Apr 19, 2023 - News

Texas speed limits bill passes initial hurdle

Illustration of a road sign with a snail icon on it.

Illustration: Brendan Lynch/Axios

A bill that would allow cities to lower speed limits is advancing through the Texas Legislature.

Driving the news: Senate Bill 1663, filed by Houston Democratic Sen. Carol Alvarado, passed the Texas Senate with a 23-8 vote this week. The bill received bipartisan support, although all eight votes against it were from Republicans — including Houston's Paul Bettencourt.

  • The bill would allow cities to lower speed limits on residential streets to 20 mph without having to conduct traffic studies and other time-consuming and costly tasks.

Why it matters: For pedestrians, the lower the speed, the more likely they are to survive a collision.

  • The risk of pedestrian death is 10% at 23 mph, according to AAA. It jumps to 25% at 32 mph and increases as the speed gets higher.
  • The risk of death is higher for children and older people, even at slower speeds.

The other side: "There's not a lot of [difference] between 20 and 25," Houston-area Republican Sen. Lois Kolkhorst said on the Senate floor Monday. "I'm just a little concerned that on some stretches that they could be potentially lowering the speed limit when it's a little bit inappropriate."

  • Kolkhorst ultimately voted against the bill.

What's next: The House will vote on a similar bill as soon as Wednesday. If it passes, a group of appointed lawmakers will hash out the differences and a consolidated bill will go back to both chambers for a final vote before making its way to Gov. Greg Abbott's desk.

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