WASHINGTON — Rural highway traffic deaths rose 19% overall in states that raised speed limits to 65 m.p.h. in 1987, a government report says.
Rural interstate fatalities in the 38 states with the higher limit rose to 2,191 in 1987 from 1,839 in 1986, the Transportation Department said in a report to Congress that was released Friday.
In the 10 states maintaining 55-m.p.h. limits, the fatalities rose 7%, to 313 from 292. Alaska and Delaware do not have rural interstate highways.
A disproportionate 64% of the increase in deaths occurred in six states--California, Arizona, Louisiana, New Mexico, Tennessee and Texas, the study said. It was prepared by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.
In some states, including California, fatalities rose more on stretches of rural interstate where the speed limit was kept at 55 m.p.h. than on segments where it was raised, the report said.
Many factors may have contributed to the differing death totals, the study said, and other factors will be examined in future reports.
Eight states that raised the speed limit had decreases in deaths on rural interstates. They were Colorado, Florida, Indiana, Maine, New Hampshire, Montana, Oklahoma and Oregon.