Uniform Speed Limits in Illinois
Everyday we all probably come into contact with semi trucks, or tractor-trailers, and do not even realize it, but it’s probably time we start. As of January 1, 2012 these large trucks were allowed to go the same speed limit as cars throughout the state of Illinois. Prior to this law, trucks were only allowed to drive the same speed limit as cars in certain areas, and before that tractor-trailers were required to drive 55 miles per hour on all Illinois interstates, while cars could drive 65 miles per hour. Though some argue that it is safer for everyone to drive the same speed limit, I believe that opinion does not take the differences between cars and semi trucks into consideration.
One of the biggest differences between tractor-trailers and cars is the stopping distance. As the YouTube video shows, there is a significant difference in breaking distance between cars and trucks, and that was only at 35 or 25 miles per hour. As the Commercial Driver’s License handbook mentions, high speeds increase breaking distances significantly. When a truck’s speed is doubled it takes four times as much distance to stop. This becomes extremely important in emergency situations. If an accident occurs ahead of the truck, the truck has to be able to stop as quickly as possible to keep a bad accident from becoming much worse. If another car is driving erratically, again, the truck driver has to be able to stop, if necessary, in order to prevent an accident. It would be much easier to do this if trucks were traveling at a slower speed.
Another important consideration is the fact that tractor-trailers are very large and dangerous vehicles. According to the United States Department of Transportation, there are approximately 500,000 truck accidents per year and 5,000 resulting fatalities. Tractor-trailer accidents are especially dangerous because 98% of the time the driver or passenger of the other vehicle is killed. Considering these statistics, it seems that the drivers of other vehicles are more at risk than the drivers of trucks. These eye-opening statistics show that this is not just an issue for truck drivers, but an issue for anyone on the road, and perhaps even more of an issue for others on the road. These trucks are more dangerous than cars, and should be more heavily restricted for that reason.
Though research in this area tends to be inconclusive, a study conducted by United States Department of Transportation Federal Highway Administration showed that states with differential speed limits experienced an increase in accidents involving cars rear-ending trucks; however, states with uniform speed limits experienced an increase in accidents involving trucks rear-ending cars, trucks side-swiping cars, and other truck-on-car vehicle collisions. This seems to show a greater increase in truck versus car collisions in states with uniform speed limits. This begs the question of why Illinois is changing this law, when research done by the government shows that the system in that was already in place was superior.
Another interesting fact is that the Illinois Department of Transportation states that the main causes of truck accidents are due to speed or improper lane usage. If speed is a problem, then reducing it seems like an excellent solution. As for improper lane usage, if other cars are using lanes improperly reducing the speed of trucks gives them a better breaking distance to prevent an accident.
Though this may seem like an issue that only involves truck drivers, it involves everyone that shares the road with them. The roads, highways, and interstates are dangerous enough, and if traffic fatalities might be prevented with a simple reduction in speed, then I see no reason not to use a differential speed limit policy.