HELENA, Mont. (AP) -- The Wild West has gotten a little tamer on Montana's highways.
At dawn today, a speed limit took effect on the state's roads, ending Montana's status as the last state without a posted daytime limit.When Congress repealed the federal speed limits 3 1/2 years ago, Montana began operating under the so-called "basic rule," a law requiring motorists to drive in a reasonable and prudent manner based on traffic, road and weather conditions.
"Whether we liked it or not, it was like an invitation to people who wanted to come to Montana and really see how fast their vehicle could go," said Al Goke, chief of the state Traffic Safety Bureau. "We became a testing ground for people who wanted that freedom."
Support grew for restoring fixed limits after highway fatalities increased. In 1997, the state Legislature rejected a speed limit bill, but that was before the year ended with 265 fatalities -- the most deadly year since the early 1980s.
Then, last December, the Montana Supreme Court declared unconstitutional the vague basic-rule requirement to drive at "reasonable and proper" speeds.
The top speed on interstate highways is now 75 mph day and night. The maximum on most two-lane roads is 70 mph during the day and 65 mph at night.