Local AAA Chapter Blasts Proposal to Raise Illinois Highway Speed Limits

AAA has come out against a proposal to raise speed limits on Illinois' urban expressways by 10 mph. Photo Eric Allix Rogers
AAA has come out against a proposal to raise speed limits on Illinois' urban expressways by 10 mph. Photo Eric Allix Rogers

You might assume that an organization whose purpose is to advocate for the rights of motorists would consistently be on the wrong side of traffic safety issues. That’s certainly the case with the Wisconsin-based National Motorists Association, which has aggressively lobbied against automated enforcement, even though traffic cameras have been proven to save lives, and for higher speed limits, even though they’ve been shown to result in more crashes and fatalities.

However, the century-old American Automobile Association has often been a voice of reason in debates over safety issues, arguing that, if you’re going to drive a car, you should do so in a responsible and compassionate manner. For example, in 2014 the Chicago chapter of the AAA partnered with the Active Transportation Alliance on an outreach campaign called “Roll Together,” encouraging motorists to drive safely around people on bikes.

“The expanded bike lanes and increased number of bikes on the roads will certainly be an adjustment for motorists,” said Beth Mosher, spokeswoman for AAA’s local chapter. “But the direction Chicago — and so many other cities — is taking to enhance bike lanes and provide healthy, convenient and safe transportation options for all is an exciting one that we all need to embrace. We’re excited to work with Active Transportation Alliance to help motorists and bicyclists embrace these roadway changes and share the streets safely.”

Sure, some chapters have made missteps in the past. For example, a few years ago AAA Mid-Atlantic essentially went rogue from the national organization’s position by declaring Washington D.C.’s bike lane program a “war on cars,” although that chapter has backpedaled on their anti-bike position somewhat since then.

But AAA Illinois/Northern Indiana put itself squarely on the right side of a safety issue this morning when it announced its opposition Senate Bill 2036, legislation proposed in Springfield that would raise the speed limit on Illinois highways to 75 mph and from 55 mph to 65 mph on urban-area interstates, including Chicago’s expressways. “The bill, if passed, would represent the third time this decade that legislators have voted to increase speed limits on Illinois’ roadways despite Illinois’ rising speed fatality rates,” the group noted in a press release.

“The Illinois legislature cannot ignore the culture of speed that already exists on Illinois roadways,” Mosher said in a statement. “While all of Illinois’ neighboring states have a current maximum speed of 70 mph, Illinois’ percentage of speed-related fatal crash rates is much higher, and this problem cannot be fixed setting even higher speed limits.”

AAA noted that between 2013 and 2015, an average of 39 percent of deadly crashes in Illinois were attributed to speed, far greater than the national average of 28 percent, and above that of neighboring states. Furthermore, the total number of Illinois vehicle deaths rose in 2015 and 2016, and there were more than 1,000 crashes last year, the first time we’ve reached that grim milestone since the last recession hit in 2008.

“The roadway fatality trends in Illinois coupled with its culture of speed are deeply concerning to us and allowing vehicles to go faster only exacerbates this problem,” Mosher stated. “We urge legislators to do what’s best for all roadway users and vote no on Senate Bill 2036.”

It’s good to see that, once again, the folks at our local AAA chapter are also doing what’s best for all road users, rather than pushing for unfettered, and increasingly dangerous, car use like their counterparts at the National Motorists Association.

  • Kevin M

    Nice post, John.

    Just for fun: I would have preferred the text “although that chapter has backpedaled on their anti-bike position somewhat since then.” to be written as “although that chapter has thrown their anti-bike position in to reverse somewhat since then.” to properly align the language to mode. :)

  • Richard Jones

    To call the American Automobile Association (AAA) a “voice of reason” on the subject of speed limits is disingenuous at best. The AAA bases their arguments opposing speed limit increases on “studies” compiled by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) which is controlled by the insurance industry. The insurance industry has a vested financial interest in keeping speed limits unreasonably low because citations written to otherwise perfectly safe motorists who exceed unreasonably low speed limits are used as an excuse to substantially increase their rates. (It is a fact that driving slower than the flow of traffic is MORE dangerous than speeding.)

