READY?SET? HOLD ON!
Governor Bob McDonnell recently signed a bill passed by this year’s Virginia General Assembly that allows the speed limit to be raised from 65 mph to 70 mph on certain sections of Virginia’s highways. 1 While this law is set to take effect July 1st, it is likely to be months – or even longer – before drivers are allowed to push their accelerators a little harder.
§ 46.2-870 2 of the Code of Virginia was amended to read in relevant part as follows:
Notwithstanding the foregoing provisions of this section, the maximum speed limit shall be 70 miles per hour where indicated by lawfully placed signs, erected subsequent to a traffic engineering study and analysis of available and appropriate accident and law-enforcement data, on: (i) interstate highways, (ii) multilane, divided, limited access highways, and (iii) high-occupancy vehicle lanes if such lanes are physically separated from regular travel lanes.
It is the Virginia Department of Transportation that will ultimately decide whether to implement this increase and, if so, where. The new law states any increase will be “subsequent to a traffic engineering study and analysis of available and appropriate accident and law enforcement data.” Given the time it will obviously take to analyze each eligible road – as well as traffic, accident and law enforcement data – it appears it could take some time before all the required studies are complete. According to published reports, transportation officials have said it could take up to four months, or longer, to complete the necessary analysis. Recent staff reductions at VDOT could slow the process even further.
Raising the legal speed limit was a priority on Governor McDonnell’s wish list when he took office in January. Proponents of the measure argued the slight boost is safe, will improve transportation flow and that speed limits should be posted at the prevailing speed of traffic. 3 Opponents argue the bill would make roads less safe, increase fuel consumption, and require additional spending to change the existing signs. Only time will tell to see who is right.
If you just can not wait for VDOT to raise the speed limit on your local highway, you can always travel to Interstate 85 between Petersburg and the North Carolina border. That limit was raised effective October 1, 2007 and is currently the one Virginia highway carrying a 70 mph speed limit… for now!
About the Author: Fredericksburg car accident attorney David Williams has focused his legal career almost exclusively on personal injury law, wrongful death and products liability cases. He has successfully argued cases before the Virginia Supreme Court.
2 –See complete statute at: http://leg1.state.va.us/cgi-bin/legp504.exe?000+cod+46.2-870.
3 –Research has shown that the variance in speed is a greater cause of crashes than the speed limit. In fact, lower speed limits can actually increase the number of accidents because studies have shown that the variance in speed increases on highways that have a speed limit lower than the design speed of the highway. See Virginia Department of Transportation article “Variance in Speed, Not the Speed Limit, Poses Greatest Risk on Interstate Roads” at: http://www.virginiadot.org/projects/resources/newsl-I81-winter00%20.pdf.