IIHS links higher speed limits with increased fatalities

Lawmakers in Rhode Island have chosen not to raise speed limits above 65 mph even on busy interstate highways, and their cautious approach likely saves dozens of lives each year according to a leading road safety group. The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety has studied how higher speed limits have impacted traffic accident fatalities in the United States, and it has concluded that road deaths rise by about 4 percent for each 5 mph increase. The nonprofit group also says that higher speed limits increased road fatalities by more than 30,000 between 1993 and 2013.

A fuel crisis and concerns over the reliability of foreign oil supplies prompted Congress to establish a national maximum speed limit of 55 mph in 1973, and lawmakers ensured that cash-strapped state legislators would cooperate by linking the measure's adoption to crucial federal highway funds. However, worries over fuel embargos eased during the 1980s, and the law was relaxed in 1987 before being abandoned completely in 1995.

While the goal of the measure may have been to reduce fuel consumption and make America less dependent on foreign oil, the most immediate tangible benefit of the measure was a sharp fall in traffic accident fatalities. However, this has not prevented legislators in six states from increasing speed limits to 80 mph. Motorists on some Texas roads can drive at 85 mph without worrying about speeding tickets and fines.

Establishing how fast vehicles were traveling when they crashed can be extremely important in car accident lawsuits. Motorists act negligently when they exceed posted speed limits, and this reckless behavior can form the basis of civil litigation filed on behalf of accident victims. When accident reports are inconclusive about car and truck speeds, experienced personal injury attorneys may sometimes find this information stored on vehicle black-box devices.

Source: The Governors Highway Safety Association, "Rhode Island", accessed on July 24, 2017

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