    One IIHS “researcher”, Charles Farmer, has repeatedly been caught falsifying and “cherry picking” data to support the industry position that increasing speed limits is dangerous when in fact legitimate government studies have repeatedly shown that raising speed limits actually INCREASES safety and compliance and REDUCES accidents. See links here: https://www.ibiblio.org/rdu/sl-irrel.html
    https://object.cato.org/sites/cato.org/files/pubs/pdf/pa346.pdf
    https://www.motorists.org/issues/speed-limits/studies/

    Most rural freeways are perfectly suited for a speed limit of 80 m.p.h. while most suburban freeways (including those around the Chicago metro area) are suitable for 70 m.p.h. Posting speed limits lower than this causes driver inattention, fatigue, vehicle conflicts, road rage and congestion. (Driving 400 miles at an average speed of 50 m.p.h. takes 8 hours while driving an average of 75 m.p.h. makes the same 400 mile trip take less than 6 hours. That is not only a substantial time savings but a driver is significantly less fatigued and much more attentive after 6 hours of driving than he would be after 8 hours of driving.)

    If anyone would like more information, I can be reached on Facebook at the Oregonians for Speed Limit Reform page: https://www.facebook.com/groups/1809358179389060/

    D. Richard Jones, Founder and Executive Director, Oregonians for Speed Limit Reform.

  • Kevin Crawford

    Right, cars aren’t going fast enough already. How about the severe dropoff in fuel efficiency this would result in? Because we aren’t pissing away enough oil already either. It’s cool; I’m sure saving a few minutes on our long car commutes – enabled solely by cheap oil to begin with – is totally worth the accelerated demise of this whole insane system.

    The whole argument that those travelling slower than the “flow” of traffic are the ones causing the problems is BS. It’s simply shifting the blame from those who speed to those who are not speeding. You think it makes more sense for drivers to drive at some arbitrary higher speed than an established limit? LOL. “Artificially low” speed limits don’t cause road rage either; motorists’ selfish expectations and impatience do, and it certainly spills over from highways onto residential streets. You know, those ones where some of us choose to get around using something other than a 2-ton metal box, and would like to be able to do so safely.

  • Richard Jones

    The idea that the 55 m.p.h national speed limit did anything to save fuel has absolutely no basis in reality. In fact most cars, then as now, typically obtain their maximum fuel efficiency between 60 and 70 m.p.h. (It is true that some very small cars obtain better efficiency at lower speeds but this is certainly not true of standard size or larger cars.)

    I have had many cars over the years that reliably obtained better fuel economy at 72 m.p.h. than at lower speeds. (My 1970 Oldsmobile 98 with a 455 “Rocket” V-8 reliably got only 13-14 m.p.g. at 55 m.p.h. but 18-19 m.p.g. at 75. My 1990 Ford Taurus with a 3.0 litre V-6 and automatic overdrive would reliably obtain 31 m.p.g. at 72 m.p.h. but only 29 m.p.g. at 62 m.p.h. I could provide additional examples but these should suffice for the purpose of this reply)

    If you are truly concerned with fuel conservation, I suggest that you find a way to correct poor and inefficient driving behaviours on local streets rather than on highways. Far more driving is done on suburban streets by the vast majority of motorists that on open highways. And most people will, upon a signal turning green mash the gas, race up to the next light and then slam on the brakes rather than gently accelerating, anticipating upcoming lights and adjusting their speed in advance accordingly. (Driving this way allowed me to increase my “in town” gas milage in my Taurus which was rated at “17 m.p.g. city” to a reliable 24 m.p.g.)

    As to the matter of driving slower than the flow of traffic being more dangerous than speeding, please read this link: https://www.ibiblio.org/rdu/a-facdec.html

    And if you mean “choose to get around using something other than a 2 ton metal box” you are referring to those who use bicycles or some similar non-motorized conveyance, these have NO legitimate place on arterial streets or highways. The vast majority of Americans choose to exercise their God given right to own and operate motor vehicles on streets and highways paid for by the motor fuel taxes they pay. While it is true that there are a few very poor drivers in desperate need of education, the percentage of bicyclists who do not follow ANY traffic laws is at least 90% while the percentage of bad drivers is much closer to 10-15%. (People tend to notice the few very bad drivers and fail to notice the majority of motorists who drive perfectly safely. Bicyclists who respect road rules however are VERY few and far between.)

