Higher speeds mean more fatalities

Beginning in 1973, the U.S. Congress required that all states adopt a maximum speed limit of 55 mph or forfeit federal highway funds. Most of the states began to increase limits when Congress relaxed the rules and later eliminated the federal 55 mph law. By 2013, the maximum speed limit in Connecticut had increased to 65 mph.

Among the conclusions of a recent study by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety is that the states’ decisions to raise speed limits have resulted in more fatalities. Researchers looked at the impact of speed limit increases between 1993 and 2013 across 41 different states. After controlling for factors like young drivers on the road, unemployment rate changes and alcohol consumption per capita, the study’s author found that fatalities increased 4 percent for every 5 mph climb in the maximum speed limit.

After comparing actual motor vehicle fatality numbers with expected fatalities if the states hadn’t increased speed limits, the study’s author estimated 33,000 traffic deaths could have been avoided over the 20 years studied. He also said that speeds have only grown more extreme since 2013, the last year studied, and that he hopes lawmakers will consider the dangers when they are weighing whether or not to increase speed limits.

Those who support increases sometimes argue that they allow the law to reflect reality as many motorists drive faster than posted speed limits. A person who has been injured in a car accident with a speeding driver may have the right to recover for pain and suffering, lost wages, medical expenses or other damages. An attorney may be able to help in such a case by gathering evidence and seeking compensation on behalf of the injured party. The lawyer could also negotiate with insurers or argue for the client in court.