Proposal would raise speed limits to 80 mph in areas

Published: Jan. 10, 2018 at 6:28 PM EST
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Lawmakers are back at it for the 2018 Legislative Session at the West Virginia Capitol. One bill introduced Wednesday would increase the speed limit on the interstate and other four-lane highways.

One of the bill’s sponsors, Sen. Mark Maynard, says he feels drivers can maintain 80 mph safely in areas.

Just over 560 miles of interstate crosses West Virginia, and this new bill could “establish a speed limit of 80 mph on interstate highways” along with other “four-lane limited access highways.”

We hit the highway, asking what drivers think about this.

"I think it's just fine. I can't imagine anyone going 80,” explained Maureen Cole, traveling to Ohio. “There were also a number of little crosses where accidents had happened, as well."

“If we increase it by 10 mph then how fast are people really going to be going?” asked Chrissy Barry heading to Huntington. “And what's going to be OK in their mind?”

"There are some idiots out here that can't drive,” said Chris Linville.

Linville says he drives the same route each week from North Carolina through West Virginia. He says more speed means more money.

“Well, I drive a truck so the faster you can go the more money you can make. So I mean to me it's great, to other people it may not be,” he said.

One issue that folks kept bringing up in conversation, is there a link between higher speeds and more crashes?

In Wisconsin, speed limits were raised to 70, that state reporting a 37 percent jump in fatal interstate crashes. Last November, the Ohio State Highway Patrol reported a 24 percent increase in total crashes once speed limits were set at 70.

In West Virginia, in 2016 there were 269 fatal crashes -- 60 of them speed related.

Sen. Mark Maynard (R-06) is one of the bill’s sponsors. He said he does not want an 80 mph speed limit on all roads in the state, adding he feels the state does have superior interstates where drivers can safely maintain 80.

Maynard said he would like to see the Department of Highways be allowed to post signs that allow 80 mph speeds. He said he believes the drivers of West Virginia are competent, and would not abuse that high of a speed limit.

His bill would leave it up to engineers to decide what areas were safe to drive 80, adding he wants individuals to have a little more freedom to make decisions for themselves. He said it’s about taking personal responsibility.