    D. Richard Jones, Founder and Executive Director, Oregonians for Speed Limit Reform

  • johnaustingreenfield

    Just curious: How did you find out about this article over in the Beaver State?

  • Steve Doner

    Excellent and accurate post. Thank you!

  • Steve Doner

    Thank you to Richard Jones for making the points I usually make on articles such as this one!

    AAA, IIHS and the ISP have deep pockets and are spending money to make money. Their concern is not safety and they should be deeply ashamed of themselves. If safety was the goal, they would be supporting the higher limit. They are spending big bucks, including hiring of a lobbyist to protect their wallets and jobs.

    Higher LIMITS on speed DO NOT result in higher ACTUAL SPEEDS. This is a fact and is the easiest way to refute any claims about speed LIMITS leading to accidents or fatalities. Little changes except the signs and the violation rates….except for positive changes…

    Faster cars go at about the same speed regardless of the numbers on the signs, but the slowest traffic tends to speed up slightly and blend better with the traffic flow OR focus more on staying to the right. Less passing, less road rage, smoother flow, less speed variance – these things lead to lower fatalities every time.

    In addition, if limits are set properly, people tend to take them more seriously instead of completely ignoring them. Suddenly we get an opportunity to post cautionary curve speeds. Let’s say a roadway is posted at 55 or 60 mph but typically gets driven at 75 to 85 mph and there is a curve that is safe up to roughly 70-80 mph when wet. If the limit is 60, you can’t tell people to slow down to 70 for the curve. But if the road is posted at 75 a lower curve speed can be posted without appearing to be an error. This exact situation actually exists on I-294 today and USLIMITS2 engineering software indicates that that particular road would be safest with a 75 mph limit.

    Steve Doner
    Activist, Life Member and
    Former Illinois Chapter Coordinator
    National Motorists Association

  • Richard Jones

    As a person active in advocating for responsible speed limit reform I am always scouring the internet looking for stories and articles on the subject of highway speed limits around the world, but particularly in North America.

    While Oregonians for Speed Limit Reform is primarily concerned with the Pacific Northwest, we advocate for motorist rights throughout America and the world.

    D. Richard Jones, Founder and Executive Director, Oregonians for Speed Limit Reform.

  • Steve Doner

    Another excellent post. Keep up the good work in Oregon and your comments on other state issues are always appreciated! You should look up our facebook page:

    https://www.facebook.com/raisethespeedlimitinmetrochicagoandillinois/

  • Richard Jones

    You are most welcome Mr. Doner and I wholeheartedly support the fine work done by the National Motorist Association in advocating for reasonable speed laws and other motorist rights issues.

    D. Richard Jones, Founder and Executive Director, Oregonians for Speed Limit Reform

  • Jeremy

    “God given right to own and operate motor vehicles” ?

    Where in the Bible (or any religious text) does it mention the right of someone to own and operate a vehicle?

  • Jeremy

    A person making a 400 mile trip at an average of 90 mph would be driving less than 4.5 hours. Is that safer than traveling at 75 mph?

  • Jeremy

    “Far more driving is done on suburban streets by the vast majority of motorists that [sic] on open highways”

    If more driving is done on suburban streets than on highways, why did you post about “unreasonably low” speed limits being foolish based on the time it would take to make a 400 mile car trip? That seems like an extreme example to use if it isn’t representative of most travel.

  • Akif A

    Countless speed studies, including a national one backed by the FHWA https://www.fhwa.dot.gov/publications/research/safety/97084/97084.pdf, conclude that raising speed limits do not result in traffic as a whole traveling faster and that lowering speed limits does not result in traffic traveling slower. It seems, as crazy as it sounds, that people tend to drive at a speed they are comfortable at based on road and traffic conditions, regardless of what the posted speed limit is. The safest speed limit is what reflects the prevailing speed.

    “When we raise a speed limit, traffic speed does not automatically increase. That’s a myth. I’ve been doing this 15 years and raised 300 speed limits, and never have we seen or observed a wholesale increase in traffic speeds. It’s a very counter-intuitive idea. But the science and engineering works. We want to ensure it’s safe and fair to the public.”

