoe utilize their cars for commuting rather than interstate travel, and it's not hard to see that higher speed limits will actually not affect the majority of daily traffic on Nevada roads at all.