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Higher Speed Limits in Wisconsin: The Impact of 70 MPH Zones

Relationship Manager at HNI

The recent increase to 70 MPH zones on Milwaukee interstates has raised quite the debate and speculation.

speedometer-653246_1280Many people have the misperception that faster speeds leads to an increase in accidents.  However, studies actually show that drivers who are traveling 10 MPH less than the posted limit are more likely to get in an accident. 

Another misperception is that most people will drive faster if the speed limit is raised.  Yet studies show that people simply travel as fast as they are comfortable with most often, regardless of the speed limit.  The average speed per vehicle has remained the same in other areas where the speed limits were increased.

Food for Thought About Higher Speed Limits

Here are some of the things to seriously consider with respects to the new higher speed limits:

  • Most trucks now have speed limiters governing the speeds far below the stated speed limits.  Based on the statistics that slower speeds actually can create more accidents, this is a concern for trucking companies.
  • Implications have been made that authorities will enforce the speed limits more closely in Wisconsin going forward - meaning that the 5-10 MPH over the posted limit “grace area” may not be acceptable any longer in the 70 MPH lanes.
  • The breaking point for some truck tires is said to be at 75 MPH.  This is definitely a concern, as there are still many trucking companies and owner operators who drive without their vehicles governed.  More truck tires exploding while driving can certainly lead to more accidents.
  • The average interstate speed in Wisconsin in 2014 was 70.9.  Studies show that when more vehicles are traveling at the same speed is actually safer.  If you follow that logic increasing the speed limit to 70 should either have a positive or no impact to interstate safety. 
  • Depending on how many drivers are comfortable traveling 70 MPH on the interstates, and taking into consideration the many trucks are limited to speed limit far under 70 MPH, there is the possibility of increased driving behaviors/violations associated with following too close, reckless driving, etc. 

The Bottom Line: Drive Safe, No Matter What the Sign Says

Regardless of the posted speed limits, drivers need to maintain personal responsibility for their driving behaviors -- especially truckers who are the professionals on the roads.

Driver training standards and programs need to continue to be at the highest importance for all drivers with an emphasis on speed management.  An increase in speeds will also impact the ability to stop so it’s critical that drivers avoid cell phone use, eating, or other distractions while driving. 


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