Higher Speed Limits Increase Fatalities

It’s not big news that speeding is a leading cause of auto accidents and injuries each year, but some states have increased speed limits on highways and interstates. With significant increases in gas prices, some states are raising speed limits to increase fuel capacity for drivers.

Every state sets maximum speed limits within that state. During the 1970s and 1980s, most states set maximum speed limits at 55 mph. This was done to reduce the possibility of government penalties imposed by the Emergency Highway Energy Conservation Act. In 1974, Congress required that states cap speed limits at 55 mph to receive their share of highway funds. At the time, Congress was was focused on fuel availability and cost instead of highway safety. Capping speed limits at 55 mph was done to conserve gasoline, increase fuel-efficiency, and reduce the need for foreign oil.

During the 1980s and 1990s, America experienced a surge in new sport-utility vehicles (SUVs) that were certainly not fuel efficient. Most early SUV models were gas guzzlers, but they were popular with many drivers who appreciated extra cargo space and head and leg room. With more and more SUVs on the road, states began to question those 55 mph speed limits. In 1995, Congress removed all federal speed limit controls and authorized states to reset speed limits within their own state. By 2013, Washington DC was the only state remaining with maximum speed limits of 55 mph.

Today, many states set maximum speed limits at 75 or 85 mph on highways and interstates. Unfortunately, these faster speeds have lead to more auto accidents with severe injuries and fatalities. According to accident statistics, 50 percent of all auto collisions involve excessive speeds. Data from the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) shows that higher speed limits have contributed to more than 33,000 auto accident deaths over that last 20 years. An Oregon auto accident attorney commonly sees severe injuries and fatalities caused by speeding drivers. Traffic safety officials are concerned about faster speed limits and the increase in fatalities, and they are currently working on ways to resolve the problems.