G as prices have been going up in the Metro area and guess what: So are speed limits.
After months of study by the Michigan State Police and the Michigan Department of Transportation, speed limits are being raised from 55 mph to 70 mph on selected portions of major freeways in southeastern Michigan.
The rise in speed limits pretty much reflects the pace that motorists already are driving in Metro Detroit, according to First Lt. Thad Peterson, commander of the Traffic Services Section of the Michigan State Police.
"We've been working on this for quite a while now," Peterson said.
"The basic reason is so we have maximum uniformity of traffic patterns on the freeways. When we have traffic patterns that aren't uniform, you end up with conflicts between vehicles. That conflict can result in crashes. Sometimes you have to raise speeds to reflect actual driving conditions."
The best way to do that, according to Peterson, is to raise the speed being driven by drivers trying to abide by the limit.
"Potential problems arise when someone is trying to abide the law by driving at 55 mph when everyone else is driving at 70 mph," Peterson said. "Raising the limit allows them to drive at the same speed as those who are driving at a comfortable speed."
According to Peterson, that doesn't mean that the State Police are also raising the speed limit "margin" that theoretically cushions all speed limits.
"Everyone thinks that if the speed limit is 70 mph, the police will allow you a cushion of an extra 15 mph before pulling you over for speeding," Peterson said.
"That's a misconception. Drivers shouldn't expect that when we raise the speed limit on the road that we also raise the limits pushed by the fastest drivers on the road."
The 55 mph limit goes back to the OPEC crisis of the 1970s when the federal government lowered the national speed limit to 55 mph.
"The mantra was '55 Saves Lives,' as well as fuel," Peterson said. "Eventually, most of our speed limits were later restored to 70 mph, but not all."
Freeways in southeastern Michigan where the limit will be hiked to 70 mph include: M-59 from Opdyke Road eastward; Interstate 75 from the southern Detroit city limits to Pennsylvania, at the Taylor city limit; and the M-53/Van Dyke freeway from M-59 north to 27 Mile Road.
"The Van Dyke freeway will be increased from 55 mph to 70 mph, but with limit reductions as you approach at grade intersections," Peterson. "Motorists will see speeds drop from 70 mph back to 55 mph for the last quarter mile of the freeway to the intersection."
Interstate 696 is currently under review by the MSP and MDOT, according to Peterson.
"I-696 is in the works, but raising the limit isn't imminent," he said.
"We will probably correct the speed limit for the entire length of I-696 after studies and reviews are evaluated and no latent problems are found. Freeways within the city of Detroit aren't on our list of studies."
Howell resident Matt Campanella understands the reasons behind raising the speed limit on M-59; he's just not too sure it's going to make driving any safer.
"I drive M-59 all the time and I can tell you that people drive far in excess of the speed limit already," Campanella said.
"You get eaten alive if you even think of slowing down. When you enter the freeway, you have to come in from side streets, not via a freeway entrance ramp. You're going from a dead stop into traffic that's going close to 70 mph.
"Those drivers end up right on your backside when you try to pull out. This is going to be interesting."