Some Oklahoma highway speed limits can go up beginning later this year — but not before the state conducts an engineering or traffic survey in any proposed areas.
"You will hear the department talk exclusively about our concern for the safety of the traveling public. That is No. 1 for us, and we are very, very cautious when it comes to increasing speed limits on any of our facilities," said Oklahoma Department of Transportation Executive Director Tim Gatz.
Under a bill signed into law last month, the state transportation commission may set speed limits up to 75 miles per hour on rural segments of highway beginning Nov. 1 if an ODOT survey shows that’s "safe and reasonable." The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety has been following speed limit increases across the country.
"Those studies continue to show that the severity rate and accident rates of states that have increased their speed limits continue to trend upward," Gatz said.
Gatz is hopeful driver assist technologies like lane departure warnings can help counteract that trend someday.
"We think that will eventually cause that trend to reverse and flatten and maybe even trend down, but the fleet is going to have to continue to turn over to really make those technologies effective," Gatz said.
Also starting Nov. 1 the Oklahoma Turnpike Authority may increase turnpike system speeds to 80 miles per hour.