Faster, faster … why?

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Would someone please explain to me the sudden need for speed on America’s highways? Just a couple of months after a privately managed 40-mile stretch of Texas highway between San Antonio and Austin started allowing motorists to drive up to 85 mph – the fastest speed limit in the country – it seems like other fast and furious states are in some sort of death race to see where they can allow drivers to slam the pedal to the metal even harder.

Utah lawmakers are weighing 80 mph speed limits, while New Hampshire, Connecticut and Mississippi have introduced bills to allow 75 mph speeds in select locations. Utah’s Transportation Committee gave a thumbs-up to a bill that would permit an 80 mph speed limit on portions of I-84 and I-80, as well as certain stretches of I-15. Drivers on I-15 in the southern rural area of the state already are allowed to hit 80 mph. Guess they can’t wait to get to Vegas.

New Hampshire’s legislature this week will consider a measure that would allow 75 mph on interstates, while a Connecticut bill would permit that speed on any multiple-lane limited-access highway; at least the folks in Connecticut had the good sense to tack on a fine hike for speed-limit violations, which in all likelihood won’t come into play until drivers are close to 85 mph. Meanwhile, Mississippi’s legislation would increase the maximum speed limit to 75 mph for interstate highways and controlled-access highways with four or more lanes.

Does it seem hard to justify these seemingly dangerous and gas-guzzling speed limits at a time when you’d be hard-pressed to find any safety advocate who’d endorse these moves – particularly after recent statistics show that truck driver deaths are actually on the rise at current speeds? And when anyone with a passable understanding of automobiles knows the obvious relationship between slower speeds with engines demanding less fuel, why support legislation that ensures more fuel is pumped through the pistons? I thought we were trying to establish energy independence, not open the OPEC valves even wider.

Plus, there’s the common-sense aspect of this. The last training most drivers received behind the wheel happened when they were 16 years old, and now we’re letting them live out their NASCAR fantasies on the same highways with 18-wheelers with the nation’s safest drivers who – simply due to the nature of their profession – are duty-bound to comply with the rules of the road?