All eyes on Texas 130 - will risks materialize at 85 mph?

The Texas Department of Transportation recently opened a new stretch of highway connecting San Antonio and Austin. With a speed limit of 85 miles per hour, the new road has the distinction of having the highest posted speed limit of any road in the United States.

Built to alleviate traffic congestion between Austin and San Antonio, the 41-mile stretch of Texas 130 has a toll of around 15 cents per mile. It is the state's first public-private toll road, and toll proceeds will be shared between the state and the construction company that built the road under a 50-year maintenance contract. The road is expected to be profitable for the state, with Texas taking in an anticipated $100 million in tolls, along with the additional speeding ticket revenue that will be generated by drivers who can't resist breaking the speed limit - even at 85 mph.

But despite the potential profits and the time saved commuting, the new addition to Texas 130 is not without critics. Many question whether the benefits of the higher speed limit are worth the increased risk of serious traffic accidents that they argue will inevitably come with it. Newspaper headlines from around Texas and beyond suggest that these concerns are widespread: "Is Texas ready for 85-mph speed limit?" the Kansas City Star asked recently; "Can drivers survive at 85?" echoed the Washington Times.

High speeds lead to more severe crashes

Some safety experts warn that the higher speed limit on Texas 130 is likely to result in more injuries and fatalities, the Star reported. Generally speaking, high speeds tend to raise the risk of traffic collisions more likely by reducing the time available for drivers to react to obstacles and changing road conditions, as well as making it more difficult to maneuver the vehicle safely. At the same time, crashes that occur at high speeds are also more likely to result in serious injuries and deaths because the force of impact is much higher.

Speed limits have been on the rise throughout Texas in recent years, and the state now has nearly 7,000 miles of 75-mph roads and another 575 miles of roads with a speed limit of 80 mph. Perhaps not surprisingly, federal data shows that Texas has an above-average traffic fatality rate, based on the number of miles driven. Texas was ranked 16th among the states most dangerous for drivers, according to a 2009 report. However, TxDOT officials suggest that Texas' relatively lax distracted driving laws, not its speed limits, may be responsible for the higher frequency of fatal crashes, the Austin Statesman reported.

People injured in Texas traffic accidents are encouraged to seek advice from an experienced personal injury lawyer to learn about the possibility of seeking financial compensation for their medical bills, lost income and other expenses relating to the crash.