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Do Speed Limit Increases Cause Fatal Car Accidents?

The phrase “speed kills” is familiar for many drivers throughout the United States. We hear it at driving school, in the media, and may even find ourselves saying it during a conversation. However, as over 37,000 people died in 2017 during car accidents, the potential dangers of speed receive attention from researchers throughout the nation. These researchers are attempting to answer one crucial question: do speed limit increases cause fatal car accidents?

The Argument Against Speed Limit Increases

According to one study by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety, rising speed limits caused nearly 37,000 lives in 25 years. In 2017 alone, the IIHS attributed 1,900 deaths to speeding. The IIHS argues that the trade-off that happens between safety and a few minutes of saved time is not worth it.

The institute claims that the American public is becoming increasingly unconcerned with speed limits despite their importance. It notes that 41 states have a maximum speed limit of 70 mph, six have limits of 80 mph, and that some roads in Texas have limits of 85 mph. The IIHS argues that drivers speed at rates which correlate with posted limits. So, a 60-mph speed limit might encourage some drivers to travel at 70 mph while an 80-mph limit might encourage speeds of 90 mph.

What Did the IIHS Study?

IIHS analyzed the effect of speed limit changes by comparing them to their correlation with fatal accidents in every state between 1993 and 2017. The institute also considered relevant statistical influences such as seat belt use, changes in unemployment, and the number of young drivers on the road.

The IIHs determined that an increased speed limit of 5 mph caused an 8-percent increase on interstates and freeways and a 3-percent increase on other roads. The study concluded that the fatality rate in car accidents during 2017 would have decreased by 5 percent had speed limits remained unchanged since 1993.

"Driving 70 instead of 65 saves a driver at best 6½ minutes on a 100-mile trip," Charles Farmer, vice president for research and statistical services at IIHS, says. "Before raising speed limits, state lawmakers should consider whether those potential time savings is worth the additional risk to lives."

The Argument for Speed Limit Increases

Supporters of speed limit increases argue that speed does not kill American drivers and passengers. Instead, they assert that a lack of uniformly flowing traffic is deadly. In other words, accidents occur when cars are traveling at varying speeds on the road. Supporters of increased speed limits believe that raising the speed limit will encourage drivers prone to traveling slowly to speed up, thus reducing the drastic difference between them and speeders on the road.

Does Speeding Cause More Accidents?

Even though a correlation between speeding and crash fatalities exists, the act of speeding alone does not seem to influence how many accidents occur. Instead, studies show that speed can be a crucial factor in making an accident deadly, not causing one. So, an accident which would have caused injuries might become fatal at higher speeds. Supporters of higher speed limits argue that even though speed limits make collisions more serious, it can also reduce them. One study found an 18-percent decline in collisions after British Columbia, Canada raised some it’s speed limits. 

What to Do After a Serious Accident

While both sides of the debate have their reasons to believe what they do, one thing is certain for all accidents: most are preventable. If you’ve suffered because of a severe car accident, it is likely that a person who caused it could have prevented it. One study from Stanford reveals that up to 90 percent of motor vehicle accidents can be traced back to human error. So, if you sustained injuries during a car accident, it’s likely that someone could have prevented it regardless of the speed limit.

Medical debt, lost wages, property damage, pain and suffering, and other damages can be recovered with the help of an experienced motor vehicle accident lawyer. The team at Arnold & Itkin is proud to be the advocate of car accident survivors and of families who have lost a loved one because of a crash. We’ll fight for the compensation that you deserve and will never settle for less than what is fair.

Call us today to learn how we can help you. Our team is ready to talk to you at (888) 493-1629 right now at no cost.


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