Is Law Enforcement Serious About Speed Limit Enforcement?
- October 13
- Evans & Herlihy
- Vehicle Accidents
According to a report from the National Transportation Safety Board, speeding-related crash fatalities decreased nationwide between 2012 and 2014. But speeding is still a factor in about 30 percent of annual crash fatalities.
In the report, “Reducing Speeding-Related Crashes Involving Passenger Vehicles,” the NTSB offered several recommendations for reducing the incidence of speeding. Those recommendations were for three of the federal agencies that oversee various aspects of traffic safety: the U.S. Department of Transportation, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, and the Federal Highway Administration. The NTSB also made recommendations for specific states, including Texas.
Texas Behind Other States in Speed Enforcement
The NTSB encouraged Texas and six other states to amend their state laws that forbid the use of automated speed enforcement (ASE) systems. ASE systems use either hidden or visible traffic cameras to detect traffic violations that include speeding and red-light running. Some Texas counties had their own ASE programs (state law forbids ASE in municipalities), but all programs were discontinued as of April 2017.
The NTSB cited advantages of ASE systems, compared to in-person traffic stops:
- They can operate in locations/in conditions that are dangerous or impractical for traffic stops (such as busy intersections).
- They may reduce traffic that often occurs when other drivers slow down to look at a traffic stop (familiarly known as “rubbernecking”).
- They expand police departments’ ability to enforce traffic laws, regardless of the number of police officers.
In Texas and in other states that forbid ASE systems, criticism of traffic cameras tends to revolve around their constitutionality – specifically that such systems deprive drivers of their right to due process and that penalties based on ASE may differ from in-person citations. However, the NTSB says that when ASE systems have been subject to legal challenges, courts have consistently ruled they do not violate constitutional rights.
Are Current Laws Adequate?
In 2016, WalletHub analyzed laws in all 50 states and the District of Columbia to determine which states were strictest and which were most lenient about speeding and reckless driving. Each state received a cumulative score – Colorado, the state with the strictest laws, had a score of 18.0. Texas ranked 51st on the list, with a score of 2.50 – that’s three full points lower than the four states that tied for 47th place.
In some states, exceeding the speed limit by a certain amount automatically triggers a charge of reckless driving; Texas has no such law. Speeding may also trigger an increase in insurance premiums as high as 33 percent in some states (and 65 percent in Alaska), whereas Texas drivers might pay just 12 percent more for insurance after a speeding citation.
On one stretch of Texas State Highway 130, the posted speed limit is 85 mph – the highest speed limit in the United States. Texas has always been a state that promotes individual independence and personal liberty, but it may be time for lawmakers to consider enacting stricter traffic laws that are on par with laws in other states.