    -Lt. Gary Megge, Former Head of Traffic Services, Michigan State Police
    http://www.mlive.com/politics/index.ssf/2013/08/some_michigan_highways_could_s.html

    And if you compare our maximum speed limits with those of other developed countries (Streetsblog always looks across the pond for inspiration!) the majority of the US and Canada are actually SLOWER than most developed and developing countries. Regularly updated map of maximum speed limits around the world: https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:World_Speed_Limits.svg
    Europeans commonly have 75-80 mph limits for motorways, yet they’re statistically safer per mile driven. Europeans tend to religiously follow the rule “keep right except to pass”, which helps tremendously at keeping motorways safe and efficient, but this shows that speed limits aren’t inherently dangerous.

    This bill is for mostly RURAL Interstates, after all, which are statistically the safest type of roadway https://www.fhwa.dot.gov/policyinformation/statistics/2015/fi30.cfm https://ntl.bts.gov/lib/23000/23100/23121/12SpeedCountsNumbers.pdf.

    If you want to argue for fuel efficiency, good luck. I’m also a fan of saving gas, but the national 55 mph speed limit didn’t work because no one followed the artificially underposted limit. One can still drive efficiently with a higher speed limit. All one has to do is keep to the right lane(s) to drive at their own reasonable speed and reserve the left lane(s) for passing only. With the Corporate Average Fuel Economy Standards (CAFE), cars are much more fuel efficient now than they have ever been, including having lower drag coefficients which helps tremendously at higher speeds. The NHTSA and IIHS are also guiding automakers to make the safest cars in the world with the shortest stopping distances, automatic collision detection and braking, etc. yet our speed limits largely remain at the same levels designed for more dangerous cars of the old days. Did I miss anything?

  • Akif A

    How seriously should we take AAA when they said that the repeal of the national 55 mph speed limit would result in a “blood bath?” The reality is that the repeal of the 55 mph limit resulted in our lowest traffic fatality rates in decades.

  • TheTraveller

    Yes, it is

  • seenmuch

    This is a dishonest group who’s pronouncements have for 40+ years since the NMSL era had not a thing to do with safe travel anywhere. These claims they are making today are from dishonestly cooked up data lumped together data from all types of roads, most miles of which have not seen any increase in posted limits.

    Their claims when challenged on how they are presented rapidly show their dishonest nature that views not science based claims that are cooked up by a wholly and completely insurance lobby based arm. A registered lobbying arm of the insurance lobby that is bent on at all costs the keeping the money’s flowing from unsafe underposted maximums which do not today, underposted political idea, ideas based limits that are not in any way science or engineering based maximums have never made travel safer for anyone!

    Anything they say should be looked at with a microscope which forces into the light their bias views which long ago stopped having a thing to do with making travel safer. But the AAA voiced views have been for over 40 years now been based on keeping limits underposted based on political ideas for profit ($$$$$) not science or engineering based posted limits. AAA coming out against all limits going back to pre-NMSL levels, the limits which we know improve safe travel for all actually based on 70+ years DOT collected science, engineering & on actual on the ground collected real world data in relation to the 85th percentile rules.

    85th percentile rules & guidelines that have for been shown for over 7 + decades now to be the only way to set proper limits which make travel safer for us all…..

  • Richard Jones

    It’s in 2 Opinions 1:1-2 1. Thus saith the Lord, “The Progressive, Big Government Globalist Establishment shall by no means engage in social engineering which deprives the right of the People to own and operate private motor vehicles of great size and power. 2. Nor shall the right of the People to live in far flung suburban sprawl and auto centric development be infringed.” And again in 2 Opinions 19:56-58 56. And the Lord commanded mankind to subdue the Earth and pave over it with concrete and asphalt and shape it to his will. 57. And drill deep into the Earth and extract from Mother Earth the precious life giving Holy Oil which the Creator placed within the Earth to Power Mankind’s great and powerful machines. 58. That every Man may exercise his Sacred Right to drive large luxurious mid 20th century American automobiles at speeds both great and quick.

