Car Accidents, Speed Limits and Life and Death

Speed Limit

Year after year, speeding remains one of the major contributing factors in car accidents, and there doesn’t seem to be an end in sight. Speeding has become a time-honored tradition, a secret pact between driver and vehicle that exceeding the speed limit is something everyone does, so there really isn’t any harm to the behavior. But the truth is that speeding is frequently cited as one of the common “human factors” that results in catastrophic car wrecks.

So exactly what is the relationship between increased speed limits, speeding accidents, and the higher risk of danger on the road? Here are some of those answers.

Brief History of Speed Limit Laws in the U.S. and How They Impact Car Accidents

To understand how speed limits affect driver behavior, it’s important to first understand how speed limits have changed over the years.

In 1901, Connecticut was the first state to pass a speed limit law, which restricted drivers to 12 miles per hour in the city and 15 mph on the highway.

But it wasn’t until the mid-1970s that a national speed limit law was implemented. This was the government’s attempt to help defray the rising costs of gasoline due to a fuel shortage, and to lower air pollution rates.

President Nixon signed a law in 1974 that established the speed limit in the U.S. at 55 mph. Interestingly, the rate of fatal car wrecks declined from 4.28 per million miles traveled (MMT) in 1972 to 2.73 MMT in 1983.

But as the fuel shortage eased, and conserving gasoline became less of an issue, the national speed limit was increased to 65 mph in the mid-1980s.

Then, in 1995 the federal government returned the power to create speed limits to the states, which meant that there would no longer be a national speed limit. This was a pivotal decision because instead of a uniform speed limit law, each state could decide how high to set the speed limit based on its own algorithms.

As a result, more than half the states in the U.S. have posted speed limits on urban roads that exceed 60 mph, and that number is even higher on highways. For example, on select highways in Texas, the speed limit is a staggering 85 mph, and 75 mph on normal highways.

How Speed Limit Increases Have Contributed To Car Accidents

The increases in speed limits throughout the U.S. have not existed in a vacuum. There have been some real consequences to America’s need for speed, and according to the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS), those consequences are often fatal.

An IIHS study found that speed limit increases over the past 20 years have resulted in 33,000 car accident fatalities. In fact, in 2013, there were nearly 2,000 car wreck fatalities attributed solely to increased speed limits.

The problem with increasing speed limits is that it gives drivers the freedom to not only drive at that speed limit but often, to exceed that limit. Studies have found that many drivers routinely exceed speed limits by 5 to 10 mph.

Therefore, highways with a speed limit of 70 mph could encourage some motorists to drive 75 or 80 mph, significantly increasing the chances of a destructive car accident.

That’s been the case in Wisconsin, where car accidents have spiked significantly since the state increased its interstate highway speed limit to 70 mph in June 2015. Since that time, crash fatalities have risen 37 percent on the interstate, and injuries have risen 11 percent. What’s even more telling is that the total number of car wrecks increased by 12 percent during that same time period.

Nick Jarmusz, Director of Public Affairs at AAA Wisconsin, said that even driving 5 mph faster than the speed limit can have serious consequences:

“Crash forces increase exponentially,” Jarmusz stated. “The difference between a 65 mph and 70 mph crash may not seem like a lot but it’s much more of an impact.

Why Speeding Is Such a Major Factor In Car Accidents

So it’s clear that increased speed limits pose a serious threat to all drivers on the road, but why does speeding contribute so heavily to car accidents?

The answer is that when drivers speed several things happen that create the perfect storm for a devastating car wreck:

  • Driver Can’t Brake-In Time – a driver who is speeding cannot bring a vehicle to a safe stop if an obstacle appears in front of the car. This often leads to rear-end collisions, and can easily begin a chain reaction, or multi-vehicle accident.
  • Creates Greater Impact On Collision – speeding generates a significantly greater severity of impact during a collision. There is a much higher likelihood of serious injuries and death resulting from a collision in which the vehicle that caused the crash was traveling at a high rate of speed.
  • Increases Chances of Injury and Death – a study found that for every one percent increase in speed, a driver increased the chances of an accident by two percent, the chances of a serious injury by three percent, and the chances of a fatality by four percent. That same study found that driving 80 miles per hour on a road where traffic is moving at 70 increases your chances of a crash by 31 percent, a crash with an injury by 49 percent, and a fatality by 71 percent.

Speed Kills and Seriously Injures 

Whether speeding is motivated by higher speed limits, the need to test a vehicle’s horsepower, or just the freedom of driving very fast, speeding can result in car accidents that cause deaths or serious injuries.

When you have suffered a speed-related accident, it is important to secure the services of an experienced law firm, such as the team at Rosner Law Offices, P.C. Please call us today at (856) 502-1655 for a free legal consultation to see how we can help you obtain fair compensation in this difficult time.

Additional Resources

4 Common Factors That Cause Car Accidents

Diabetic Impairment Can Cause Serious Car Accidents

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