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Recently, the Pennsylvania Turnpike and Department of Transportation have been studying the effects of raising the speed limit to 70 miles per hour (mph) at a stretch of the turnpike, as well as portions of Interstate 80 and Interstate 380. Ultimately, these test zones will determine where the speed limit will increase from 65 to 70 mph permanently. Overall, the studies have found that a lower speed limit does not necessarily correlate with a higher degree of safety and, in fact, posting a speed limit that is much lower than what 85 percent of how fast motorists are traveling can even decrease safety.

Amidst concerns of commercial trucks, in particular, traveling too fast to ensure safety, the Pennsylvania Motor Truck Association pointed out that most trucks have built-in mechanical devices that limit their maximum speeds to less than 70 mph anyway, reducing any correlation to a higher rate of auto accidents involving these trucks.

Still, given the number of deaths on U.S. roadways each year due to large truck crashes (at least one in ten), we need to be careful making any adjustments to the traffic laws that govern our roadways. Specifically, the DOT reports that:

  • Each year, there are approximately 500,000 accidents involving trucks;
  • Over 70 percent of the deaths in large truck accidents were occupants of the other vehicle;
  • 75 percent of truck accidents involved tractor-trailers; and
  • Events that led to crashes were loss of control of the truck (usually after an event such as a tire blow-up), a vehicle failure such as an engine problem, another vehicle coming into the truck’s lane, poor road conditions, traveling too fast, lane drifting, improper truck maneuvering, and driver fatigue.

In fact, the use of electronic control modules on certain trucks was mandated last year—a rule that attempted to reduce more than 1,000 fatal crashes each year by reducing the top travel speed of large trucks. Studies have shown that large trucks have much longer stopping distances when they operate at high speeds.

Pennsylvania Speed Limits

It is important to be aware that the speed limits in our state depend upon the type of freeway you are driving on. For example, rural freeways are sections of major highways that pass through rural and sparsely populated areas, allowing drivers to go 70 mph. The maximum limit on urban freeways is 65 mph, where highways are located within a city or another densely populated areas and traffic congestion. Divided roads, where there is a concrete median or buffer zone, carry a maximum speed limit of 55 mph, as do undivided roads (small backroads and local routes). Finally, the speed limit in residential areas is 35 mph.

Solnick & Levin, LLC

The Pennsylvania car accident and personal injury attorneys at Solnick & Levin represent victims across Pennsylvania. Call us or contact us online to schedule a consultation. We look forward to helping you.


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