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Texas highway pileup: time to slow the ‘super truckers’ down?

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To be sure, investigators are still looking into how the Beaumont pileup started and developed, though, as in the bulk of mega pileups, weather conditions were chiefly to blame, as a single mistake quickly multiplied with the limited visibility.

While statistics show that more than two-thirds of truck-passenger car crashes are the fault of the motorist, not the trucker, Texas authorities have confirmed that it was a tractor trailer that crashed into the SUV of a Pearland,  Tex., couple that were killed in the massive Thanksgiving pileup. Truckers commenting on the crash also noted the prominence of several other tractor trailers in news pictures. The scene was chaos, with first responders overwhelmed and those unhurt from the crash scrambling to help survivors, many of them bleeding and at least 10 critically injured.

Drivers weighing in on the accident on various comment boards lamented the possible cultural dynamics of the crash. “Unless you’ve ever traveled here [in Texas], it’s hard for anyone to imagine how fast drivers in this state actually go,” one commenter wrote.

“Probably a better solution is to put a lower speed limit on those crazy big rigs,” a commenter on a CBS News story wrote on Friday. “The speed limit on 20 S of Midland is 80. I often travel this road and the big rigs just go flying past me. Those big heavy loads are hard to stop/slow down in an emergency. [The speed limit for trucks should be] 60 mph in Texas.”

But creating differential speed limits has its own problems. Studies have found that crashes increase when trucks drive slower than motorist traffic, and the Transportation Research Board has concluded that “a strong case cannot be made on empirical grounds in support of or in opposition to differential speed limits” for trucks and cars.

For now, Texas is leaning toward stepping on the gas, not the brake. The state legislature approved 85 mile per hour speed limits last year, and the first such stretch in the nation – a 41-mile Austin-San Antonio toll road – opened in September. (Congress ceded the speed argument to the states in1995, when it eliminated all federal restrictions on maximum speed limits.)

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