Texas law now allows highway speed limits of up to 85 mph -- the highest in the nation -- but speed freaks may have to wait awhile to get their groove on.
The law took effect Sept. 1, but for now the state's top posted speed -- on only a handful of lonely stretches in far West Texas -- is 80 mph and likely to stay that way for a while.
The law also eliminated separate speed limits for trucks and for night driving. On Thursday, the Texas Transportation Commission quietly directed its staff to begin studying which roads could be candidates for an 85-mph limit.
But it could be several months or as long as a year before signs with the new limit are installed, Commissioner Bill Meadows of Fort Worth said.
Roads that are now 70 mph will be candidates for 75 mph. Roads found to be designed for higher speeds will be studied to determine how fast traffic currently moves.
"We hope within 12 months to have those roads done," Meadows said after the commission's regular meeting Thursday in Austin. "The engineering design is going to limit the roads that can be considered."
No Dallas-Fort Worth roads would be candidates for 85 mph. Speed limits on state highways can be lowered in larger cities if local officials think it's a good idea.
Safety advocates have said higher speed limits could lead to more injuries and deaths.
Speed is already a factor in about a third of all fatal crashes, killing 10,591 people in 2009, according to the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety.
In high-speed crashes, vehicles aren't structurally as capable of absorbing the force of a collision, thus protecting the occupants less from harm, according to the institute.
But supporters of the higher speed limit say drivers can determine safe speeds themselves.
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