Montana and South Dakota's Speed Report

As you may know, Montana removed all daytime speed limits on December 8, 1995. Here is the first speed survey done by MT DOT for the period Jan - March, 1996:

Road typeMiles Number of vehicles
%>55%>60%>65%>70 %>75%>80%>85
Urban Interstate1113,77082.0855.5724.06 12.225.03------
Rural Interstate1,18020,867------47.82 22.267.902.830.61
Rural other12,71929,77459.1834.0915.595.842.15------
%>55 means percent of drivers exceeding 55, 65, etc.

And here is one done for the period April - June, 1996:

Road typeMiles Number of vehicles
%>55%>60%>65%>70 %>75%>80%>85
Urban Interstate1112,392835131 169------
Rural Interstate1,18031,579------61 381982
Rural other12,71941,769694423 93------
%>55 means percent of drivers exceeding 55, 65, etc.

So, who can't be trusted -- the motorists who aren't abusing that freedom, or the safety organizations that said everyone would be zooming around at 100 mph?

Self-preservation. What a novel concept.

Do the safety groups, whose self-anointed position is to protect us from ourselves, know that when Montana had a speed limit, it was treated with all the seriousness of a parking ticket? From 1974 to December 8th, 1995, Montana law said anyone who went over the 55/65 daytime speed limit was guilty of not conserving a natural resource (not speeding) and would be fined all of $5. Furthermore, the legislature made it so that no $5 ticket could be kept on your license for the purpose of suspending it. As if that wasn't enough, they also said that insurance companies could not raise your rates if you got one (or 100) of the $5 tickets. In effect, Montana never did have a speed limit even when they did.

When the safety groups say that the fatalities are higher in rural states (which they are), they place little or no importance on the lack of passing drivers (to get/give help), not to mention ambulances that have to drive 15 minutes or more to get to the scene. They can't change that, so they blame speed.

South Dakota has recorded similar results. On April 1st they raised their Interstate speed limits to 75 and all others to 65. Surprise! People aren't driving 85.

South Dakota's recent speed monitoring report (dated 5/28/96) shows the following numbers for the Interstates:

Average (50th percentile)65.6 mph65.466.266.068.3
85th percentile72.372.072.572.876.0

Yikes! Could it be? A speed limit set to the point where it is the safest possible speed, and furthermore, that most people aren't exceeding it?

Then there are the two-lane roads, once posted at 55, now 65:

Average (50th percentile)57.6 mph56.457.858.160.7
85th percentile63.862.463.864.468.6

Look at the 85th percentile numbers. When the limit was 55, people were going 7-9 mph over the limit. Now that it's 65, they're going 3 over. For the Interstates, the differences are less but still visible.

Here's something that makes you think. Note that South Dakota's speed-limited drivers are driving faster than the Montana drivers who have no speed limits. About 15% of South Dakota drivers exceed 75, but only 8% of Montana drivers do. Interesting, no?

Source: NMA's Web Page,

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