Rising speed limits could be putting drivers at high risk on the road. A new study released by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety suggests that higher speed limits are causing a rising number of automobile fatalities throughout the United States.
Although the number of highway traffic fatalities has declined over the years due to an increase in safety measures, those declines could have been more drastic if maximum speed limits had not increased. The IIHS approximates 33,000 lives have been lost over the past 20 years as a result of states increasing the speed limit above 65 mph on freeways. Speed increases in 2013 alone resulted in 1,900 additional deaths, essentially canceling out the number of lives saved by front airbags that year. “The high speed limits are negating the other advances we have made in safety to a high degree. People don’t stick to the speed limit. If they were driving 10 miles above the speed limit, they will still drive 10 miles above it when the limit is raised,” says Charles Farmer, Vice President of Research for the IIHS.
Presently, speed limit laws belong to the state. After Congress repealed the National Maximum Speed Limit of 65 mph in 1995, speed limits began to increase. Currently, 33 states have speed limits of 70 mph or higher, six states have 80 mph limits, and certain areas in Texas permit speeds as high as 85 mph.
The IIHS hopes state lawmakers will take the insights gained from this research into consideration when adjusting speed laws. Both the Governors Highway Safety Association (GHSA) and the National Safety Council issued statements in response to the study’s findings urging states to increase enforcement of current speed limits in an effort to save lives. But not everyone shares this mindset. The Pennsylvania Department of Transportation announced they will go forward with proceedings to increase the speed limit on certain roads within the state, despite the information released by the IHSS. Only time will tell if this research will have an influence on state traffic laws.
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