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Good Intentions Can Have Negative Consequences on Massachusetts Highways

The federal government recommends that drivers go no faster than 55 miles per hour in order to get better gas mileage and thus save money on gas. While the 55 mph limit may ultimately result in a lower bill at the pumps, you may unknowingly be putting yourself at risk for car accidents on Massachusetts highways - namely highways with speed limits above 55 mph.

There are several potential safety issues with driving at 55 mph on highways with higher speed limits. This is especially true during the holiday season when more people will be on the roads shopping and engaging in holiday activities away from home.

One problem with driving 55 mph on a highway with a higher speed limit is the driver's creation of, or contribution to, "variable speed" - a disparity in the speed at which vehicles on the road are traveling. Highways are more dangerous when some people are driving fast and others are driving significantly more slowly, and can lead to situations in which someone has to slam on his or her brakes while traveling at high speeds.

Additionally, there is no safe lane on the highway to drive 55 mph. While it might seem logical that the right lane would be safe for driving at a reduced speed, big rigs are required to drive in the right or "slow" lane, and tend to maintain a 65 mph speed limit. They maintain this speed so they can make good time with whatever they are hauling, as well as to have the necessary momentum for driving uphill. Large trucks also cannot slow down as easily as smaller vehicles, and the result can be a dangerous situation for a slow-moving car if a truck does not stop in time.

While the middle lane also would seem to be a logical choice for a slower-moving vehicle, drivers traveling at the normal speed limit expect other cars to also travel the speed limit on the highway. The drivers driving the speed limit may become irate at a driver who is going slower than the limit and then tailgate, which could result in a crash. These other drivers may also succumb to road rage, which has the potential to lead to an incident on the highway, especially during the high-stress holiday season.

While driving 55 mph may leave more money in the wallet, it may also have dangerous consequences that could be avoided by traveling the posted speed limit, and may not be worth the trade-off.

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