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AutoBlog: STUDY: Raising national speed limit has resulted in 12,500 deaths

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Filed under: Government/Legal, Safety

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In 1995, highway speed limits increased from a nation-wide 55 mph to 65, 70 or 75 mph, depending on the state, and most Americans were thrilled. The obvious benefit of the change was people could legally get to where they wanted to go, but according to a new study, the downside has been an alarming increase in accidents and deaths.

The University of Illinois School of Public Health studied accidents from 1995 to 2005 to determine the impact on the speed increase on accidents. The study examined deaths and injuries in fatal car crashes on rural interstate highways, urban interstates and non-interstate road, and found the speed increase resulted in 2,545 deaths and an additional 36,582 injuries.

All told, the study found that deaths and injuries increased by 3.2% over the ten-year period, while rural road deaths increased by an alarming 9.1%. Lead researcher Lee S. Friedman says the easy way to solve the increases in deaths and injuries would be to drop the speed limit back to 55 mph, adding "Researchers have demonstrated that lower travel speeds and death tolls usually follow lowering of speed limits, and higher travel speeds and death tolls follow increases in speed limits."

Naturally, Friedman points out that the drop in speed would result in decreased fuel consumption and lower greenhouse gasses as well. Studies show that decreased speeds lead to higher volume capacity on freeways as well, as drivers require less distance between vehicles to safely drive.

Not all agree with Friedman's hypothesis, though. Dr. David L. Katz, director of the Prevention Research Center at Yale University School of Medicine, says that while deaths will decrease with a lower speed limit, it'd also gum up everyone's schedule. Others point out that the bulk of the added deaths happened in areas where limits are 70 and 75 mph, and where the limits were 65, the impact was far less severe.

[source: US News | Image Source: Ian Waldie/Getty]

STUDY: Raising national speed limit has resulted in 12,500 deaths originally appeared on Autoblog on Mon, 20 Jul 2009 12:33:00 EST. Please see our terms for use of feeds.

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Baloney. Unskilled drivers kill people, speed doesn't. And speed limit has nothing to do with it...LA drivers still go 80-90 whether it says 55 or 65--as long as it isn't congested.

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Baloney. Unskilled drivers kill people, speed doesn't. And speed limit has nothing to do with it...LA drivers still go 80-90 whether it says 55 or 65--as long as it isn't congested.

Agreed.

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Lets not forget that after reducing to 55 there were less deaths but more injuries due to extra time on the road and thus increased driver fatigue.

Additionally lets also not forget the very easy licensing tests that our populace has to take. So of course unskilled drivers are going to get in wrecks.

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Lets not forget that after reducing to 55 there were less deaths but more injuries due to extra time on the road and thus increased driver fatigue.

Additionally lets also not forget the very easy licensing tests that our populace has to take. So of course unskilled drivers are going to get in wrecks.

Lets not forget Texting, SMSing, Tweetering did not exist 14 years ago.

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I wonder if the study takes into account the population increases in the last 14 years. How many more drivers now vs. then? And the rise in popularity of SUVs, which tend to roll more than cars and probably contribute a lot of fatalities. Lot of variables.

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I wonder if the study takes into account the population increases in the last 14 years. How many more drivers now vs. then? And the rise in popularity of SUVs, which tend to roll more than cars and probably contribute a lot of fatalities. Lot of variables.

Oh they are statistics! You know what they say, there are lies, damn lies, and then there are statistics.

the only meaningful comparisons would be per-capita or per-driver ratios.

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Lets not forget Texting, SMSing, Tweetering did not exist 14 years ago.
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Do these 'less emissions at lower speeds' take into account the calculation of running the car longer intervals because it is going slower ??

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Do these 'less emissions at lower speeds' take into account the calculation of running the car longer intervals because it is going slower ??

On top of that, is it not possible for automakers to tune the sweet spot of their engines to 70mph instead of the old 55 and achieve similar emissions?

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Emissions and greenhouse gases are generally proportionate to fuel consumption. The increase in fuel due to aerodyniamic drag from going 55 mph to 70 mph is significant, thus emissions and greenhouse gases would increase.

I have little doubt that major injuries and fatalities would be at least a little higher with higher speed limits if there were not significant speed differentials among the vehicles on the highways. However, the public would have not accept a return to the double nickel at all, and it's a risk that most drivers would probably say is worth the cost.

I'm not familiar with this particular study, but there are many factors that need to be considered in comparing 1995 to 2005. Besides texting and cell phones, there have been major differences in vehicle safety (airbags, ABS, 5-star crash ratings), less drunk driving, and improved highways (rumble strips, more recovery area, better guardrail). Highways have also gotten more crowded. There is more potential of hitting another vehicle. When traffic becomes more congested, major injuries and fatalities actually decrease because speeds are lower. In rural locations, the biggest issue is solo motorists running off the road and crashing into something or overturning. But as TRC mentioned, slower speeds mean more time on the highway and more potential fatigue.

Posting lower speed limits also doesn't necessarily mean people will drive slower by a corresponding amount. Speeds did creep up when speed limits were raised in California from 55 mph to 65 or 70 mph, but not by the same amounts. It depends on the level of enforcement. Motorists will generally drive at a speed that they feel is safe, and that is the way it should be. The purpose of speed limits should be to limit the number of outliers that would create too much speed differential.

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I can't believe I'm the first to post this, but...

OMG THEY KILLED KENNY!!

Edited by Croc
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