Question and Answers
On the Repeal of National Maximum Speed Limit
From The Federal Highway Administration
Section 205(d) - Repeal of National Maximum Speed Limit
When was the National Maximum Speed Limit (NMSL) repealed?
With the President signing the NHS Designation Act of 1995 on
November 28, 1995, the repeal of
the NMSL was effective in each State on December 8, 1995 unless:
- a State legislature was not in session on the date the
President signed the bill, and
- the Chief Executive Officer of the State requested a
different applicability date of the
NMSL repeal prior to December 8, 1995.
If these conditions are met, the repeal of the NMSL will be
applicable to that State on the 60th
day following the date the State legislature convenes.
To whom should the State Chief Executive Officer's request for
the later applicability date
The new law does not specify the manner in which the State Chief
Executive Officer must make the
declaration. We presume that the declaration should be made in
accordance with State law. The
Department would like to be advised of the State's intentions.
What happens if a State chooses the later applicability date?
This option maintains the status quo regarding maximum speed
limits in the State until the State
legislature convenes and allows the State to consider necessary
administrative or legislative
action in this area. Sixty (60) days after the legislature
reconvenes, the NMSL will no longer
be applicable in the State.
Does NMSL repeal automatically raise the State's maximum speed
limit to the pre-NMSL speed
No. In most States the maximum limits are set pursuant to a law
or administrative requirement
and therefore, individual State action is required to change the
speed limit. However, in some
States the speed limits automatically revert to the limits in
effect before the NMSL.
Do States have to change their maximum speed limit?
No, States do not have to change their speed limits and can
retain their existing maximum speed
limits. However, they should review their respective State laws
and regulations to ensure that
their speed limits are not predicated on the existence of a NMSL.
In at least two States
(Minnesota and New Hampshire), the Governor has been granted
authority to set maximum speed
limits. Administrative or legislative action is needed to change
maximum speed limits in the
How many States are considering increasing their speed limits?
At this point, the estimate on how many States will increase
their maximum speed limits varies
anywhere from nine to 37. This information has been gathered
from an informal polling of the
FHWA and National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA)
field offices, the Insurance
Institute for Highway Safety poll of Governors' Highway Safety
Representatives, and media
Why is there such a range in these estimates?
Different sources within States have been contacted by various
groups seeking information about
how the repeal of the NMSL will affect each State. Since
administrative or legislative action
is required in most States, there is no way to accurately predict
Can a State set different maximum speed limits for passenger
cars versus heavy trucks and
other commercial vehicles?
Yes. However, the DOT cautions that differential speed limits
increase the speed variance on
roadways, which in turns increases the chances of a crash
occurring. Lane changes increase as
the ranges of vehicle speeds on the roadway increase.
Are there any additional Federal funds available to absorb the
costs associated with repeal
of the NMSL (i.e., replacing speed limit signs, re-marking
no-passing zones, conducting
engineering studies, etc.)?
No additional funds are authorized in relation to the repeal of
NMSL. Existing Federal-aid
funds are available to the States for eligible projects on
What action will be taken if a State sets a speed limit
greater than the design speed?
The FHWA will work closely with States and recommend that
appropriate engineering criteria be
used in setting speed limits.
Will States be required to submit NMSL certification or
compliance statements normally due on
January 1, 1996 for FY 1995?
With the repeal of the NMSL, States are not required to submit
the NMSL certification or
Is compliance with the monitoring and reporting procedures
associated with the NMSL still
The repeal of the NMSL eliminates any Federal requirements for
collecting and monitoring data on
Question: What will happen with 23 CFR 1260?
After all States have met the provisions of Section 205(d) and
had an opportunity to either
change their speed limits or leave them as is, the FHWA will take
the necessary steps to delete
the provisions in 23 CFR 1260.
Will the DOT formally notify the States on the change to the
Since the law has deleted the NMSL program requirements, the only
formal notification needed is
a technical correction in the Federal Register to delete 23 CFR
Many States have recently installed new speed monitoring
equipment. Will the States be
encouraged to continue a voluntary speed monitoring program?
States are strongly encouraged to continue monitoring speed for
their own information and in
order to submit data that is necessary for the Safety Report
specified under Section 347 of P.L.
104-59, the NHS Designation Act if they change their speed limits
from NMSL levels.
Will there be voluntary submission of speed data for FHWA to
do a national report on speed
statistics? Speed trend data are now reported in the annual
Highway Statistics Report in tables
V-137-139. Will this continue?
The FHWA and NHTSA will continue to monitor speeds on a national
basis and may depend on Highway
Performance Monitoring System as well as other voluntarily
submitted speed data to continue to