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The grand state of Texas will be rolling out its variable speed limits next week. Texas will initiate a new law allowing conditions to dictate the speed limit. If you remember, back in February 2021, a slippery Fort Worth highway with almost no visibility was the scene of a massive 133-vehicle chain reaction smashup. Six people lost their lives that day. We have a video of the aftermath below.

What conditions qualify for lower speed limits?

Later, both federal and state investigations began looking into the causes and prevention to avoid another pileup like it. This led to the conclusion that if the speed had been lower, it would have the potential to prevent a similar future situation in similar circumstances. That was the impetus for the new law. 

Texas Transportation authorities can now change the limits for certain sections of roads and highways. The variable speed limits won’t need the authorization of the Texas Transportation Commission. It can be set lower for instances of construction, maintenance work, or bad weather conditions. 

How will motorists be notified speed limits have changed?

Dense fog results in a highway pileup in Aurora, Colorado
Dense fog results in a highway pileup | RJ Sangosti/The Denver Post via Getty

“If we’re not able to alter or modify the speed limit to reflect the current conditions, safety is in jeopardy,” said State Representative Terry Canales. The only caveats are that the speed limit can’t be lower than 10 miles under the posted limit, and drivers must be notified in some way beforehand. 

“It could be a mobile digital sign that you see, oftentimes used on a trailer, said Canales. “It could be on any of the TxDOT signs, or it could actually be a physical sign that is laid over one of the originals. It’s whatever communicates to the drivers’ speed limit change as per state law.”

Texas has been working on variable speed studies since 2013. A year later, testing began in Temple, San Antonio, and Eastland County. It was proof that the variable speed limit had merit and could reduce accidents

Are there other states with variable speed limits?

Spring snow pileup at Interstate 70 near Lookout Mountain
Spring snow pileup in Colorado | RJ Sangosti/The Denver Post via Getty

So why did it take so long for it to finally become law? Similar bills had passed before but got stuck in the Texas House for fears of creating speed traps. So, state legislatures began an education process to better inform the state of just how the idea would work. 

That took more time. But as we see, it did finally pass both legislatures. Said Senator Robert Nichols to the Texas Tribune, “I don’t care which party you’re in. All parties want good transportation and safe roads.”

Of course, Texas isn’t the first state to pass variable speed limit laws. There are now at least 15 states that have some form of speed limit changes for the same reasons that Texas does. Do you think this should be a nationwide mandate?


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