Texas May Go To 85! (Clovers Stroking Out All Over)

Print Friendly, PDF & Email

Maybe we’re over the hump. Texas appears to be on the verge of raising its highway speed limits to 85. That’s good news for Texas motorists, who may soon get to drive legally at speeds they travel anyway.


Which brings up a question: Why do they call those signs speed limits?

A legitimate speed limit (not a speed that amounts to the de facto normal cruising speed or average traffic flow of most cars on the road, as current “speed limits” are) ought to be about 85-90 mph on most roads. It’s ridiculous that the “limit” – as we Americans define it – amounts to the speed most cars are cruising along at. A speed limit ought to be just that – the absolute maximum safe speed for that road under ideal conditions.

It is absurd to take the position – as our system currently does – that the posted max is the maximum safe speed for the road. It implies that any car doing that speed is already pushing the envelope, operating right on the edge of recklessness. If so, all those people trundling along with the cruise control set at 70 don’t seem to be sweating it much. And given that probably 70 percent – likely a lowball figure – are actually exceeding the posted speed imit, you have to take the position that either a very large percentage of American drivers are cavalierly reckless drivers – or the “limit” is really nothing more than a politically prescribed number that corresponds to – usually – just slightly less than the average, ho-hum flow of traffic.

A limit, it ain’t – except in a legal sense. Drive faster than the number painted on the sign and you place yourself in jeopardy of receiving a “speeding” ticket. It doesn’t mean anything more than that – even though our system imputes unsafe driving to it.

This is perhaps the biggest con since the Federal Reserve.

Consider: For about 20 years, no American could legally drive faster than 55 MPH on a U.S. Interstate Highway. On the same highways that had previously had significantly higher speed limits – 70, 75 MPH was common prior to 1974, when the 55 MPH edict went into effect. It suddenly became illegal to drive 70 or 75. But it didn’t become unsafe – unless you attribute magical powers to Congress, which imposed the 55 MPH limit – and then, just as magically repealed it in 1994.

Did it, then, suddenly – miraculously – become “safe” to once again drive at 70 or 75 MPH on those very same roads?

Of course not. But no refunds were given for the millions of “speeding” tickets given to hapless motorists during the 20 years prior. Nor did the insurance companies issues an apology – and a store credit – for surcharging all those ticketed drivers on the basis of their “speeding” and, hence, their (supposedly) unsafe driving.

Things have gotten better. In most parts of the country, highway limits are at least up to – roughly – the normal, average speed of traffic – which seems to be somewhere between 70 and 75 MPH. Few cars go much slower than that; not very many go much faster than that.

Going by the 85th percentile rule – the method for setting speed limits that states and the federal government are supposed to abide by, which they have agreed to abide by but of course rarely do abide by – current highway speed limits, properly defined, ought to be around 85 MPH, just as Texas is proposing.

The 85th percentile rule says observe the normal flow of traffic – conduct a traffic survey – and note the average speed of the cars traveling on that road. This observed average speed becomes the baseline from which the speed limit is extrapolated. The limit – properly defined – would be set 5-10 MPH higher than the observed average speed. With most traffic on most non-urban highways running around 70, the limit thus ought to be about 80. Maybe higher on really rural, lightly traveled highways (as in Texas) where a limit of 90 or even 100 mph would not be at all unreasonable.

That’s how it’s supposed to be done. But of course, that’s not how it’s actually done.

The 85th percentile rule is obeyed about as much as the rule that says Congress is supposed to declare war before we send “the troops” off to fight a war.

The reason for this is obvious: There would be almost no need for traffic cops anymore; jobs would be lost – and revenue lost. A great deal of revenue. Some small towns (and even larger counties) depend on the cashflow generated by the local “speeding” racket for a huge chunk of their annual budgets. Everyone knows this. The officials barely even try to conceal the reality of the shakedown, for if “speeding” really were the homicidally reckless act they say it is, would they be giving people “breaks” at radar traps? Cutting the ticket down to 9 over instead of 13? Do we see such gentle, almost friendly, banter between cops and rapists?

Of course we don’t.

If routinely exceeding politically contrived “limits” were in fact dangerous and not just a scam to gin up money without imposing an explicit Motorists Tax, then our system is oddly kindhearted to all the millions upon millions of (cough) dangerous drivers out there.

But of course, they’re not dangerous. Just guilty of ignoring a number pulled out of a hat and plastered into a sign bu politicians bureaucrats. The cops know it, the judges know it, the insurance companies know it, too.

All the evidence says so, too.

It was just announced that highway fatalities have dropped to their lowest level ever – even though people are driving faster and lately, legally so.

By now, the idiot mantra that “speed kills” ought to be as discredited as neo-con Republican braying about “WMD.”

