There is, on average, one crash a day on Interstate 295, the stretch of four-lane highway between West Gardiner and Scarborough. The number of accidents has increased by nearly a third since the Maine Department of Transportation raised the speed limit on the 52-mile long interstate.

Because of this concerning increase, the DOT will decrease the speed limit from 70 miles per hour to 65 in March. This is a helpful move, but it is also important that the the department plans to continue studying other traffic problems on I-295.

In mid-2014, the department raised the speed limit on the highway from 65 mph to 70 after the Legislature gave the commissioner the authority to do so. At the time, DOT Commissioner David Bernhardt said that traffic data showed that most drivers were already driving 70 mph on I-295.

The results have not been good. Between June 2013 and May 2016, the number of crashes on I-295 increased by 29 percent, according to the DOT. Traffic volumes increased only 6.4 percent during that time. In 2015, there were 354 crashes on I-295. In the first nine months of 2016, there were 265.

“It’s important to note, that while an increase in traffic volume on I-295 has led to more crashes, speed and driver distraction are also major factors,” DOT Chief Engineer Joyce Taylor said in a statement last week announcing the speed limit decrease. “By lowering the speed limit, we hope to allow drivers more reaction time to any event that may occur on the highway.”

The department was in the midst of a study of conditions on I-295 when the speed limit change was announced last week. The study is looking at other changes, including infrastructure, that can be made to make the highway safer.

Changes have already been made, including physical improvements to several on- and off-ramps. Looking forward, the department plans to install more lighting at Exit 22 in Freeport and to increase the use of electronic message boards to warn motorists of dangers ahead or to simply remind them to pay attention to their driving.

But not all the fixes will come from DOT. For example, Interstate 95 also connects Scarborough and West Gardiner, offering a less congested alternative for some travelers.

Then there is driver behavior. In addition to speeding, many drivers on I-295 (and elsewhere) are distracted, especially by their cell phones.

On a Thursday afternoon in early December, Portland Press Herald columnist Bill Nemitz drove the entire length of I-295 south to north and then back again, driving at exactly the speed limit. Some 188 cars passed him. He passed only two. Drivers who passed him often had a cell phone glued to their ear, but so did one of the drivers he passed.

With an increasing number of vehicles on the roadway, many piloted by distracted drivers travelling faster than the posted speed limit, there is little time and little room to maneuver when something unexpected happens, such as a vehicle merging onto the road or a careless lane change. The result, especially at higher speeds, is more accidents.

The speed limit reduction on I-295, which is set for March 27, will allow DOT to control the one variable it can change most easily. If the number of accidents drops, we’ll know this was a wise choice. If the number continues to increase, the department — and the driving public — must be ready to consider other causes for accidents on I-295, such as bad driving habits like tailgating, texting and aggressive driving. There are some problems DOT cannot solve.

The BDN Editorial Board

The Bangor Daily News editorial board members are Publisher Richard J. Warren, Editorial Page Editor Susan Young, Assistant Editorial Page Editor Matt Junker and BDN President Todd Benoit. Young has worked...