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Higher Speeds, Bigger Tickets? Nope

Is the American autobahn finally here?

Not quite, but it's getting closer. The signs on a newly opened Texas toll road read 85 mph, the highest posted speed limit in the nation.

The 41-mile stretch on the way from Austin to San Antonio breaks new ground in other ways as well, allowing a private company to charge drivers desperate to avoid the gridlock on nearby Interstate 35.

Since November, one fatality has been recorded on State Highway 130 and isn't believed to be speed-related. One driver has hit a deer. And two have hit feral hogs. ( You're covered for either if you have comprehensive insurance.)

Safety experts and consumer advocates have expressed concern about the new speed limit and question the motives. Under a contract with Concession Co., which will operate the road, Texas will receive a one-time payment of $100 million for setting the limit at 85 mph. The payment would drop to $67 million if the limit were a mere 80 mph.

The limit on a parallel, non-toll road was reduced from 65 mph to 55 mph.

Is a speeding ticket for 93 mph a big deal?

So when you get pulled over on State Highway 130, are you simply another driver doing a few mph over the limit, or a speed demon crowding 100?

Luckily for the lead-footed, almost all states and counties assess fines by mph over the limit, not by absolute speed. Fines vary; for example, 95 mph around Austin will cost $194, not including fees and court costs.

In some states, reckless driving is an absolute threshold. For example, Virginia makes 80 mph an automatic reckless driving ticket. Texas leaves the distinction between speeding and recklessness to the discretion of the Trooper.

Speed matters at car insurance renewal time, too.

Car insurance companies look at how far you were over the line. Guidelines vary, but a ticket less than 5 mph over the limit will typically be treated differently than a ticket where you were going 20 mph over the limit, says consumer analyst Penny Gusner.

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