Throw it in the Woods?


  1. My take on high speed limits is that they ought to be accompanied by teaching people how to drive at those high speeds, like Germany does for the Autobahn. A lot of German acquaintances and friends I know comment constantly that the basic rules they follow instinctively aren’t really taught here, things like “get out of the left lane unless you’re passing or going faster than others”, “don’t pass on the right”, and the like.

    That, and you need people to actually fund good highways. A lot of roads where I am in MN simply start shaking most cars almost uncontrollably at about 65-70mph, which would be a recipe for disaster at 85mph.

      • Hell yeah Joe!

        Living in inner cities, almost all cops commute in from outer ring suburbs or even towns outside the metro. These tourists are deathly afraid of everyone, and often have a vastly overblown sense of the danger that surrounds them.

        Rightly or wrongly, people in inner city neighborhoods work very hard to maintain their reputation and help their “homeys”. This includes sacrificing the outsiders to the locals.

        Many of them have no transportation and nowhere else to go, so they wouldn’t dare mistreat their neighbors. I’ve seen them be very generous and honest with “their own.”

        Those from outside are immediately obvious, and are often considered fair game to do all kind of things to, especially the minute they show weakness, act out of line, are seen to have run out of money, or are not providing resources to “help a brother out” the way they’re expected to.

  2. Eric, Does this mean that there is a possibility for sanity in driving without constantly facing taxation without representation? You explained who all of the real villains are in the insanity that is called ‘law enforcement’. I think that all ‘law enforcement’ personal including all of the insurance companies should be forced to pay back all of the money that they have stolen. Take everything back and they can work for free until they pay back every dollar. Now that would be fair! Oops, I just had a fantasy about a free country. Forgive me for believing in freedom and making the people that enforce the law abide by the laws they are supposed to follow.

    • Hey Doc, how sweet would it be if this were so! My wife (who drives like a clover) got a ticket two years ago. She was going 35 in a 25 in the middle of the night. We ended up paying $100 for the ticket and $80 more a year on insurance for a few years (we still are). Not much later I got snagged coasting down a huge hill (by my house) going 47 in a 35. I was within sight of a 45mph sign which was about 100 feet ahead of where I got clocked. My whole neighborhood was in court the day of my hearing (all for the same thing). The entire operation fucking pisses me off to no end!

    • Hey Dr. J –

      Man, do I agree with you! I must have paid out several thousand dollars in “speeding” fines plus jacked-up insurance during the ’80s and early ’90s, before the 55 MPH highway limit was repealed. Most of these tickets were for between 70 and 80 – speeds that if not legal today, are very close to legal and which you can therefore drive without much worry of being ticketed. And if you do get ticketed it will be a minor speeding ticket, not “reckless driving” – as 76 MPH was in Virginia back during the 55 MPH days (anything more than 20 over the posted limit is statutory “reckless” in Va.)

      So, where’s my refund? And how about the millions of others who were similarly ticketed for no good reason during this period?

      Guess we have to wait for Clover to answer this for us.

    • One thing you all forget, heck do not even think about, is that if you are only going 47 in a 35 mph zone and get by with it without a ticket then you say that I have done that for a long time then I should be able to get by with 50 in a 35 or 55 in a 35. The question I have is do you keep going 47 in a 35 mph zone now that you did get a ticket. Do you keep doing the thing that you got a ticket for. If you say no then I guess it worked. If you say you still do it then I guess some people never learn.

      • Clover: Parsing your garbled, incoherent posts is always difficult, but I will try as it is my duty to combat Cloverism in all its forms.

        Your premise appears to be – if the speed limit is raised, people will just drive faster, in an endless feedback loop. Imagine a parrot squawking: The higher the speed limit, the faster people drive… awk!

        But, that’s a long-ago busted Cloverite myth. In fact, traffic surveys show that most drivers will drive at around “x” speed (average) regardless of the posted limit. In other words, at a reasonable speed that is comfortable for them. On most highways, this speed is – and long has been – around 70 MPH. Highway speed limits have improved (been raised) to be more in alignment with the speed at which traffic naturally flows, but they’re still too low for all the reasons previously explained at length in multiple prior articles and posts. (The gist of it being that a speed limit ought to be at least 5-10 MPH faster than the average speed of traffic. Hence most highways should have speed limits around 75-80 MPH; some more than that. Keep in mind, oh Cloveroni, that the Interstate system was designed for average speeds in the 70-75 MPH range… 60 years ago, assuming 1950s-era cars and capabilities. The idea that driving 75 or 80 in a modern car is “unsafe” is something only a Clover could believe.)

