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Do Increased Speed Limits Prevent Accidents?

Written by Jared Staver

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Jared Staver is a Personal Injury Lawyer based in Chicago, Illinois and has been practicing law for over 20 years.

Jared Staver

CATEGORY: Auto Accidents, Personal Injury


There are around 30,000 fatal car accidents in the United States each year. City engineers, transportation safety experts and the automotive industry devote countless resources to the fight to maximize safety and save lives. Although that fight often ends in lower speed limits and stricter traffic regulations, some wonder if maybe increased speed limits are actually an important part of preventing accidents.

Dangers of Higher Speed Limits

Many safety experts believe that speed kills and the higher the speed limit the more people are in danger. Studies are mixed, however, on the validity of this theory. Decades of research and data collection show that higher speed limits do not lead to more accidents. Although they don’t lead to a greater number of accidents they do lead to more severe accidents. Without fail, studies show that as highway speed limits increase highway fatalities increase. This makes sense because accidents at higher speeds are more serious by virtue of the speed alone. A fender bender at 25 miles an hour could be a deadly tragedy at 70 miles an hour because the high velocity results in a more forceful impact upon collision.

Although accident severity and highway deaths may increase with higher speed limits, the number of crashes may actually decline at higher speeds. This may be due to a number of factors. Due to the appreciation of the risk, drivers are generally more attentive and careful when traveling at higher speeds. When more people are paying more attention and exercising more caution, fewer accidents result. Raising speed limits also has the effect of “evening out” the speed variances among drivers. When more people are traveling closer to the same speed, traffic patterns are more consistent, reliable, and safe. As many experts have concluded: “the key to road safety is uniform traffic flow,” regardless of how high or low that uniform speed is.

Higher Speed Limit Theory

The higher speed limit theory has been tested in multiple states with conflicting results. When New York raised highway speeds to 65 mph, crash rates dropped by 4 percent. When Iowa increased speed limits from 55 to 65, collision rates spiked. Conversely, The Automobile Club of Southern California found that higher statewide speed limits did not lead to more accidents.

Although studies are mixed, the trend of the future may be higher speeds in an attempt to maximize uniform traffic flow. No matter where you are driving or how fast, pay attention and limit distractions. If you’ve been in an accident caused by a speeding driver, contact a Chicago car accident lawyer from Staver Accident Injury Lawyers, P.C. today at (312) 236-2900.

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(312) 236-2900
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