Indiana town reduces speed limit for trucks amid safety concerns

July 1, 2022

Ryan Witkowski


One town in Indiana is telling truckers to hit the brakes with a new speed limit.

On June 28, the town of Chesterton, Ind. announced they would be lowing the speed limit for semitrucks on state Road 49 through town from 50 miles per hour to 40. A collaborative effort with the Indiana Department of Transportation, the lower limit is not applicable to passenger vehicles.

The move is partly in response to a May 8 car crash along state Road 49 involving a tractor-trailer, which sent a local retired high school coach to the intensive care unit. In that crash, a semitruck ran a red light after being unable to safely stop, broadsiding the other motorist.

In a news release, the town acknowledged that heavy-duty trucks aren’t the only ones to blame for the safety issues along the highway. However, the town said tractor-trailers are capable of far more destruction if operated unsafely.

“It’s the semis, however, which cause the most damage – both to other passenger vehicles and to life and limb – when a trucker makes a mistake: rear-ends someone, sideswipes someone, or T-bones someone in an intersection. We know that. We all know that,” the town of Chesterton said in a statement. “And from time to time a trucker reminds us anyway by playing red-light roulette.”

Tim Richardson, the town’s chief of police, said the lower speeds aren’t intended to punish truckers but rather to improve the safety along the highway for all motorists.

“The sheer dynamics of Indiana 49 in Chesterton and the way you’re coming over hills and around curves, lowering the speed limit to 40 is not meant to punish the truckers, because they’re very important and vital to our society today,” Richardson said in a statement. “But by the sheer dynamics, it gives them more stopping distance at traffic lights, and we hope that greatly improves safety.”

Richardson said that passenger vehicles would be exempt from the lower speed limits because they are still capable of braking at a higher speed with shorter stopping distances.

“We didn’t want to punish motorists, Chesterton residents, and people passing through by making them do 40. The dynamic really affects the truckers because of their weight and their stopping distances,” Richardson said. “If the speed for trucks is 50, they’re doing 58, and that’s way too fast to stop in time when they’re coming over the overpass or around those curves. If it says 40, we hope they stay between 40 and 46 or 47, and then they’ll have the right stopping distance.”

In addition to the lower speeds, the INDOT will also install three turnaround cross-over culverts in the median along the corridor. This will allow the Chesterton Police Department to more effectively monitor truck speeds and stopping at traffic lights.

Town officials say the lower speeds will go into effect “as soon as possible.” LL

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