Nearly 37,000 people died on highways in the past quarter century after speed limits rose than would have been the case if the 55 mph speed limit had been maintained nationwide.
That's according to a Consumer Reports article that cited a study by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety, an insurance-industry funded group.
Road deaths are lower overall than in 1993, which is two years before the federal government abolished the nationwide 55 mph speed limit. But the study concludes highway fatalities would have been even lower in the past 25 years had speed limits stayed the same.
Speed is a leading factor in car accidents
Speed remains a significant reason for increased highway traffic deaths despite vehicle safety advances like automatic emergency braking.
The 55-mph speed limit ceased being the nationwide standard in 1995. Since then, 41 states have increased highway speed limits to least 70 mph and seven states have upped the limit to 80 mph.
One Texas tollway - a 41-mile stretch of State Highway 130 from Austin to Seguin - permits a speed limit of 85 mph.
The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety study examined annual traffic deaths from 1993 through 2017. The study accounted for such factors as the percentage of young drivers on the road, seat belt use and unemployment.
Among findings in the study was that an additional 36,760 people were killed on highways in that 25-year period than would have been expected if speed limits had stayed at 55 mph nationwide.
A federal study in 2009 - 14 years after 55 mph ceased being the nationwide standard - found a 3 percent increase in road fatalities attributable to the raised speed limits in the United States.
Fans of higher speed limits say the permission to drive faster saves time. But foes say the question becomes whether the minutes gained by increased speed limits justify the additional highway fatalities.
Speed limits in some places are still going up. According to a post on CDL Life News, an online trucking resource site:
- Indiana lawmakers are considering a bill to eliminate the lower speed limit for trucks of over 26,000 pounds. Cars currently are allowed to travel at 70 mph and the bill would let trucks also go 70 mph instead of the current 65 mph.
- Minnesota has increased speed limits from 55 mph to 60 mph on over 5,000 miles of state highways.
- In Iowa, the state legislature is considering a bill to increase interstate speed limits to 75 mph from 70 mph.
- California legislators are considering a bill that would increase the speed limit for trucks in rural areas to 65 mph. Currently, passenger vehicles are permitted a speed limit of 65 mph or 70 mph on roads where the speed limit for commercial vehicles is 55 mph.
- In Missouri, the speed limit would increase to 75 mph from 70 mph on rural interstates and freeways under a bill legislator are considering.
- North Dakota lawmakers are discussing a proposal to increase speed limits to 80 mph or 75 mph on some highways compared to the current 75 mph and 70 mph.
- Oklahoma has increased the speed limit on the Oklahoma Turnpike to 80 mph from 75 mph.
- In Oregon, legislators are considering a bill that would let transportation officials in Portland instead of the Oregon Department of Transportation choose speed limits for the city.
Contact Vaughan & Vaughan personal injury attorneys today regarding increased speed limits and highway fatalities.