    Sorry, I just could not resist! :p

  • Kevin Crawford

    “And if you mean “choose to get around using something other than a 2 ton metal box” you are referring to those who use bicycles or some similar non-motorized conveyance, these have NO legitimate place on arterial streets or highways. The vast majority of Americans choose to exercise their God given right to own and operate motor vehicles on streets and highways paid for by the motor fuel taxes they pay.”

    Oh, you mean the streets and highways also paid for by people who don’t drive at all because politicians pander to drivers who incessantly whine whenever the suggestion of actually paying the required amount for upkeep and (especially) expansion is ever mentioned, yet are overwhelmingly or even exclusively still designed for automobiles?

    Anyways, yes, that’s what I was referring to. No legitimate place, eh? That’s funny, because I’ve been using my bicycle to get to work on arterial streets and highways – the only options for much of the commute for myself and many others – for about the last 10 years. I suppose getting to work isn’t legitimate. Is that your contention? People who aren’t driving shouldn’t be allowed to go certain places?

    The above states all I need to know about your selfish view of transportation. Practically, what you’re saying is that everyone should be required to drive. That’s bullshit, and it completely nullifies any shred of credibility you have on safety issues. Earth to Richard: cars are the conveyance killing tens of thousands of people a year. Not anything else, and certainly not non-motorized conveyance.

    Yes, I’m truly concerned about fuel conservation. But I also realize that making it ever easier to drive is not the intelligent way to go about that. I really don’t care that much about MPG ratings, because… ever hear of Jevons paradox? If your car is more efficient, are you more likely to drive more or less?

    OK, I did spend a little time looking up speed vs. fuel consumption, and on the 4-5 sources I found, all of them were in conflict with your statement of 70 MPH being more efficient. As is my own experience. So I don’t believe you.

    How about facilitating other modes of transportation? At least… leveling the playing field so one form of transportation doesn’t get to completely dominate all others? What you, and everyone showing up to support you, don’t seem capable of understanding is how making the movement of motor vehicles the prime consideration in transportation in land use is how it affects people who choose, or would at least *like to be able to safely choose*, an alternative.

    I’m one of those people, and I’m much happier and healthier for it. I will fight to my last breath to help give more people safe alternatives. I am not even anti-car: I own and drive two cars. I am anti car-dominance. I think the overwhelming majority of advocates would be quite satisfied if alternatives ever received anything approaching the favor that has been lobbed onto driving for the past ~3 generations.

    And saying owning an operating motor vehicles is a “God given right” is just weird. I don’t know about Oregon, but even here in Indiana – possibly the least progressive state there is – the first text in the driver’s manual states that driving is a *privilege*, *not* a right. If there is any God given right concerning transportation, it’s the one involving walking around – one more form of transportation that has been incessantly under siege by motordom.

  • Kevin Crawford

    That actually was pretty funny.

    Too bad the “social engineering” that has actually occurred over the last 3 generations is the one that has done just about everything possible to take away any option other than driving, especially outside of cities.

    I guess *that* social engineering is OK.

  • Kevin Crawford

    I am very curious to know just how motorists’ “rights” are under siege by you auto association folks. Ya’ll ought to try getting around on a bicycle, to know what actually being under siege feels like.

  • Kevin Crawford

    “While it is true that there are a few very poor drivers in desperate
    need of education, the percentage of bicyclists who do not follow ANY
    traffic laws is at least 90% while the percentage of bad drivers is much
    closer to 10-15%. (People tend to notice the few very bad drivers and
    fail to notice the majority of motorists who drive perfectly safely.
    Bicyclists who respect road rules however are VERY few and far between.)”

    90%. LOL, okay. Ditto for 10-15%. Where did you get these figures from? Very few bad drivers?!?! Have you actually looked around at other drivers in the last decade?? Because I see that 50%+ are often distracted with their smartphones. And since you profess safety concerns, let’s compare the carnage even your low 10% (for the sake of *your* argument) driving is doing vs. the carnage we bicyclists have wrought. Go ahead, take your time. You’ll be hard pressed to find record of *one* person killed by a bicycle. Yes, it has happened. And I do not advocate for reckless cycling. The ratio of death and destruction *has* to be something on the order of 10,000 : 1. Probably a lot more.

