70 mph: The new normal, but drivers must keep it safe

The trip north, south, east and west of our local area just got quicker.

State transportation officials last week approved a raise in the speed limit to 70 mph on nearly 1,000 miles of Pennsylvania highway.

The spike in the speed limit is on some of the state’s most traveled major highways, including Interstates 79, 80, 99 and 380 and parts of U.S. Route 15. Additionally, the speed limit will rise on the remaining sections of the turnpike system that are now posted at 65 mph.

For drivers in our area, the speed limit is being hiked on sections of highways used most frequently on trips, such as Route 15 from the intersection of Route 14 in Lycoming County for 49 miles to the New York state border. The trek to Mansfield just got quicker.

The turnpike speed limit hike includes the Northeast Extension. The trip to Philadelphia just got quicker.

Likewise, the speed limit has been increased to 70 mph on Interstate 80 between Clinton County and the Ohio state line. So the voyage west just got quicker.

The changes were made by transportation officials based on physical characteristics of highways, accident histories and traffic data following a two-year pilot study on limited sections of highway.

In other words, the speed limit was raised in areas where highway officials believe it is safe to do so.

And, in fact, the higher speed limit should result in less time behind the wheel for drivers, which reduces the risk of dangerous boredom or falling asleep at the wheel.

But, regardless of posted speed limits, drivers are the key determining factor when it comes to how fast a car goes on a highway. Drivers know instinctively when they are progressing at a rate where safety is being compromised.

We suggest they still use that as a guide and not increase speeds beyond their own capabilities.

Don’t let pride get in the way of safety, folks. You know when you are risk.

Exercise judgment and don’t tax your own awareness and reflexes beyond their limits. It’s OK to ease up on the pedal and drive defensively, not aggressively.

Raising the speed limits on these highways makes practical sense.

But the ultimate in practical safety rests with individual motorists.