Supporters and opponents both argued for highway safety
Legislators in the Kansas House of Representatives recently voted down an amendment that would have increased the speed limits on some highways.
The proposed law would have given the Kansas Department of Transportation the option of raising the speed limit from 75 to 80 on divided multilane highways. This would have brought Kansas into line with several other western states.
However, on February 23, lawmakers overwhelmingly rejected the amendment by a vote of 90-24, citing safety concerns. Although this amendment will not become law, the debate it sparked regarding speed limits has real implications for highway safety here in Kansas.
Maintaining flow of traffic vs. reining in unsafe speeds
Supporters of the proposal noted that the usual flow of traffic on the highways in question is quite a bit faster than the 75 mph speed limit. It's quite common for Kansas motorists to drive at 80 to 85 mph on those highways, and when motorists drive at the posted speed limit, they present a hazard by going below the speed of the traffic. A representative quoted in the Kansas City Star pointed out that the current posted speed limit may lead to more passing on the right, which is dangerous.
However, the state Highway Patrol opposed the law change, citing the public perception that drivers have leeway to exceed the speed limit by five to 10 mph. Increasing the speed limit to 80 would lead to some drivers going as fast as 90 mph. And at that speed, most people don't have the reaction time to adjust to situations or take evasive maneuvers to avoid speeding collisions.
The Kansas Motor Carriers Association also opposed the proposal, citing concerns about an increase in truck accidents. At higher speeds, cars would close in on commercial vehicles faster and hit them harder, leading to a potential increase in rear-end collisions involving underride - some of the deadliest accidents on the road.
Lawmakers clearly sided with the opposition, and the speed limit will remain 75 mph for the time being. However, it's important to note that both sides raised valid concerns about highway safety. Motorists have a responsibility to adjust to road conditions, drive at safe speeds and go with the flow of traffic - or move over to the right lane if they wish to drive slower.
From a legal perspective, remember that speeding is a form of negligent behavior that could affect a personal injury case. If you are hurt in an accident while driving at an illegal or unsafe speed - even if other vehicles are traveling as fast or faster - your claim for financial compensation might be reduced under the principle of comparative negligence, or even denied entirely.