  • Richard Jones

    It is a fact that the primary method of funding highway construction and maintenance in most states is through motor fuel taxes. Bicyclists pay NO motor fuel taxes, NO registration fees, NO licensing fees, NO insurance, etc., yet here in the Portland area entire motor vehicle lanes on already congested streets are sacrificed to bicyclists who are a menace to the public welfare.

    Bicyclists routinely run down pedestrians, NEVER obey traffic control devices, (markings, signs, signals), impede the flow of traffic and have a sense of entitlement that would make a spoiled Socialist teen ager blush with shame.

    Furthermore a bicycle is NOT a legitimate form of transportation. You cannot transport children to school on a bicycle. You can not go grocery shopping on a bicycle. You cannot even properly commute on a bicycle. The commute from Clackamas to Hillsboro would take as long or longer on a bicycle than even on public transit (which is over 3 hours vs. less than an hour in a car even with the Portland area’s horrific congestion.)

    A trip which I take frequently from Clackamas to Bremerton (about 200 miles) takes about 3.5 hours in a car at speeds ranging from 50 to 72 m.p.h. I shudder to think how long that would take on a bicycle that at best might average 15 m.p.h.

    The fact is travel by private vehicle is and always will be the fastest and most efficient means of getting around UNLESS the government steps in with things like “induced congestion”, “road diets”, and other intentionally anti-car measures to “encourage” people to get out of their cars. Consider the following:

    Walking: 3 m.p.h. (Maximum realistic range is about 10 miles.)
    Bicycle: 15 m.p.h. (Maximum realistic range is about 50 miles.)
    Public Transit: 20-25 m.p.h. (depending on number of stops and route, which may not be direct and may involve multiple transfers with significant additional wait times. Range is limited by specific system.)
    Intercity Bus: 68 m.p.h. (but operates on a fixed route and makes scheduled stops. Range is transcontinental however many communities may have limited or no service at all. Also there is still the need to get from your point of origin to the departure terminal and from the arrival terminal to the final destination.)
    Intercity Rail (North America): 79 m.p.h. (but operates on a fixed route and makes scheduled stops. Range is transcontinental however many communities may have limited or no service at all. Also there is still the need to get from your point of origin to the departure terminal and from the arrival terminal to the final destination.)
    Private Auto: 20 – 80 m.p.h. (Direct door to door service on demand with ability to make whatever stops or detours that may be needed or desired.)

    And finally, when a person uses terms like “anti-car dominance” and “under siege by motordom”, it suggests that they are in fact opposed to people having the ability to exercise the freedom of movement that can ONLY be achieved through that most wonderful invention, the motor car.

    And finally, it was not until the 1960’s that this infernal notion that driving is a “privilege” crept into general acceptance by the majority of the American populace. Consider this, prior to the advent of the internal combustion engine no government that I am aware of required a “license” to operate a horse or horse drawn conveyance such as a stage coach, covered wagon, cart or carriage, nor where such vehicles required to be “registered”. A horse or horse drawn conveyance can easily exceed 40 m.p.h. and cause serious injury or death.

    Yet, despite the fact that early “horseless carriages” were no faster (and in some cases actually slower and safer) than horse drawn vehicles, it was the self propelled vehicles which the governments chose to target for “licensing” and “registration” entirely for the purpose of revenue generation and government control.

    There is more that I did not respond to above yet but I feel as though I have spent enough time on this for tonight.

  • Akif A

    I read and comment on Streetsblog from time to time, but weirdly this time my comment wasn’t approved, so I removed my sources. Anyways…

    Countless speed studies, including a national one backed by the FHWA that examined speed limit changes in 22 US states, conclude that raising speed limits do not result in traffic as a whole traveling faster and that lowering speed limits do not result in traffic traveling slower. It seems, as crazy as it sounds, that people tend to drive at a speed they are comfortable at based on road and traffic conditions, regardless of what the posted speed limit is. The safest speed limit is what reflects the prevailing speed.

