On Wednesday, the Turnpike Commission confirmed that it will soon increase the speed limit on long stretches of the Pennsylvania Turnpike from 65 mph to 70 mph.
This change follows a pilot project in which the speed limit was increased from 65 mph to 70 mph for a 100-mile stretch of roadway between the Blue Mountain and Morgantown interchanges in south-central Pennsylvania. The Turnpike Commission worked closely with PennDOT to analyze speed and crash data in this stretch of roadway. Turnpike Commission spokesman Carl DeFebo announced that analysis of the data revealed no significant change in the average speed at which vehicles traveled along this 100-mile stretch. DeFebo also explained that there were no statistical changes in accident rates along the 100-mile stretch, and that accident rates actually went down in some places despite an increase in traffic.
The Turnpike Commission and PennDOT will announce a specific implementation date for the new speed limit some time later this spring. At that time, all stretches of the Turnpike with a 65 mph speed limit will be increased to 70 mph. However, certain stretches of the Turnpike with a 55 mph speed limit, including work zones, tunnels, mainline toll plazas, and the eastern slope of the Allegheny mountain, will remain at 55 mph. DeFebo stated that this change will allow for more consistency for drivers, as there will now only be two possible speed limits on the Turnpike: 70 mph in most places and 55 mph in the zones specified above. Experts believe many of the interstate highways in Pennsylvania will soon follow suit.
Detractors argue that increased speeds will lead to more accidents and greater injuries, especially in light of distracted driving. They further argue that vehicles are safer now, skewing the data, and that society has determined that the current level of traffic fatalities is acceptable – rather than trying to legislate safety improvements that could reduce traffic deaths each year. Finally, they advance the argument that the public has learned to think of speeding as culturally acceptable. I would argue that a 55 mph speed limit that no one follows has trained Pennsylvanians to have this “scofflaw” mindset, and that the real question is whether a 70 mph speed limit can do anything to combat the already pervasive mentality that speeding is not a problem. What do you think about the new speed limit? Let us know in the comment section below.
UPDATE – These changes will go into effect tomorrow, May 2, 2016 and nearly the entire PA Turnpike will have a 70 mile per hour speed limit. Beyond the stretches discussed above, the only other portion of the turnpike to remain 55 miles per hour will be the 7 miles east of Bensalem.