NJDOT Releases Final 65 MPH Report
Recommends Adding 124 Miles to Existing Network
The New Jersey Department of Transportation today delivered its findings and data collected as part of the three-year 65 mile-per-hour study program in a report to the Governor and Legislature. Following the 36-month study period, which ended May 18, 2001, the NJDOT is recommending that the speed limit be raised to 65 mph on an additional 124 miles of highway. New segments of 65 mph zones are along I-78, I-80, I-95, I-195, I-280, I-287, I-295, Rt. 18, Rt. 24, Rt. 55 and the Garden State Parkway (see Appendix A for exact mileage).
A full copy of the final report can be obtained at the NJDOT's website at www.state.nj.us/transportation. The report was compiled pursuant to P.L. 1997, Chapter 415 -- the law establishing the 65 mph study program on 475 miles of interstates, state highways and toll roads -- and contains several significant findings:
"Safety has been the primary focus of our efforts to evaluate this program. Throughout the entirety of the study period we looked at comparable data on the sections of road before and after they went to 65, and we have now looked at comparable data on roads that stayed at 55 mph," said Acting Gov. Donald T. DiFrancesco. "The findings indicate that travel was not adversely affected because of the increase in speed. Before making a final decision on implementing the 65 mph speed limit on additional miles on our highway system I want to review the report and its findings in greater detail."
- Actual travel speeds increased on average only 1 mile-per-hour on the various sections in the 65 mph zones, with the exception of the New Jersey Turnpike and Garden State Parkway where travel speeds increased 3 to 4 miles-per-hour on average (see Appendices B & C for speed monitoring results).
- Fatal accidents changed minimally over a similar 36-month period prior to the study period, and changed minimally when compared to similar road segments at which the speed remained 55 mph (see Appendix D for fatal accident statistics).
- Reported accidents increased 27 percent in the 65 mph zones over a similar 36 month period prior to the 65 mph program, but reported accidents increased 30 percent over a comparable 36-month period on roadway segments that remained at 55 mph (see Appendix D for reported accident statistics).
- Impacts to air quality and noise were affected minimally due to the nominal change in travel speeds.
"The NJDOT initially developed, with help from the Legislature, a good cross section of roads to test the 65 mph speed limit. While the first 18 months of data was inconclusive the full three years worth has demonstrated that we should retain and expand this program,@ said Transportation Commissioner James Weinstein.
Commissioner Weinstein noted when the NJDOT released its initial findings in February 2000 a recommendation was made to conduct an additional 18 months of data collection and evaluation for a full three years worth of information. A three-year period is a professionally accepted minimum time frame within which to conduct a traffic safety study. In addition, the NJDOT wanted to study comparable 55 mph roadway segments to see if the data was consistent with 65 mph findings.
The full study found that fatal accidents in 65 mph zones have remained about the same since implementation of the 65 mph speed limit. For a three-year period from June 1, 1995 to May 31, 1998 there were 150 fatal accidents on the selected roadways before 65 mph went into effect. From June 1, 1998 to May 31, 2001 there were 157 fatal accidents after the speed limit was increased. While fatal accidents on 55 mph segments decreased from 142 to 135 over the same time frame, the statistics show the percentage of fatal accidents to all reported accidents decreased in both 65 mph and 55 mph zones.
The findings showed that the reported number of accidents rose in the 65 mph zones by 27 percent, but the NJDOT did not find that the increase in accidents was directly caused by the increase in the speed limit. A similar increase was found in the comparable 55 mph zones where reported accidents increased by 30 percent.
"While reported accidents increased in both 65 mph and 55 mph zones when looking at periods before and after the program began, we do not believe the causes are rooted in a faster speed limit," Commissioner Weinstein said. "Other contributing elements include the fact that total vehicles miles traveled in New Jersey grows year by year and a public that is more likely to report accidents than in the past."
According to the 65 mph law, the recommendations for additional miles will be implemented in 60 days unless the Assembly and Senate disapprove them completely or in part by passage of a concurrent resolution.
On May 19, 1998, speed limits were raised on portions of New Jersey roadways. Those roadways included parts of Route 18, Route 55, I-78, I-80, I-195, I-287, I-295, the New Jersey Turnpike, the Garden State Parkway and the Atlantic City Expressway. To encourage safe driving and compliance with the law establishing the 65 mph program penalties for speeding and other violations in the 65 mph zones were doubled.