        Most secondary roads,meanwhile, still have ridiculously under-posted speed limits that are well below the average speed of traffic. For example, there are numerous broad, multi-lane, limited access secondary roads that for all intents and purposes are highways. But because they are not part of the Interstate system, the maximum speed is 55 mph. It’s ridiculous.

        Underlying your Cloverite premise is the notion that people are too stupid to know what a reasonable speed is; and too reckless to drive reasonably without the government telling them what a “safe” speed is. Yet these same people (for the most part) manage to handle power equipment, guns and so on, reasonably and safely. They are not maniacs or homicidal/suicidal in other aspects of their lives. But to the Clover mind, absent speed limits, they’d all just floor it and drive as fast as their cars conceivably can go, until they crash and die! Mayhem! Blood in the streets!

        The fact is that while some (a small handful) of drivers are reckless and do drive excessively fast for the road, their car’s capability (or their capability) most people do not. Most people drive at reasonable, safe speeds – which they’re quite capable of figuring out for themselves. And these speeds are almost always faster than the dumbed-down, artificially low limits that make “violators” out of almost every car on the road.

        The fact that most speed limits are so routinely ignored by a majority of drivers ought to tell you something, Clover. Any law that is routinely, contemptuously, ignored by a majority of people – people who are not criminals, who hold responsible jobs and are “solid citizens” – is very suspect on its face. Prohibition is an obvious example.

        And so are speed limits.

  3. Your article was very interesting and added to the question that has been bothering me for quite some time. In Michigan we have a state freeway (M39) that has a posted speed limit of 55 miles per hour. I travel on this freeway twice a week. Once on a weekday when people are heading to work and once on a weekend where the traffic count is much lower. The question that has been troubling me is, do I ignore the posted limit and travel with the flow of traffic or do I obey the limit and possibly cause a problem myself?

    It has been my contention that Michigan had to have one highway that had the 55 mph limit so as to get federal funds, but you hardly ever see this freeway being patrolled. There is only one community that uses it as a speed trap, but all who travel on this road are aware of it and the traffic slows accordingly. It’s just one big game isn’t it?

    • Ever watch wild life documentary shows? There is something all the herds, schools, pods, and other groupings of animals have in common.. They all go with the flow. What I do, and recommend, is to go with the flow. That is the safest thing to do.

    • There is never any police patrolling that length of road in Michigan because the state is broke. Funny how there are guys that say that the government gets rich out of giving out tickets and are nowhere around where there are hundreds of speeders.

      • I just had an idea. Government should start patrolling the skies and space too! I bet they could get some good speeding tickets issued up there! Middle of nowhere speeding ticket protecting the safety of mankind. -perfect

        The Galactic Police Force

  4. The question of what is a safe speed in NC was recently answered. And it is at least 120 mph. A state trooper claims he saw a pleb speeding at 85 mph in the opposite direction of him. He had to turn around to catch them and then traveled at 120 mph in pursuit. He came into an intersection going roughly 100 mph and killed a poor grandmother and seriously injured her grandchild. The grandmother happened to be turning left into his path. The wreck literally cut her car in half.

    No charges of any sort were filed against the trooper. So 120 mph is a safe speed, at least if your job is to protect people form the dangers of speeding.

    • Yep! Oh, but the cop is “trained” …. I see. Well, what if you or I or any other Mundane is also trained? What if we have an SCCA license or equivalent? Does that mean it’s safe for us to drive 120? How about 90? Maybe even 80? (And not kill anyone in the process, either, I might add.)

      If not, why? I doubt many cops have SCCA licenses or any serious track time under their belts…. and yet, they can drive 120 and kill people and not even get a ticket!

      I’m certain Clover will explain it to us.

      • Great question. NC being the home of NASCAR you think they’d be ashamed of such bogus reasoning. But they aren’t. I guess they aren’t because most people actually accept such nonsense.

        If training were all it takes then Dale Jr. is more qualified than any trooper to roam the highways at 120 mph and even much higher speeds. He has far more hours training driving at super high speeds.

        • People – well, Clovers – reflexively defer to Authority, like a dog rolling over on its belly. To the Clover “mind,” cops are Authority and Authority is Good (always) and we-who-lack-costumes-and-badges should submit, obey. Because that’s our role and the cops and politicians and system generally are just looking out for us and always know best!

    • Nathan, you must be wrong about the cop killing the lady. According to Eric, speed does not kill. She must have had a heart attack and the car just split in half to allow the ambulance crue the assist her quicker.

  5. My “special” brother goes on and on about how the old 55 MPH limit was about saving gaaaaaaaaas. He never seemed to notice all those speeeeeeeeeeeeeeding tickets people were issued. Or how they were labeled as “unsafe drivers” by the DMV and insurance companies for doing 65, 70 MPH… speeds that had been legal previously (and are legal again today). But there’s no explaining that to my poor slow-mo bro’ – which is probably why the moderators here have thrown him in the woods!

