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Is 85 MPH Safe? New Texas Speed Limit Causes Controversy

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Pretty soon, Texas will have the fastest road in the country, as The Associated Press reports that a new 41-mile toll road between Austin and Seguin will have an 85 mph speed limit when it opens in November.

While “Don’t mess with Texas,” is a popular sentiment on bumpers in the Lone Star State, the new speed limit has raised some concerns. "The research is clear that when speed limits go up, fatalities go up," Insurance Institute for Highway Safety Spokesman, Russ Rader tells the Associated Press. While higher speed limits may get people to their destinations faster, Rader says "the trade-off is more crashes and more highway deaths." Texas Transportation Commission Spokeswoman, Veronica Beyer tells the Associated Press that safety is a “top priority and tests have shown the designated speed is a safe one.”

Some other states will likely follow suit and raise speed limits. Joshua Schank, CEO of the Eno Center for Transportation tells USA Today that higher speed limits on toll roads are “something we're likely to see more of because federal funding for free roads is drying up.” As more states turn to toll roads, Schank says premium services, which include higher speed limits, are more likely.

Regardless of what the speed limit is where you live, it’s not difficult to find a car that performs well in crash tests, and our rankings will help you compare safety scores and features of different cars. Full-size trucks like the Ford F-150, Toyota Tundra and Honda Ridgeline are all IIHS Top Safety Picks, and show Texans that you're not all hat and no cattle, but affordable small cars like the Honda Fit, Chevrolet Cruze and Ford Focus – and even sports cars like the Subaru BRZ and Scion FR-S – earn the same rating from the IIHS. However, frontal crash tests performed by the IIHS take place at 40 mph, so they’re not going to accurately represent what an 85-mph Texas-sized crash would look like.

Forward collision warning and auto braking systems will help you avoid a crash if traffic suddenly screeches to a halt. Forward collision warning is optional on cars and SUVs like the Chevrolet Equinox, Chrysler 300, Ford Explorer, Toyota Prius, and comes standard the Hyundai Equus. Volvo provides standard auto-braking systems on the S60, S80, XC60 and XC70, which are capable of applying the brakes at speeds up to 19 mph. That won’t do you much good on the new toll road to Austin, but if you add Volvo’s collision warning system to any of these models, the auto-braking system will work at higher speeds.

Whether you think 85 mph is too fast, or not fast enough, the company that’s building the new toll road says that safety comes down to your behavior behind the wheel. SH 130 Concession Co. Spokesman Chris Lippincott tells the Associated Press, “On any road, drivers hold the key to safety based on traffic, travel conditions and the capabilities of their own vehicles.”

Shopping for a full-size truck or an affordable small car? Check out the U.S. News rankings of this year's best cars. Then, look for a great deal on a new car by checking out this month’s best car deals. You can also find the best local prices in the area by using our Best Price Program. Also, be sure to follow us on TwitterFacebook and Pinterest.

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