When the 55 mile per hour national speed limit was repealed in 1987, states were once again free to establish speed limits based on safety standards, not just fuel economy. States in the overpopulated and traffic-choked Northeast set a fairly conservative limit of 65 mph on interstate highways, while less population-dense Western states gave drivers a bit more free reign.The highest speed limit in California is 70, and you can't find that everywhere. The long stretch of I-5 from the Bakersfield area to Sacramento has a 70 mph limit but few go that slow. Traffic is often moving at 80 or more out there and on most days it's perfectly safe. The road is very straight and if it's dry and decent visibility there's no reason why people couldn't go 80 with safety.
Montana, for example, initially set their interstate speed limit at “reasonable and prudent.” This turned out to be a bad great idea, since the definition of “reasonable and prudent” varied greatly from driver to driver. Until it was changed back to 75 mph on interstate highways, Montana probably had more tourists driving Ferraris, Lamborghinis and Corvettes than any other state in the nation.
Today, Utah and portions of Texas have the highest interstate speed limits, capped at 80 mph. That will soon change, since Texas just approved a new maximum speed limit of 85 miles per hour. It’s not all good news, however, since the new speed limit doesn’t go into effect right away and will only apply to certain (desolate) portions of interstate highway in the Lone Star State.
I really enjoyed traveling I-40 in Arizona last month where the speed limit is 75. We could really make some good time.
Modern cars are more than capable of cruising at 80 without significantly increasing danger to the motorists or using that much more fuel. The 65 mph limit is an anachronism that really should be ended on my highways.