      • But Clover! Now you’re the one advocating death to people (which you’ve falsely accused others of desiring). My poor, poor angry brother… when he can’t force others to do as he wishes, wants to see them die. Even though shooting “yorslelf” is not very safe, now is it?

  6. Clover wants you to come over to the Dark Side… er, uh… the Stupid Side. Slow down, sonny boy! Speed Kiiiiiiiiiiills! Saaaaaaaaafety!

  7. At the risk of sounding like a clover, wouldn’t driving 85 for any appreciable length of time be hard on the car’s engine? I wont go past 70MPH for any length of time, other than to pass another vehicle in a big hurry.

    • Depends on the unit. Some vehicles are geared/setup pretty well for it, others are not. For example, my Harley does awesome at 65mph, but can’t handle 75mph for long periods because the engine is revving too high. I just installed a six speed over drive to deal with it. My bike is old though too. Most modern cars can roll pretty good. There was a thread going somewhere on this site discussing how some vehicles have two top gears that are both overdriven. Day to day driving I don’t like to go faster than 65-70 though because it burns too much gas!

      • Actually, most cars from the last 10-20 years are designed to cruise (and get good/best mileage) at around 80mph. They are geared so that the engine’s sweet spot is at that speed.
        Furthermore, most cars if maintained properly should comfortably cope with 90mph+ without due stress. Many much more. It’s dawdling about city only driving that will do more harm.

        • Right you are, DJ…

          One of the most frustrating things about driving new cars is not (legally) being able to drive them even remotely close to extent of their capabilities. I have a Lexus GS 350 F Sport this week to evaluate. Just posted the review. This car is wasting itself at 60. It was built to cruise all day at 100-plus. But that’s felonious in every state. Hell, doing 81 MPH in my state – VA – is statutory “reckless” driving. Even on a highway with a posted speed limit of 70.

          It’s become that farcical.

    • Dom’s right – overdrive makes this much less an issue. I recently had an Audi with the new eight speed transmission and at 70 the engine is barely even idling.

  8. The “speed kills” warning was originally about meth. There was a cheap wine on the market at the time called “ripple” so of course we took the opportunity to coin the phrase, “speed kills, Ripple cripples!”

  9. Texas is a great spot for and 85mph limit. The roads out there are so open in comparison to say.. Virginia, that out there 85mph feels like 65mph here. Last time I was there I had to fight to say below 85mph. Sounds silly, but it’s true! I really like Texas.

    • Yep! Same in Montana, Nevada and places like that. I’ve been through those states and there are roads where you can set the cruise at 100 and it feels like doing 60 here (Virginia). Years ago, I was at a Ford “ride and drive” in Montana for the then-new Excursion (remember that hawg?) and about 10 brand-new examples were running around MPH down the highway like the Death Express itself!

  10. One thing I forgot. When Eisenhower authorized the construction of the freeway system ( A DOD project) it was to be designed to be safe at 85mph with 1950’s technology. The original speed limit on the Kansas turnpike was 85.

    • Yes – but tell that to Clover!

      I already had to throw him in the woods again today; his posts are nearly incoherent and I think he’s chewing the carpet at this point…

  11. Couple of points you misses, Eric.
    1. most tix are handed out (or more often lately, photographed and mailed) during the day, on the freeways. Most accidents occur at night, on city streets and country roads, where tickets are few and far between.
    2. The 55mph limit was put in effect to save gas (thank you Jimmy Carter!) This was when the phenomenon of the “I’m going the speed limit and it is my patriotic duty to drive in the left lane and keep you speeders from wasting gas” started. Prior to the 55mph speed limit, drivers were much more polite about moving over and keeping right. Unfortunately it seems this genie will not go back in the bottle!
    3. There are proposals in several states right now to make tickets < 10 mph over the limit non "point counting" acknowledging that it is not dangerous, just a road tax.

    • The 55 mph horror show was enacted by Nixon in 1974 as a do something response to the Arab oil embargo.

      On the misguided intentions of his advisers, Carter endorsed the continuation of the limit which some speculate may have contributed to his loss in 1980 almost as much as the hostage crisis.

      • Yessir!

        The 55 MPH edict was Nixon’s doing, continued by Jimmy. What was especially irritating about it was that although it was enacted as an “energy conservation” measure – having nothing to do with “safe driving” – people were nonetheless ticketed for speeding – and tarred as “unsafe drivers” by the state and by their insurance companies for driving faster than 55 MPH.


Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here