For drivers who feel the need for speed, Wednesday is a big day in Texas.
“I think people will routinely pass me going 100. Regardless of the speed limit, there’s always going to be people who want to go past it,” said Jeff Gibeaux, a civil engineer in Lockhart who plans to take the high-speed road to Austin on occasion.
While most states have raised speed limits gradually in recent years, Texas is going at it full throttle.
Since 2002, the Texas Department of Transportation — at the urging of state lawmakers — has raised the speed limit to 75 or 80 mph on nearly 6,507 miles of road.
Most of the increases have occurred since 2011, when a new state law broadened which roads qualified for higher speeds.
The speeds are now posted not only in rural areas but also on major roads such as Interstate 20 and Interstate 35 just outside Dallas-Fort Worth and other major metro areas.
On about 1 in 12 miles of Texas roadway — including interstates, small highways and farm-to-market roads — motorists may now legally travel at speeds once considered excessive and dangerous.
Safety experts in the U.S. and Europe warn that fatalities and injury accidents are likely to rise. Texas’ fatality rate is already higher than the national average, with 3,015 people killed on roads in 2011.
“You need to take measures to counteract an anticipated increase in deaths,” said Veronique Feypell de la Beaumelle, an analyst with the International Transport Forum, which publishes a road safety annual report with crash data from the U.S. and 31 other countries.