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The need for speed, is it justified?

August 21, 2019 - 00:00
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Connie’s Corner

“Give him an inch and he’ll take an ell.” A little different from what we’re used to hearing, but English writer John Heywood known for his plays, poems and collection of proverbs, had a good grasp of human nature even in 1546. You will never find that phrase truer than on the stretch of highway between Navasota and College Station. Give drivers a 70 MPH limit and they’ll take it to 75. Give them 75 MPH and it’s like the dogs of war have been unleashed. There are literally no limits to what some people will drive.

I get it. Today’s cars are designed to go faster, and roads are built better but while those things have changed, the humans behind the wheel have not. Afterall, it’s all about me! Instant gratification isn’t limited to getting what we want now but getting WHERE we want now, and this is evidenced by the shocking increase in accidents and fatalities on SH 6.

I’ve wondered aloud on Facebook who opened the door to this weekly carnage – TxDOT, the Texas legislature? This is what TxDOT has to say about maximum speed limits on its website:

“The law sets the maximum at 70 mph, but allows the Texas Transportation Commission to establish a maximum speed limit of 75 mph (80 mph or 85 mph if the highway is designed to accommodate that speed) on the highway system if that speed is determined to be safe and reasonable after a traffic or engineering study.”

Other factors such as lack of structured driver’s education and enforcement challenges thanks to border issues notwithstanding, I am suggesting after what I’ve seen in the last month alone that it’s not out of line to question if 75 MPH on SH 6 is really “safe and reasonable” and if this grand experiment warrants another traffic or engineering study.

Ironically, in this litigious society where warning labels are required on everything from soup to mattresses to protect us from our own stupidity, how does one of Texas’ largest state agencies escape the obligation to use prudence when it comes to establishing speed limits? How can it justify ignoring the public’s proclivity to push the speed envelope? And why did the 2011 Texas legislature even grant Tx-DOT that authority to make exceptions to state law?

In addition to the death and destruction we have become all too accustomed to, these frequent accidents result in the interruption of commerce, the diversion of law enforcement, first responders and ambulance services from local concerns - and this will only get worse with the traffic coming into our community from SH 249.

It’s a proven fact that lower speed limits save lives so perhaps it’s time to call upon our state legislators and TxDOT to conduct a traffic study to reevaluate the suitability of a 75 MPH speed limit on SH 6.

You may ask what difference does 5 MPH make besides adding to travel time? How about the difference between life and death or temporary versus permanent disability? The influence of each individual radiates far beyond their line of sight. One single life saved or one single life lost impacts the emotional health, the financial well-being and the very heart of that family for generations to come.

Connie Clements is a freelance reporter and award-winning columnist. She writes feature news articles on a weekly basis and an opinion column as the mood strikes her.