Kendall Law Firm Blog

Study: When Speed Limits Go Up, So Do Death Rates




  |  posted by Kendall Law Firm   |   Car Accidents

A recently released study confirms what we have believed for a long time at the Kendall Law Firm based on our experience of helping car accident victims in Winchester, Harrisonburg, Charlottesville, Woodstock, Staunton and throughout Virginia: Higher speed limits raise the risk of deadly crashes.

Unfortunately, states keep pushing the limits higher. According to the study, released in April by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS), those speed limit increases contributed to the loss of at least 33,000 lives during a recent 20-year period.

First, let’s provide some context.

For many years, states could not receive federal highway funding unless they capped their speed limits at 55 mph. The primary goal was to conserve fuel. However, as studies found, the 55 mph limit also saved lives.

That changed in the late 1980s. With gas shortage crises in the rearview mirror, Congress allowed states to raise their speed limits on rural interstates to 65 mph. Then, in 1995, lawmakers completely repealed the National Maximum Speed Limits law, according to a report by the Virginia Department of Transportation.

Since that time, virtually every state in the U.S. has increased its speed limits on both rural and urban routes, which you can see at this IIHS compilation of state speed laws.

In Virginia, for instance, the limits are now 70 mph on rural and urban interstates. In six states, drivers can go as fast as 80 mph on some routes. Texas features many roads with 85 mph limits.

Now, let’s move on to what the study found.

To get a picture of how those maximum speed limit increases have impacted driver safety, researchers from the IIHS analyzed fatality rates in 41 states during the 20-year period between 1993 and 2013.

In addition to speed limit increases, the researchers took into account other factors that could contribute to car crash deaths such as changes in employment rates, young driver population and per capita alcohol consumption.

Even when taking those other factors into account, the IIHS researchers discovered a connection between speed limit increases and traffic fatality rates. In fact, they found that a 5 mph speed limit increase raised fatality rates:

  • By 8 percent on interstates and freeways, and
  • By 4 percent on all other roads.

After comparing the annual traffic death totals in the 41 states with the number of traffic deaths that would have likely occurred if the speed limits had been unchanged, the researchers found that 33,000 lives were lost between 1993 and 2013 due to speed limit increases.

“There is a definite trend of increased fatality risk when speed limits are raised,” the study concluded, adding that this trend offsets “the beneficial effects of some other traffic safety strategies” such as mandatory seat belt laws and the auto industry’s use of air bags.

Were You or a Loved One Injured in an Accident caused by a Speeding Driver in Harrisonburg or Winchester?

As anyone who has recently traveled on the interstate in Winchester or elsewhere in Virginia knows, drivers typically tend to go faster than posted speed limits. This is why speed limits that allow drivers to legally go as fast as 70 mph in our state are so dangerous.

When drivers go too fast, they lose their ability to control their vehicles or to react on time to avoid a crash with another driver. The force of impact is also much greater when a car involved in a crash is traveling at a higher speed.

If you or a loved one recently was involved in a crash that was caused by another driver, speeding may have played a role. If the driver was going above the posted speed limit or going too fast for road, weather and traffic conditions, that driver may be held liable for the harm you or your loved one has suffered, including medical expenses, lost wages, pain and suffering and more.

Download the Charlottesville car accident glove box guide.

Contact the Experienced Harrisonburg Injury Attorney at Kendall Law Firm for a Free Consultation

If you’ve been injured in an distracted driving accident, get in touch with Kendall Law Firm without delay and allow us to review your case. Contact us for a free consultation. We can help you to determine your legal options and, ultimately, pursue any and all compensation you are due.

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