Claiming that an increase in speed limits is safer for citizens of Massachusetts, Mass. Rep. Dan Winslow proposed a bill to raise the speed limit on interstate highways from 65 miles per hour to 70 miles per hour to bring the speed limit up to the national standard.
The bill would raise the maximum speed limit to 70 mph on parts of Interstates 90, 91 and 95, which run through or in close proximity to Boston.
Winslow said highway speed limits in the Commonwealth are unreasonably low compared to other states.
“Most of the U.S. has a highway speed limit of 70 miles per hour or higher,” he said. “This proposal would bring Massachusetts in line with the majority of states.”
Winslow said the change is a safety issue because if a speed limit is set too low, the general public will ignore the limit and law enforcement officers will then not enforce the limit.
“It’s safer than having the 65-miles-per-hour limit,” he said. “In fact the Massachusetts Department of Transportation has a manual that they issue to cities and towns, which are responsible for setting local speed limits and they say not to set unreasonably low speed limits, … which is exactly the situation we have with highways in here in Massachusetts.”
Mass. Rep. Cleon Turner, another sponsor of the bill, said it makes good sense for the speed limit around the country to be consistent.
“Realistically, people are driving at these speeds anyway, and the roads here can handle it,” he said. “I think it will legitimize people who are already doing 70 [mph].”
Turner said he hopes this will encourage drivers to follow the law and to drive at the speed limit.
“The speed limit is sometimes 60 and people are doing 70, so we don’t want people to do 80 when the speed limit is 70,” he said. “We hope the law enforcement will be more precise than it is now.”
Winslow said a graphical Solomon Curve shows that increasing the speed limit to 70 mph in Massachusetts would be safer for the citizens.
“The Solomon Curve is science that demonstrates that highway accidents increase if there are many different speeds on a highway,” he said. “If you have more cars traveling closer to the same speed, the highway is safer and, in seeing this, the highway speed limits have come up around the country and highway fatalities in this country have gone down.”
Winslow said bumping the speed limit up to 70 mph would be better for the Commonwealth from a safety perspective, but also would ensure that laws are taken seriously.
“I believe 70 miles per hour would be safer for drivers in Massachusetts, and I also think philosophically, we should not have unnecessary regulations where we don’t enforce the law,” he said. “If we have a law in the books, let’s enforce it because if we’re not enforcing it, there’s a problem with the law.”
Some residents said increasing the speed limit would be safer for people on the road.
Natalie Cohen, a student at Art Institute of Boston at Lesley University, said she agrees with Winslow and Turner’s bill.
“I definitely think raising the speed limit would help,” she said. “Going 65 on the highway is actually pretty slow, so 70 would definitely help and then police could actually enforce the speed limit.”
Cohen said she usually drives faster than the speed limit.
“When I drive, I usually go in the fastest lane at 75, so if it was raised to 70, that 5 mile per hour cushion would be fine for me,” she said.
Other people said even if the bill is passed, people would still speed on the highways.
Rose Buckley, 22, resident of Brookline, said she did not think people would start following the speed limit even if it was raised to 70.
“I don’t think it would make that big of a difference,” she said. “People are always going to go faster than the speed limit, but if the police are stopping people for over 70 miles per hour, it makes sense to raise it.”