Speed limits have been increasing in some rural areas, where there are not really any places to stop and a low number of residences, businesses, or cross-streets that could mean problems. However, these higher speed limits are still causing more fatalities, according to a new study. The number of additional deaths due to a higher speed limit is estimated to be around 37,000 over the last 25 years. That might not seem like much, but the study also shows that fatality rates go up 8.5 percent for every five miles per hour the speed limit rises.
Faster speeds mean harder collisions
When vehicles are traveling faster they cannot stop as quickly. That can mean accidents happen before the drivers are able to react, and those accidents happen at higher rates of speed. Naturally, that results in a harder and more significant collision. The number and types of injuries are different when speeds are faster, and there are more traffic deaths, too. Reducing those kinds of fatalities can be done, but it will involve reducing the speed limits that have been continuously rising throughout some of the most rural states and areas.
Fatalities are down, but it could be better
Since 1993, overall traffic fatalities are down. They are lower than they used to be, when considered based on the number of vehicles on the road. But these fatalities could be down even farther, if it were not for the increase in the speed limit. That increase has raised the risk of dying in a traffic crash in a number of states, even though the overall risk is improving because of better safety features in vehicles and other factors. To see the fatality numbers come down again, the speed limits have to come back down, as well. Most states are reluctant to do that.
55 used to be the rule everywhere
In 1995, the 55-mph speed limit was done away with. The speed limit is 70 on the highway in at least 41 states now, and in seven states there are areas where the speed limit is 80. Texas has an 85-mph speed limit on one stretch of their tollway. It is clear that drivers want to go faster, and if states lower their speed limits back down they may have trouble getting drivers to slow down again. Still, that extra hassle could be well worth it for the lives it could save in the future.