A posted speed limit can be an annoyance, particularly for a local driver who is familiar with the area and feels well-qualified to operate a vehicle at a faster speed.
Is there are correlation between speed limits and the numbers of car accidents? Or is it just myth?
An investigation into the facts reveals that these two issues are directly related.
The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety and the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration evaluated a large amount of data about vehicle speed and car accidents, identifying the following facts:
- Vehicle speed and crash severity are a fact based upon physical laws.
- Vehicle speed and the severity of injuries are directly related to the change in speed upon impact.
- The risk of a driver being killed increases with the speed of the vehicle.
- When the speed limit was reduced to 55 mph in 1974, traffic fatalities took a 15% drop.
- When the speed limits were again increased in 1987, there was in 22% increase in fatalities on rural interstate highways.
- There was an increase of 15% in fatal accidents when the national speed limits were repealed.
- There was a 35% increase in states that increased speed limits to 70 mph.
The report concludes that the majority of evidence reviewed suggests that reducing speed limits also reduces crashes, and conversely, increased speed limits increases the number of accidents.
There are methods used to set a speed limit, outlined by the Federal Highway Administration. It is a highly technical process with many factors evaluated prior to setting the limit. Speeding is one of the leading causes of death in car accidents across the nation, and managing travel speeds on streets, roads and highways is a critical point in protecting public health. The setting of speed limits is the responsibility of state or local governments. The overall principle is that drivers should operate vehicles at speeds that are “reasonable and prudent” for road and weather conditions. Speed limits are set so that drivers are notified of the appropriate driving speed. The speed limits set are based upon favorable driving conditions.
Drivers are expected to take action to reduce their own travel speed under certain circumstances, including bad weather conditions, fog, rain or snow that affecting visibility, in heavy traffic congestion, during events, or if there are bicyclists or pedestrians present. Speed limits are designed to reduce crash risk but keep traffic moving, and at a speed that is considered reasonable by the majority of those using the roadway.
Individual issues affect safe speed include the condition of the vehicle and its safety features, including tires and brakes; the driving capability of the operator; the volume of traffic and the presence of pedestrians or bicyclists; the road purpose; and other factors such as lane and shoulder width of the roadway, and pavement conditions. If a roadway has a history of severe crashes or pedestrian accidents, the speed limit should be reduced for increased safety.
As high-speed crashes are more likely to lead to catastrophic injuries or fatalities, all drivers are advised to heed the posted speed limits. Unfortunately, even the most careful and law-abiding driver can be involved in a collision if another driver is speeding, drunk or distracted. Stay alert when behind the wheel, and always watch out for the “other guy.”