Highway Safety:

Monitoring Practices To Show Compliance With Speed Limits Should Be Reexamined

T-RCED-88-19: Published: Feb 25, 1988. Publicly Released: Feb 25, 1988.

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GAO discussed its work on states' monitoring of compliance with the national 55-mile-per-hour (mph) maximum highway speed limit, focusing on: (1) whether states followed Federal Highway Administration (FHwA) data collection guidelines; and (2) states' monitoring in relation to the congressional goal of improving highway safety. GAO noted that: (1) three states recently went out of compliance with the 55-mph limit; and (2) the six states it reviewed generally complied with FHwA guidelines, but there were several problems, including inappropriate speed monitoring locations, such as near traffic lights, traffic merging locations, or residential areas; (3) while state police officials stated that they did not use speed monitoring data to influence data collection, there were two cases where state police stationed marked patrol cars at monitoring sites while speeds were being recorded; (4) states with good compliance records did not always have the best safety records; (5) states with aggressive enforcement practices did not necessarily motivate motorists to comply with the 55-mph limit; (6) states can influence their compliance records by posting 55-mph speed limits on less-well-designed roads; and (7) state officials generally believe that FHwA should consider road types, local conditions, states' enforcement efforts, and magnitude of speeding violations in assessing states' compliance.

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