Keep Speed Limit at 55, Says Arkansas Study

September 28, 2010

A 55 mph speed limit for rural highways hasn’t been required by the federal government for more than a decade but a recent study by the Arkansas State Highway and Transportation Department concludes the signs should stay up.

The Arkansas legislature required the department to consider raising the speed limits on the state’s primary highway network to 65 mph. The law also required the department to increase the speed limit to 65 on any highway if the findings of a study support the increase.

But the study found a variety of factors that suggested increasing the speed limit by 10 mph would be "premature," according to the Arkansas Democrat Gazette. Those include arguments by the study’s authors that higher speeds would increase fatal crashes and reduce fuel economy. The state is also reluctant to spend $1 million to change signs only to have to change them back if Congress re-enacted a national maximum speed limit.

Arkansas currently allows speeds of 70 mph on rural interstates, 65 mph on suburban interstates, 60 mph on urban interstates, and 65 mph on 284 miles of rural divided highways. The limit remains 55 mph for 288 miles of rural undivided highways and 5,044 miles of two-lane roads.

Congress abolished federal speed limits in 1995, though some bills have been introduced this year to reinstitute such a mandate. They have not received serious consideration, however, according to the American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials.