Location: Kansas

Lower Speed Limits in Kansas?

The Wichita Eagle recently asked some candidates for statewide office whether they favor lowering the maximum speed limit from 70 miles per hour as a way to reduce fuel consumption.

Some responses (and my comments in italics):

  • Ty Masterson, Republican, District 16 Senate Candidate: “I do not favor lowering the mandated speed limit. However, I think that individuals should be encouraged to engage in personal habits of conservation including driving at a lower speed limit and other habits that achieve greater fuel economy.”

    Sounds a bit like Dick Cheney’s absurd quote from 2001: “Conservation may be a sign of personal virtue but it is not a sufficient basis for a sound, comprehensive energy policy.”

  • Hibbard Davis, Democrat, District 25 Senate Candidate: “Sure. I’m riding a bicycle to reduce fuel consumption, so I would recommend lowering speeds to 30 mph where ever there are bicyclists.”

    Bicyclists are everywhere! (except interstate highways)

  • Carolyn McGinn, Republican, District 31 Senate Candidate: “Kansas is still considered primarily a rural state, 33rd out of 50 in population and 40th out of 50 in population density. Lowering the speed would punish many in our rural communities.”

    If by “punish” you mean saving lives and saving money, then yes, lowering the speed limit certainly sounds oppressive.

  • Kenya Cox, Republican, District 29 Senate Candidate: “Yes. Several recent studies have shown that the optimal speed for most cars manufactured in the United States is reached between 45 and 60 mph. Between these speeds drivers get the highest miles per gallon and at speeds greater than 60 mph the miles per gallon starts to drop. Based on the available industry data, lowering the speed limit from 70 mph to 60 mph would be a sensible and cost effective means of reducing fuel usage.”

    Finally, a sensible opinion…

  • Oletha Faust-Goudeau, Democrat, District 29 Senate Candidate: “There is discussion on the table of lowering the speed limit to 65 mph. I would certainly be willing to look at this proposal as one way to help reduce fuel consumption. However, we must consider all other options before making this decision.”

    Slow Down? Only as a last resort!

  • Max Smith, Democrat, District 74 House Candidate: “Kansas drivers have already greatly reduced their driving speeds; a lowering of the maximum speed limit would have little impact on fuel consumption, and is not worthy of the effort and cost associated with changing the law.”

    Not sure where you’ve been driving, Max, but I haven’t seen driving speeds come down much, if at all…

  • John Whittington, Republican, District 78 House Candidate: “My observations are that a significant percentage of the drivers exceed the currently posted speed limits. Before the time and expense of reducing posted speed limits is mandated, enforcement of the existing posted speed limits should be increased.”

    Either way, the speed limit needs to be enforced, so you might as well lower the limit to a sensible speed first.

  • Mark Hardison, Democrat, District 81 House Candidate: “I would consider the change if research backed it up and use the data to make judgment on the amount to lower.”

    The data’s already there: “Each 5 mph you drive over 60 mph is like paying an additional $0.26 per gallon for gas.”

Overall, most candidates were against the idea of lowering the speed limit (by a factor of about 3 to 1), pretty evenly split across party lines.

Sometimes I don’t understand people. Reducing the speed limit can save lives, save money, reduce our dependence on foreign oil, reduce our emissions, reduce stress, and improve our sanity. Why the controversy?

A quote from the American Trucking Associations:

The American Trucking Associations recommends enacting a new national speed limit of 65 mph for all vehicles, and setting speed governors on new trucks at no more than 68 mph.

A truck traveling at 75 mph consumes 27 percent more fuel than one going at 65 mph. Bringing speed limits for trucks down to 65 mph would save 2.8 billion gallons of diesel fuel in a decade and reduce CO2 emissions by 31.5 million tons — equal to a years CO2 generated by 9 million Americans, or the total population of the State of Connecticut. Automobile consumption of gasoline would drop by 8.7 billion gallons, with an accompanying drop in CO2 emissions of 84.7 million tons.

If truckers, who drive far more miles than most of us, can support a lower speed limit (albeit arguably not low enough), why can’t politicians?

Read more from the Wichita Eagle: What candidates are saying about speed limits

See also: Drive55.org, FuelEconomy.gov, Road Safe America

About The Author

By Randy Rasa, editor/webmaster at Kansas Cyclist, the web's premier Kansas cycling information site, featuring authoritative guides to Kansas cycling clubs, bike shops, organized bike rides, touring, trails, and much more. [learn more]

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