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Speed Limits: 70 Is The New 55

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Tom Tom Inc., the maker of GPS navigation devices, recently released their findings from a study on drivers' speeds. The company analyzed speed data of customers from 45 states and Washington, D.C. The customers agreed to allow Tom Tom Inc. to collect anonymous information from the GPS devices to improve the quality of the device's route guidance.

Believe it or not, the company found that most drivers abide by the posted speed limits. In 31 out of the 46 area studies, the average highway speeds fell between 65 and 70.1 mph. The state that averaged 70.1 mph was Mississippi, where the posted speed limit is 70 mph. Drivers in Virginia maintained speeds averaging 65 mph, which up until last month was the posted speed limit. The new posted speed limit in rural areas in Virginia is now 70 mph.

It is not surprising that South Carolina was among the top 10 fastest states. Most interstates in South Carolina have a posted speed limit of 70 mph in rural areas.

The slowest jurisdiction was, not surprisingly, congested Washington, D.C., where drivers averaged a speed of 46.4 mph. The slowest state was Hawaii with an average speed of 52.7 mph.


National posted speed limits have risen 15 mph since 1973, when 55 mph was the national speed limit. The speed limit was raised to 55 mph in response to the Arab oil embargo in order to help consumers conserve gas. In 1987, the national speed limit rose again to 65 mph, which was repealed in 1995.

Currently there are 34 states that have posted speed limits of 70 mph or higher. Speed limits continue to rise while insurers argue for slower speed limits and harsher penalties for speeding.

The Federal Highway Administration reports that, in 2008, an estimated 31% of the total 37,261 fatalities were related to speeding. But reports from the U.S. Department of Transportation show that highway fatalities in 2009, which were 33,963, were the lowest since the government began keeping these statistics in 1954.

Currently, 70 is the new 55. What will the new 70 be in 20 years?

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