Proposed law would increase speed limits in North Carolina

CHARLOTTE — You might be able to push the pedal a little further to the metal if a new bill in North Carolina gets signed into law.

The proposed law, House Bill 386, would increase the maximum speed limit on North Carolina highways to 75 miles per hour.

It’s not the first time the legislature has tried to raise the speed. A similar measure was filed in 2013 and passed the state Senate, but it failed in the House.

But while the bill may be popular among a segment of North Carolinians behind the wheel, increasing the speed limit by five miles an hour has been attributed to an 8.5% increase in deaths on interstates, according to the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety. Here in North Carolina, nearly 24% of all traffic crash fatalities were related to speeding.

Channel 9′s Mark Taylor took the proposed legislation to the North Carolina Department of Transportation to see if this would make our roads more dangerous. They said there are other factors to consider before any increases happen, even if the bill passes.

“We look at a wide array of things, including the traffic flow volume, things like recurring congestion, crash history; we also look at the alignment of the road, the curvature of the grade, things like that,” said Brian Mayhew with NCDOT.

Dale Hanson owns his own charter bus company, which has sent him all over the country. He says he’s pretty much seen it all on the roads, but it’s not just the speed limit increase that concerns him, it’s everything else that comes with it.

“If people followed the posted speed limits, the science would sort of back up how safe it could be -- but whatever they post as the speed limit and whatever they study is not going to be what the actual average speed is going to go, so that’s the concerning thing,” Hanson told Taylor. “Especially with commercial vehicles, we’re cut off all the time. People pull over in front of us and we try to allow a safe distance, but people take advantage of that.”

Rep. Jarrod Lowery of Robeson County sponsored the bill, and he pointed to vehicles becoming safer and more advanced, along with the expansion of our highways as reasons behind the proposal.

Data from NCDOT shows that the number of reported crashes per year has quadrupled since 1960, from about 60,000 per year to just over 276,000 crashes in 2021; but the number of people killed in traffic crashes in that same time span stayed around 1,200-1,500 per year, with occasional yearly spikes.

NCDOT says it puts safety first when weighing any rule changes.

“We understand that not all drivers are going to make a safe decision on every trip, on every second, and that’s unfortunate; and so we try to take that into consideration as we make decisions,” Mayhew said.

The next step for the bill is to be considered before the House Transportation Committee. NCDOT says that even if the bill does get signed into law, any increases in the speed limit wouldn’t happen right away, and it wouldn’t be considered a high priority for the department.

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