New 80 mph speed limit could actually make roads safer

BOISE, Idaho (KBOI) - The speed limit has risen 5 mph on interstates in southern Idaho.
While that concerns Idaho State Police, Utah's Department of Transportation, which raised its limit to 80 mph over the past few years, says it could actually make our roads safer.

The speed limit has gone up on rural parts of I-84, I-86 and I-15. Everywhere it used to be 75 mph, it's been raised to 80 mph. The only stretches that haven't changed are those near urban areas like Boise, Pocatello and Idaho Falls. They're staying at 65 mph.

Lawmakers upped the speed to make for a quicker commute. But state troopers say they're worried about safety with the switch.

"It's just the natural response that people try to scoot above the speed limit," said Trooper Mike Grigg. "They think 'if i'm going 85 or i'm going 90, the police won't stop me until i get to 90.'"

And police say the faster drivers go, the more severe crashes will be.

But KBOI checked in with Utah, which raised its limit from 75 mph to 80 mph over the past few years. And the state says its drivers aren't going any faster. Most drivers were going 80 mph before the switch and stayed at 80 mph after it.

"Even though we changed the speed limit their behavior, their speed did not change because they were already driving at that safe and comfortable prudent speed that really indicates where the majority of people are driving," said Robert Hull, UDOT's Traffic and Safety Director.

Hull also says there are fewer crashes on Utah interstates now because everyone is driving at the same pace.

"We narrowed that gap," Hull told KBOI. "The people that were driving 80 still drove it. The people who were adhering to a lower speed limit, actually, they probably moved up a little bit."

Idaho State Police says to keep everyone in the Gem State going the same speed, it will not tolerate drivers going even just a few miles per hour over the new limit.