Speed Limit Increases Cause 33,000 Deaths in 20 Years

This article reports on a new study from the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) that found increases in speed limits on U.S. roads over the past twenty years have cost 33,000 lives. The author notes that this essential cancels out the number of lives that are saved by frontal airbags in a given year. The article reviews the history of speed limits, including the federal limits set in 1973, its subsequent relaxation in 1987, and repeal in 1996. Since then, states have been more free to set their own maximum speed limits. Although the 1973 law was designed to save fuel, the most dramatic result was a decrease in fatalities. The new IIHS study review the effect of all speed limit increases from 1993 to 2013 in 41 states (9 states and the District of Columbia were excluded due to relatively few vehicle miles traveled per year). The study showed that for each 5mph increase in the maximum speed limit, a concomitant 4% increase in fatalities occurred; the increase on interstates and freeways was 8%. The author notes that these are most likely underestimating the current situation, as five more states have increased some roads to more than 75mph in the past three years and others have permitted 65mph roads to go to 70mph. Included is a link to the full research paper as well as to a topic overview page that summarizes research and resources on speeding.


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  • Accession Number: 01597833
  • Record Type: Publication
  • Files: TRIS
  • Created Date: Apr 21 2016 11:20AM