    “When we raise a speed limit, traffic speed does not automatically increase. That’s a myth. I’ve been doing this 15 years and raised 300 speed limits, and never have we seen or observed a wholesale increase in traffic speeds. It’s a very counter-intuitive idea. But the science and engineering works. We want to ensure it’s safe and fair to the public.” -Lt. Gary Megge, Former Head of Traffic Services, Michigan State Police

    And if you compare our maximum speed limits for limited access divided highways with those of other developed countries (Streetsblog always looks across the pond for inspiration!) the majority of the speed limits in US and Canada are actually slower. Europeans commonly have 75-80 mph limits for motorways not in city centers, yet they’re statistically safer per mile driven. They also tend to religiously follow the rule “keep right except to pass”, which helps tremendously at keeping motorways safe and efficient, but this shows that speed limits aren’t inherently dangerous.

    Regarding fuel usage, I’m a fan of efficient driving/hypermiling, but the national 55 mph speed limit didn’t work because no one followed the artificially underposted limit. One can still drive efficiently with a higher speed limit. All one has to do is keep to the right lane(s) to drive at their own reasonable speed and reserve the left lane(s) for passing only. With the Corporate Average Fuel Economy (CAFE) standards, cars are much more fuel efficient now than they have ever been, including having lower drag coefficients which helps tremendously at higher speeds.

    The NHTSA and IIHS are also guiding automakers to make the safest cars in the world with the shortest stopping distances, automatic collision detection and braking, etc. yet our speed limits largely remain at the same levels designed for more dangerous cars of the old days (1960s, 1970s) with terrible crash safety and stopping distances. Do you want self driving cars to become an obstacle on the freeway when they follow the artificially low speed limit to a tee? It’s time for our speed limits to reflect the progress of the 21st century. It would be a disgrace if the world-class, newly built Eastern segment of I-90 with Active Traffic Management (ATM) was posted at only 55 mph after the speed studies are complete. Nowhere in the world is 55 mph acceptable for a limited access divided highway. Why is it here?

  • Bryan Rogers

    How many speed related deaths occur on rural interstates each year? This is one stat that “safety” nuts like to keep under wraps

  • johnaustingreenfield

    We don’t approve comments before they’re posted, so there shouldn’t have been a problem.

  • Henry Stowe

    A lot of myths and folklore surround the old adage that lower speed limits save gasoline. In 1974-1980, we conducted a nationwide, mostly controlled experiment on just that. To set the table, fleet fuel mileage in the US was between 12 and 12.6 mpg prior to 1973 according to the US Energy Information Agency. Following the imposition of the 55 mph speed limit, fleet gas mileage fluctuates between 12 and 12.5 mpg. It only hit 13 mpg in 1980 when Corporate Average fuel economy went into effect. Yes, slowing down on the freeway does increase gas mileage, but changing the limits does not. Lowering the limit in 74 resulted in an uneven traffic flow, causing acceleration and deceleration that did not take place. This had a negative effect on fuel efficiency that canceled the increased gas mileage through lower travel speeds. The 55 mph speed limit was failed policy. Low speed limits do nothing.

  • Akif A

    It says this above my comment: “Hold on, this is waiting to be approved by Streetsblog Chicago” It got detected as spam for some reason, according to my notifications.

  • johnaustingreenfield

    Hmm, that’s odd, I don’t recall getting a notification about that.

  • I think all the speed related crashes and fatalities are caused by the low speed limits on the Chicago area expressways. You have so many people weaving from lane to lane to try to go much faster than the posted 55. That differential in speed is what causes crashes. I don’t notice too many people driving aggressively in the higher speed zones on the tollway and in WI where the speed limits are 65 to 70.

  • roadgeek80

    I never laughed so hard. Thank you, I am not worthy. I could not have said it more beautifully.

  • DukeGanote

    That’s an “inconvenient truth!” Rural interstates are the safest rural roads; Illinois’ having a fatality rate of 0.54– FAR FAR LOWER than the 2.20 to 3.57 deaths per 100-million-travel-miles of Illinois’ other rural roads. Furthermore, the so-called “speeding” fatality rate on interstates is far lower than on other roads.

    Read it yourself:
    https://www.fhwa.dot.gov/policyinformation/statistics/2015/fi30.cfm

    http://ntl.bts.gov/lib/23000/23100/23121/12SpeedCountsNumbers.pdf

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