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Editorial: First, let’s see how 70 mph on I-93 goes

Should New Hampshire raise the speed limit along most of Interstate 89 to 70 miles per hour?

The matter has been debated repeatedly over the years. Our view has long been that for reasons of public safety, not to mention reducing energy consumption and combating pollution and climate change, the answer should be no. In 2014, our message to state lawmakers will be slightly different: Wait and see.

At issue is yet another new bill to raise the speed limit. But lawmakers took a big step in that direction just this past year. Signed by Gov. Maggie Hassan, the measure raising the speed limit on Interstate 93 north of Concord will take effect Wednesday.

Before the Legislature turns its attention to I-89, why not see what happens on I-93? A little information will go a long way toward helping lawmakers make a good decision.

This time of year – when the state highways can turn treacherous in a matter of minutes, and the Department of Transportation is already fretting that without more money it will be unable to keep the roads as clear as motorists demand – arguments in favor of driving faster can sound like madness. But in general, proponents say that since most drivers already go 70 mph, the law should be changed to recognize that reality; that’s the argument that won the day when lawmakers considered I-93.

Trouble is, if the state raises the speed limit to 70, those same drivers are likely to push it to 75 or 80 mph – too fast when drivers are inexperienced, elderly or, say, talking on cell phones, illegally texting, or otherwise distracting themselves from the task at hand.

Estimating vehicle stopping distances at different speeds is a crapshoot, given variables like road, tire and brake condition, vehicle weight and driver reaction time. But at 65 mph, coming to a full stop after noticing danger takes the length of a football field and more – 344 feet on a dry surface and 399 on a wet one, according to one government study. Increase the speed to 70 mph, and those distances grow by about 50 feet.

In other words, the chance of an accident increases.

The state of Iowa increased the speed limit on its rural interstates to 70 mph in 2005. The number of drivers exceeding the speed limit by 10 mph decreased by more than 50 percent, but the number of serious crashes increased by about one-third and the number of serious cross-median crashes increased by 80 percent.

Would the same happen on I-89?

Fortunately, New Hampshire has a point of comparison far closer to home. We suggest legislators give the new 70 mph limit on I-93 at least a year before expanding the experiment to I-89.

When it comes to a measure likely to increase the danger on New Hampshire roads and damage the environment without much upside, taking it slow seems like the right approach.

Legacy Comments11

The speed limit was always 70 MPH on the interstates until the energy crisis of the 70's. For 12 years I commuted down 93 to Ma and back and the average speed was at least 75, even through speed traps. Unfortunately with the cell phone and texting, many of today's driver are no longer responsible enough to control their vehicles. However if properly operated I see no issue with raising the limit, but I really don't see a need for it. You can't after all legislate away irresponsibility.

My suggetion is 70 until Tilton and 80 Tilton North or on i-89 80 Warner north. What really makes me chuckle are the Volvo's and Saab's coming out of Vermont on i-89 with bumper stickers about saving the planet and alternative energy and all sorts of social agenda causes and they drive faster than any NH driver.

Itsa, it's not the Volvo and Saab's but the Subaru's. But the suggestion on the speed limits does make sense.

LOL, yes, Subaru as well and Smart Cars, those bumper stickers though. Speaking of which the stick figure family on the back window is another subject but I see those folks flying by me when I am driving 75.

People already drive at 70-75 all the time. I often find myself between 70-75 on I-89 and I am constantly getting passed, often by vehicles going more like 85. Few people actually follow the speed limits on our highways. Drive at 70, you will be passed far more than you will catch up to and pass other cars. Drive through Manchester on 293 doing the posted speed limit and you are in serious danger of being rear-ended. Going south from there, on The Everett or on 93, to the State line, it's like a free for all, the autobahn of NH. You will be passed by drivers going well over 80 all the time. Will there be more strict enforcement of 70mph, or will that tolerance now get up to 82+ before they even bother to stop you? This is not a big State in general, and my opinion is there is no need to increase our interstate speeds at all. I would like to see the State Police greatly increase the numbers of complete undercover traffic enforcement troopers out there, driving all sorts of different cars, pickups, etc., and really blending in with the rest of us. There's a lot of well deserved tickets that need writing.

Let's see, progressives are always saying that if you don't like abortion then don't have one. So, in this case I could say that if you don't like the traffic, don't drive. But seriously, do you drive a Volt or a SMART car? If you answered "neither" then simply put the pedal to the metal aka speed up!

New Hampshire does not have a stellar rating on highway safety. In fact, it is lacking with the deaths and awful accidents we have had. Speed, impairment, cell phones etc. are adding to the problem. So, why on earth would the N.H. Legislature raise the speed limit to seventy when everyone is already doing seventy and more. Now they will push the limits even more. Instead of seventy they will do one hundred. Sorry, just do not see the logic in this decision.

Big come together bi partisan moment. Big support on all sides.

maybe the republicans figured that with Darwin's theory ....that it could thin the democrat herd

My guess is that you would rather see 55MPH speed limits of the seventies. It used to take hours to get anywhere. If you drive local and stay within 20 miles of home that might be your world but if you drive 1000 miles per week, it is not practical.

We aren't in the seventies. We're in the age of *intentional* driver distraction from every possible angle (we now have Facebook and Twitter updates on our dashboards). We're in the age of *massively overloaded* interstate highways (see: vehicle count well beyond specification). Let's do some rudimentary math, shall we (I drive more than 1000 miles a week, if this helps my credibility)? 55 mph @ let's say, 180 miles = 196 minutes 65 mph @ 140 miles the "always 55 zones" (40 miles or so) = 172 minutes (note that it takes "hours" either way, of course...) Thus, if you're traversing the entire highway (In NH) now vs. then, and following speed limits, you're talking about a difference of 23 minutes. Are those 23 minutes (again, assuming you're traversing literally the entire highway in NH) worth substantially increased stopping distances, substantially lower reaction time (moose, etc.), and potentially dying an unimaginably horrific death in the vehicle you can't escape after you've crashed in the woods whilst trying to avoid an obstacle that you could have avoided had you been driving 10 mph slower? Recent tests have proven that even 2 mph can mean the difference between life and death. It matters. Really, the bottom line is that your 23 minutes, your impatience, and your selfishness (I'm generalizing, here, though if this means you from your perspective, I won't disagree) are worth a lot less than someone dying on this road for the sake of you making more money or getting to Point B slightly faster so that you can do something of marginal importance a bit sooner. Do you disagree? Here's a viable solution: leave 23 minutes sooner. Plan better. Plan, period. Don't use speed limits as an excuse. :)

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